Modern piston design, and what that means for you

pistons in a vehicle

There’s a good chance you don’t know much about pistons or engine building, which is why you rely on the technicians at Green Light Garage in Mesa, AZ when your vehicle has a problem. However, there’s some practical information regarding modern engine design that helps you better care for your vehicle, and keep it going strong. Here are some important aspects of modern piston design, and what it means for you.

Reduced Friction - Modern engines have to meet strict standards for gas mileage and fuel economy. While the friction caused by moving components doesn’t seem like it would matter much, in the grand scheme of things internal friction can and does make a difference. Pistons are the parts that move up and down inside the cylinder, powered by the combustion of gasoline to drive your vehicle. The piston rings that go around the piston create a buffer between your piston and the cylinder wall, which also creates a seal to keep combustion contained and oil from burning. Modern rings are thin, lightweight, and don’t have nearly as much spring strength as older piston rings. This is great for gas mileage, but causes its own issues - modern engines, if not cared for correctly, begin to burn oil and accumulate buildup. Keeping the correct oil in your engine, and having it changed at the intervals recommended by your technician, is the best way to prevent ring issues from arising.

High Power - Light weight and less material are trending currently, but the increase in power output is as well. Modern engines make a lot more power than their predecessors, but their reliability depends on everything being in good working order. Tolerances are close and combustion packs a punch - meaning if anything goes wrong, there’s potential to crack or damage a piston, causing catastrophic engine damage. Keeping your oil in good shape and your fuel and air system working correctly is imperative - if a cylinder is getting too much fuel or not enough, it won’t take long for things to go south. If anything is out of time or contamination is allowed into the cylinder, it can destroy an engine as well - tight tolerances, high power output, and lightweight components are a recipe for disaster unless everything is in good working order.

Detonation - Detonation is a destructive issue that occurs when the fuel in the cylinder ignites before it’s supposed too. This can be caused by a spark plug running hotter than it should, or timing issues. When knock sensors came onto the market, that problem largely went away - but it’s an issue that’s been on the rise. The reason detonation is becoming a problem is because high heat, high compression engines are becoming more and more common. The higher the compression, the more likely detonation is, since fuel ignites at lower temperatures the more it’s compressed. Detonation is most commonly caused by overheating, low octane fuel, and faulty plugs - be sure you’re running the correct fuel for your vehicle, have your plugs changed when necessary, and pay attention to dash warning lights. While detonation doesn’t always cause total engine failure, it’s more likely on modern engines to occur and do a lot of damage. Make sure to have your technician check it out if you’re having engine trouble.

No matter your repair or maintenance needs, we’ve got you covered. For the best automotive, fleet, and diesel service in Mesa, AZ, call or stop by Green Light Garage today.



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