Cylinders (Part One)

in Aircraft Engines

The portion of the engine in which the power is developed is called the cylinder. [Figure 1-16] The cylinder provides a combustion chamber where the burning and expansion of gases take place, and it houses the piston and the connecting rod. There are four major factors that need to be considered in the design and construction of the cylinder assembly. It must:

  1. Be strong enough to withstand the internal pressures developed during engine operation.
  2. Be constructed of a lightweight metal to keep down engine weight.
  3. Have good heat-conducting properties for efficient cooling.
  4. Be comparatively easy and inexpensive to manufacture, inspect, and maintain.
Figure 1-16. An example of an engine cylinder.

Figure 1-16. An example of an engine cylinder.

The cylinder head of an air cooled engine is generally made of aluminum alloy because aluminum alloy is a good conductor of heat and its light weight reduces the overall engine weight. Cylinder heads are forged or die-cast for greater strength. The inner shape of a cylinder head is generally semispherical. The semispherical shape is stronger than conventionalist design and aids in a more rapid and thorough scavenging of the exhaust gases.

Figure 1-17. Cutaway view of the cylinder assembly.

Figure 1-17. Cutaway view of the cylinder assembly.

The cylinder used in the air cooled engine is the overhead valve type. [Figure 1-17] Each cylinder is an assembly of two major parts: cylinder head and cylinder barrel. At assembly, the cylinder head is expanded by heating and then screwed down on the cylinder barrel, which has been chilled. When the head cools and contracts and the barrel warms up and expands, a gastight joint results. The majority of the cylinders used are constructed in this manner using an aluminum head and a steel barrel. [Figure 1-18]

Figure 1-18. The aluminum head and steel barrel of a cylinder.

Figure 1-18. The aluminum head and steel barrel of a cylinder.

Cylinder Heads

The purpose of the cylinder head is to provide a place for combustion of the fuel/air mixture and to give the cylinder more heat conductivity for adequate cooling. The fuel/air mixture is ignited by the spark in the combustion chamber and commences burning as the piston travels toward top dead center (top of its travel) on the compression stroke. The ignited charge is rapidly expanding at this time, and pressure is increasing so that, as the piston travels through the top dead center position, it is driven downward on the power stroke. The intake and exhaust valve ports are located in the cylinder head along with the spark plugs and the intake and exhaust valve actuating mechanisms.

After the cylinder head is cast, the spark plug bushings, valve guides, rocker arm bushings, and valve seats are installed in the cylinder head. Spark plug openings may be fitted with bronze or steel bushings that are shrunk and screwed into the openings. Stainless steel Heli-Coil spark plug inserts are used in many engines currently manufactured. Bronze or steel valve guides are usually shrunk or screwed into drilled openings in the cylinder head to provide guides for the valve stems. These are generally located at an angle to the center line of the cylinder. The valve seats are circular rings of hardened metal that protect the relatively soft metal of the cylinder head from the hammering action of the valves (as they open and close) and from the exhaust gases.

The cylinder heads of air cooled engines are subjected to extreme temperatures; it is therefore necessary to provide adequate cooling fin area and to use metals that conduct heat rapidly. Cylinder heads of air cooled engines are usually cast or forged. Aluminum alloy is used in the construction for a number of reasons. It is well adapted for casting or for the machining of deep, closely spaced fins, and it is more resistant than most metals to the corrosive attack of tetraethyl lead in gasoline. The greatest improvement in air cooling has resulted from reducing the thickness of the fins and increasing their depth. In this way, the fin area has been increased in modern engines. Cooling fins taper from 0.090″ at the base to 0.060″ at the tip end. Because of the difference in temperature in the various sections of the cylinder head, it is necessary to provide more cooling-fin area on some sections than on others. The exhaust valve region is the hottest part of the internal surface; therefore, more fin area is provided around the outside of the cylinder in this section.

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