Step-1: Inspect New Rings
When you open your piston ring box, note that it’s compartmentalized and marked as to which are the top and second groove rings. In this case, the top rings are Chrome-Moly and have a bright finish on their faces, while the second rings are iron and dull in appearance. Also take note that the rings will bear a dot on one side. The rings should be installed with the dot toward the top of the piston.
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Step-2: Prepare to Check Ring Gaps
While there are recommended ring end gaps in factory service manuals, take care to note the printed material supplied with your pistons (if you are not reusing the OE pistons) and your rings. In this case, our Hypereutectic pistons require a larger-than-average end gap, so we’re using file-to-fit piston rings. To check ring end gap, first hand-fit the ring into the cylinder bore as shown.
Step-3: Square the Ring (Professional Mechanic Tip)
Use one of the pistons in an inverted position to square the ring in the bore and position it deep enough in the cylinder. Push the ring down until the sides of the wrist pin are parallel with the block deck.
Step-4: Check Ring Gaps
With the ring squared and positioned in the cylinder, you can check the end gap with a standard feeler gauge. This gives you a baseline measurement to determine how much material must be removed from the ends of the ring to obtain the desired gap.
Step-5: File to Fit
An inexpensive hand-cranked piston ring filer like this one from K-D tools will do an adequate job of filing your rings to fit.
Step-6: Continue Filing…Carefully
Position the ring face up and against the guides of the tool. Squeeze the ends of the ring until they contact the abrasive wheel. Be careful to keep the ring flat while rotating the handle in the direction indicated. Do not file off too much material at once. Take your time and check the ring end gap in the cylinder bore frequently. I use a simple method of counting the number of turns on the handle to determine how much material is being removed. This cuts down slightly on the number of times I need to check the gap during the filing process.
Step-7: Smooth any Burrs
Use a small hand file to smooth any burrs from the filed ends of the piston rings before the final end gap check and installation on the piston.
Step-8: Stay Organized
You should fit each piston ring to a particular cylinder, taking into consideration that there may be minor variations in the each cylinder bore. Place your rings on a numbered piece of clean cardboard as a simple method of keeping track of which rings are destined for which cylinder.
Installing the Rings onto the Pistons Step by Step
Step-1: Prepare to Install Rings onto the Pistons
First and foremost, read the directions included by your piston ring manufacturer. This piston ring manufacturer has color-coded the ends of the oil control ring expander in an effort to prevent overlap during installation. In this case, the manufacturer’s recommendation is to align the expander ring ends with the wrist pin hole in the piston.
Step-2: Install Oil Control Rings
Once the expander has been installed, the oil control rings go on. Place one end of the flexible ring in the groove above the expander and then use your hand to “walk” the ring into the groove. This process is then repeated with the lower ring. With the oil control rings in place, double-check to make sure the expander ends are still correctly butted together and not overlapped. Then position the oil rings so that their respective end gaps are on opposite sides of the wrist pin.
Step-3: Install Second Ring
Next comes the second ring. First ascertain that the ring is properly oriented (the dot on the ring faces up), and then use a piston ring expanding tool to install the ring into its groove on the piston. Piston ring expanders are inexpensive and are a must if you don’t want to risk breaking a ring or scratching the surface of the piston.
Step-4: Install Top Ring
The top ring is installed in the same fashion as the second ring. Check manufacturer’s recommendations for orientation of the ring end gaps on the piston. Normally the end gaps are placed 180 degrees apart.
Installing the Rods and Pistons Step by Step
Step-1: Lubricate Wrist Pins
Having sufficient lubrication to the wrist pins during initial start up is important. Use either a good coating of motor oil or assembly lube. Every set of Keith Black pistons includes a small container of Torco/MPZ assembly lube, which protects the pins against scuffing, galling, and wear during startup.
Step-2: Lubricate Rings and Skirts
Apply a thin coat of oil to the piston rings and skirts to ease installation into the bore and protect them during initial startup.
Step-3: Position the Crankshaft
Position the crankshaft so the journal of the cylinder in which you intend to install the piston is in the proper location to accept the connection rod without interference.
Step-4: Install Bearing Insert
Install the upper half of the rod bearing insert in the connecting rod and the lower portion in the corresponding connecting rod cap. Apply a coat of motor oil or assembly lube to the bearings.
Step-5: Double-Check End Gap Orientation
After double-checking the ring end gap orientation, install a piston ring compressor on the piston and the protective sleeves onto the connecting rod bolts.
Step-6: Check Orientation
Check rod and piston number and orientation to the cylinder in which they are being installed. Here we start with the number-1 cylinder and rod noting that the thick side of the connecting rod (marked with a dot of yellow paint during assembly) is faced toward the crankshaft counterweight (to the outside) and the number stamped on the rod is faced to the outside. Since we’re installing aftermarket pistons in this engine, there is no notch to indicate which side of the piston faces forward as in most OE pistons, but the intake valve relief cut in the piston serves the same purpose. (Keith Black supplies a piston orientation diagram with their products.) If you’re still not sure, just compare the location of the valve relief to the location of the intake valve in the cylinder head.
Step-7: Slide Assembly into Bore
Once the piston and rod assembly has been properly aligned, slide it into the bore until the ring compressor contacts the deck surface. Then use a mallet to tap around the compressor and seat it.
Step-8: Install into Bore
Now use a hammer handle to push the piston down into the bore. It will pop free once the rings have cleared the compressor. Remove the compressor and use the hammer handle to slide the piston down, checking the alignment of the connecting rod to the crankshaft journal. Also check to make sure that the bearing insert has not moved or come loose from the connecting rod. Important: If you encounter any resistance while pushing the piston into its bore: stop, take the piston and rod assembly out, and double-check everything, especially the ring compressor. Attempting to force the piston into the cylinder will more than likely result in a broken piston ring, so take your time.
Step-9: Install Connecting Rod Caps
With the connecting rod seated on the crankshaft throw, double-check the top portion of the bearing insert to ensure that it has remained in place. Remove the protective sleeves from the bolts then align the rod cap (with lubricated bearing insert in place) on the connecting rod bolts, making sure that the numbers stamped on the rod and cap match and are aligned. Then install the nuts on the connecting rod bolts and snug them down (do not torque them yet), alternating from side to side until the cap has seated on the rod. This photo depicts the assembled view of the process.
Torque the Connecting Rod Bolts
After all eight pistons have been installed, you can torque the connecting rod bolts. This should be done in three steps, of 15, 30, and 45 ft-lbs, alternating from side to side on each rod until the recommended torque setting has been achieved. In this case, we’re using aftermarket ARP connecting rod bolts along with their Moly assembly lube, which require a different torque spec than OE. When using aftermarket hardware, read the manufacturer’s instructions and if in doubt, contact the manufacturer’s technical support department.
Checking Rod Side Clearance
Step-1: Important Measurement
With the connecting rods torqued to spec, check the rod side clearance using a feeler gauge as shown. Once you’ve verified that side clearance is within factory specification, the bottom end of your engine is complete. Factory minimum maximum connecting rod side clearance for Lima series engines is .010 to .020 inch. Note: This is the factory recommended clearance for OE connecting rods. If you are using an aftermarket rod in your rebuild, make sure you read any instructions included with the rods or consult the manufacturer for recommended side clearance.
Written by Charles R. Morris and Republished with Permission of CarTech Inc