Putting A Ring On It: The Proper Way To Install Piston Rings

Piston rings seal up the real estate between the piston and the wall of the cylinder inside the engine. The seal piston rings create ensure the combustion gasses stay where they’re supposed to, and it keeps extra oil from ending up inside the combustion chamber. These jobs are important and that’s why you need to make sure piston rings are installed correctly.

Your typical ring pack is made up of a top ring, second ring, and oil ring. The top and second rings are the gatekeepers of the combustion chamber and hold the gasses in place. The oil ring collects all of the oil off the side of the cylinder and puts it back into the oil pan.

Now, for all of this to happen, the piston rings must be installed correctly and in the right order. This seems like an easy task, but the orientation of the rings can be easily mixed up if you’re not paying attention. The rings should have a note on them to indicate which direction they need to be installed. Each ring will also have a coating — this can help you determine the order the rings need to be put in.

You don’t start an engine without lubrication, and you shouldn’t install your piston rings without proper lubrication either. The type of lubrication you use is up to you, but it’s a step you cannot skip. There are several different ways to snap rings on a piston — you can do it by hand or use specific tools for the job. You really want to be careful and not spiral the rings as you install them.

This video from MAHLE Motorsports is packed with great tips and if you’re thinking about building an engine this is a must-watch to make sure you install your piston rings properly.

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About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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