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Engine Building Fundamentals: How to Use a Ring Compressor

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How to Use a Ring Compressor


00:00 - In this module we're going to see how to correctly use a piston ring compressor.
00:05 And in front of me here, I have two of the most popular styles of ring compressor.
00:09 We have the tapered style ring compressor and we also have the ratchet style ring compressor.
00:16 Now, while the ratchet style ring compressor is probably one of the most cost-effective products on the market.
00:22 It's not actually my preferred tool because unless you're very careful it is quite easy to still damage a ring while you're installing the piston.
00:32 On the other hand, the tapered style ring compressor is almost completely foolproof.
00:37 It makes it much more difficult to damage the ring.
00:39 This is why I prefer this particular tool.
00:43 As we've already discussed though, you are going to need an individual tapered ring compressor to suit each bore diameter that you want to work with.
00:51 And for example here, we have an ARP unit, that's designed for an 86 millimetre bore.
00:57 So let's get started and see, first of all, how to use the tapered style ring compressor.
01:03 What we're going to be doing is installing a piston and conrod assembly into a Toyota 2JZ cylinder block.
01:10 Now, what I'm going to do is start by grabbing or piston and conrod assembly.
01:15 Now, the piston and conrod is already assembled and we've already orientated our rings correctly.
01:21 And before we install the piston into the ring compressor we also want to lubricate the piston and this includes the ring pack as well as the skirts.
01:32 I've previously done this to get the piston ready for our example here.
01:38 Another thing we want to do is get our piston ring compressor, and I'm just going to apply a small amount of lubricating oil to the inside of the ring compressor.
01:48 Now, here I'm just using an oiling can filled with a normal mineral-grade, mineral-based engine oil.
01:55 And when we're building engines, it's always handy to have an oiling can such as this around.
02:01 And we're using the mineral-based oil because if we're using a synthetic, this can effect the ability for the rings to bed.
02:08 So it's a really important thing to keep in mind.
02:11 It's important to have one of these oiling cans because you're going to be using it for a number of tasks when building the engine.
02:18 So I've just applied a thin coat of oil to the inside of the ring compressor.
02:23 And I've just smeared that around the inside with my fingers.
02:26 Now what we're going to do is grab our piston and conrod assembly, and we're simply going to drop the conrod through the top of the ring compressor.
02:36 And we're going to simply locate the piston into the ring compressor.
02:41 We're just going to slip it down until we have the skirt just starting to protrude out the base of the ring compressor.
02:48 And at this point we're ready to install the piston and conrod into the engine block.
02:54 Now, just a word before we go and do this, it's really important when you are installing your piston into the block, to make sure you orientate the piston the correct way around.
03:04 This means getting the valve pockets to line up with the correct side of the block.
03:09 The valve pockets or cutouts are often different from intake to exhaust.
03:14 And here we're using an OE piston.
03:16 Quite often these OE pistons will actually have a dot, indicating the direction of the piston to face the front of the block.
03:24 So we're ready to put this into the block.
03:26 Let's do that now.
03:29 So we've got our piston correctly orientated, and what we're going to do is just drop the conrod into the bore.
03:36 And I'm just going to locate the base of the skirt of the piston, into the bore.
03:42 So at this point the piston is sitting in the top of the bore.
03:45 We've got our piston ring compressor sitting firmly on the top of the block.
03:51 Now what we're going to do is apply a small amount of pressure down, on the ring compressor, as we push the piston into the bore.
03:58 And we're going to just simply push the piston in using our two thumbs.
04:02 We should be able to do this smoothly and easily with a relatively minor amount of pressure.
04:08 So that's as simple as it is.
04:09 We've now pushed the piston into the bore.
04:11 Took almost no effort to do that and we know that we've located that piston without any risk of damaging our rings.
04:19 That's how to use a tapered style ring compressor, next we're going to have a look at how to do the task with our ratchet style ring compressor.
04:28 Using a ratchet style ring compressor does require a little bit more care then the tapered ring compressor.
04:35 And we're going to start by looking at some of the aspects of the ring compressor.
04:39 So, first of all, we're going to be using a key to tighten, as well as, loosen the ring compressor.
04:46 In order to tighten it we just simply want to locate the key in the ring compressor and turn it clockwise.
04:52 If we want to loosen or expand the ring compressor, we can simply press on this little lever here, and then we can unwind the ring compressor to open it up.
