Understanding How a Cylinder Head Works

Drivers must familiarize themselves with the different components of their engines so they can detect when there is a problem. For example, if your truck doesn’t have as much power as you think it should, there could be issues with your cylinder head. A broken cylinder head can do severe damage to your engine and profoundly affect the ride quality of your truck. This guide on understanding how a cylinder head works will help drivers get a better sense of why this part is crucial to an engine’s performance.

How Cylinder Heads Are Made

Before diving into how a cylinder head works, it’s important to explain the construction process of these parts. Cylinder heads can be made of cast iron or aluminum. Most manufacturers these days prefer aluminum because it’s lighter than cast iron. Aluminum also conducts heat away quicker than cast iron models; thus, it’s the more appealing option. Aluminum cylinder heads are constructed using the “lost-foam casting” method. Essentially, producers make an exact model of a cylinder head using a specific type of foam. Creators build a model out of foam because cylinder heads are full of different passageways that are nearly impossible to capture with other casting methods. Once the perfect foam model is created, hot aluminum is poured onto the foam. This practice is referred to as “lost-foam casting” because the foam melts away the minute hot aluminum comes into contact with it. From there, manufacturers dust off any excess sand, leaving a cylinder head with precise specifications.

How Do Cylinder Heads Work?

A cylinder head sits on top of the engine block. Cylinder heads improve the turbulence of the air/fuel mixture and prevent fuel droplets from settling on the combustion chamber. To adequately discuss how a cylinder head works, you must understand the role of the fuel injector. There’s a tiny rubber ring placed over the fuel injector. This ring acts as a vacuum that prevents extra air from coming into your engine. If excess air does make its way into your engine, it won’t run as efficiently as it should. That’s why this ring must be in pristine condition at all times. Any rips will compromise the seal, and air will make its way into the engine.

The fuel injector is a vital component of a cylinder head. Air makes its way through the intake plenum. As this happens, the fuel injector sprays a mist of fuel that combines with the air in the intake manifold. This air/fuel mixture then travels down to the intake valve. The intake valve then opens so that the air/fuel mixture can go into the combustion chamber. Once the mixture combusts, excess fuel is released to the exhaust valve, and it passes through the exhaust manifold. The intake and exhaust valves play a crucial role in a cylinder head’s functioning. For starters, these valves must open and close and the exact right time. They operate on a system so that fuel can exit the engine when it needs to. It’s also important to mention that intake valves are almost always larger than exhaust valves. Since exhaust valves operate under pressure, the opening doesn’t have to be as big. The excess fuel will eventually force the exhaust valve open.

Keeping Things Cool

One of the most common problems with cylinder heads is overheating. Since combustion occurs in a cylinder head, it can get incredibly hot. If a cylinder head gets overheated, it could crack, causing and an entire host of issues for the driver. Luckily, automobiles have a coolant system in place to try and prevent this from happening. When a driver starts their engine, the water pump connected to it also starts to pump coolant into different passageways around the cylinder head. The coolant begins to absorb the heat created by combustion and move towards the radiator inlet. As long as the coolant isn’t too hot, the thermostat inside your engine will allow it to pass through certain valves where it’s cooled down by a fan. When the coolant reaches the lower radiator of the tank, its temperature drops significantly. Manufacturers construct cylinder heads with multiple passageways so that coolant can travel through them and decrease the temperature of an engine when necessary.

What to Do If You Suspect Problems With Your Cylinder Head

An engine can’t run efficiently without top-quality cylinder heads. The first thing you should do if you think your cylinder head is in trouble is to take a look under the hood. Sometimes, cracks or tears are visible to the naked eye. If you don’t see any cracks, run a pressure test to determine if that’s the problem. You must act swiftly if you find troubles with your cylinder head. As with any engine issue, you need to address the situation quickly before the problem gets any worse.

Replacing a cylinder head is an incredibly methodical process. First, you must dump any coolant or oil that runs through your cylinder head passages and remove the intake and exhaust manifolds. You must be extremely careful when you’re removing valve timing chains, too. As previously mentioned, timing is everything when it comes to the intake and exhaust valves. Damaging their operations system can ruin your entire engine. Once you’ve completed all of these steps, you can carefully remove the cylinder head. Be sure not to scratch the engine block, as this can cause serious headaches for you in the future. From there, read your truck’s owner’s manual. Each cylinder head is unique to that vehicle’s make and model, so you must follow the manual’s instructions to the letter to ensure that everything goes back where it should be.

Understanding how a cylinder head works is more complicated than it seems. Cylinder heads are essential components of an engine that give it the combustion it needs to run. If you decide to take on the task of replacing your truck’s cylinder head, contact ATL Diesel for immediate assistance. We have Cummins diesel engine parts for a reasonable price. Our team is dedicated to helping you have the smoothest drive possible. After all, it much easier to replace a few busted parts than it is to put in a completely new engine.