Engine technology is constantly changing and most of the time for the better. Through discussions with Keith Jones and Lake Speed, Jr. from Total Seal, we’ve learned that what were traditionally called standard tension oil rings aren’t “standard” anymore. Total Seal has a machine that can measure the amount of outward force produced by an individual ring like an oil ring. This tension is rated in what is called pound-force (lbf, not to be confused with lb-ft or ft-lbf). This rating is simply the amount of force in pounds exerted outward with the ring installed in the cylinder. This force is not the actual sliding friction, but common sense dictates that a higher pound-force ring tension will result in higher sliding friction numbers.
What’s interesting is that what was considered “standard” tension for an oil ring for a street engine has changed significantly in the last 20 years. If you look at the accompanying chart, you can see that the tension produced by the older 3/16-inch oil rings used in a 1/16-, 1/16-, 3/16-inch ring package is fairly high at 20 lbf. The slightly smaller 3.0mm ring package used in a 2000-era LS1 for example is rated at only 10 lbf.
Oil Ring Tension Chart
|Ring Pack||Oil Ring Radial Tension||Reduction|
|Standard 3/16-inch||20 lbf||—|
|Revised Summit GPX 3/16-inch||15 lbf||25%|
|Standard 3.0 mm||10 lbf||50%|
This custom oil ring package can be purchased separately for almost any ring package but we’ve recently run across the GPX ring package from Summit Racing that uses this Total Seal technology for a 1/16-, 1/16-, 3/16-inch ring package that, as our chart indicates, will cut the oil ring tension from 20 lbf to 15-lbf, which is a healthy 25-percent reduction.
Plus, the GPX package also includes a set of gas-ported top rings that should improve ring seal and perhaps add a little power. The combination of the two benefits points to a significant potential gain in power for a typical normally aspirated street engine. Better yet, this GPX ring package is competitively priced, making the decision much easier.