05:02 So this way we can use the same ring compressor to suit multiple bore diameters.
05:07 Now the ratchet style ring compressor does have a top and bottom.
05:11 It's relatively self-explanatory because if we have it upside down you're not going to be able to tighten the ring compressor while we've got the piston installed in the bore.
05:21 You'll notice that around the base of the ring compressor, there are some slight divots and these help the ring compressor locate on the deck surface of the block.
05:30 And this prevents the ring compressor actually starting to move down into the bore when it comes time to install the piston.
05:39 Alright, so one of the things to note with the ratchet style ring compressor is over time it's quite common for them to collect debris or dirt on the inside surface so, it's really important before we start to make sure that the ratchet style ring compressor is cleaned down using a brake clean or isopropyl alcohol and a clean rag.
06:00 Once we've done this, we're again going to grab our oiling can and we're just going to apply a light coat of lubricating oil to the inside surfaces, and again just using my two fingers here.
06:11 I'm just smearing this around.
06:13 This is going to allow the piston and rings to glide smoothly through the ring compressor.
06:18 Once we've got the ring compressor ready to go, we can now install it on top of our piston and rings.
06:25 Installing the piston into a ratchet ring compressor is a little bit easier if you've got a piston stand, such as the one we're using here.
06:33 If you don't, alternatively you can do this directly on your work bench, or you can also locate the piston and conrod in the top of the cylinder bore, and use that to support the piston while you install the ring compressor.
06:46 What I'm going to do is grab my ring compressor.
06:48 I've already expanded it out to the correct size.
06:51 And what I'm going to do now is just gradually lower this down, over the piston.
06:56 Making sure it doesn't catch on the ring while I'm doing so.
06:59 Now that we've got the ring compressor located over the piston, we can just hold the ring compressor and tighten the ratchet with my right hand.
07:08 And as we tighten the ratchet down we see the ring compressor will start to compress the rings into the ring grooves on the piston.
07:18 And what I want to do here is make sure that the ring compressor is sitting above the base of the skirt of the piston and this just allows the ring compressor to correctly compress down.
07:30 We're not going to end up over tensioning the ring compressor.
07:33 So at this point we've got our ring compressor fitted to our piston.
07:37 We can now take the piston and rod assembly and install it into the block.
07:42 So I've still got my piston skirt just protruding out the base of the ring compressor.
07:46 And I'm just going to use the piston skirt to locate the piston into the top of the bore.
07:51 Again, I'm being careful with the orientation of my piston.
07:55 Now, initially I'm just going to lower the piston down slightly, and now I'm going to give the ring compressor one final tighten.
08:03 Just to make sure that it is going to correctly compress the rings.
08:08 Now we also want to make sure that the ring compressor is completely flat on the deck surface of the block.
08:14 This is really important, because if we don't have the ring compressor square and flat on the surface of the block this can allow one of the rings to pop out as we're installing the piston into the cylinder block.
08:27 Now this time, because there's slightly more tension on the piston and the rings then what we had earlier, it's difficult or impossible to install the piston just using our thumbs to push the piston through the ring compressor.
08:42 What I'm going to do this time is I'm going to use the wooden handle of a hammer.
08:46 Alternatively you could also use a plastic mallet.
08:49 We're going to use this to gently tap the piston down into the bore.
08:54 Now while I do this, I'm going to apply a reasonable amount of pressure with my other hand onto the top of the compressor.
09:01 And this is just going to ensure that while I'm installing the piston, the the ring compressor does stay flat on the deck surface of the block.
09:08 So what we should be able to do is, gently tap the piston down into the bore.
09:18 And now we've got our piston installed.
09:20 Now, while we're doing this, while we're tapping the piston down with our plastic mallet or the handle of our wooden hammer, we want to be very sure that every time we tap the piston, that it does smoothly and consistently move down the ring compressor and into the bore.
09:38 If at any point the piston stops moving or you feel that the resistance has increased and you're needing to tap the piston harder, this is a sign that something isn't right and you need to stop and relocate the piston and the ring compressor, because a piston ring may have fallen out, and this is an easy way to break or damage the ring.
10:01 When it comes time to installing the pistons into the block, this is one of the most common places to end up damaging a ring.
10:08 So it's critical that you understand how to correctly use a ring compressor to avoid any potential damage.

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