Cylinders (Part Two)

in Aircraft Engines

Cylinder Barrels

The cylinder barrel in which the piston operates must be made of a high-strength material, usually steel. It must be as light as possible, yet have the proper characteristics for operating under high temperatures. It must be made of a good bearing material and have high tensile strength. The cylinder barrel is made of a steel alloy forging with the inner surface hardened to resist wear of the piston and the piston rings which bear against it. This hardening is usually done by exposing the steel to ammonia or cyanide gas while the steel is very hot. The steel soaks up nitrogen from the gas, which forms iron nitrides on the exposed surface. As a result of this process, the metal is said to be nitrided. This nitriding only penetrates into the barrel surface a few thousands of an inch. As the cylinder barrels wear due to use, they can be repaired by chroming. This is a process that plates chromium on the surface of the cylinder barrel and brings it back to new standard dimensions. Chromium-plated cylinders should use cast iron rings. Honing the cylinder walls is a process that brings it to the correct dimensions and provides crosshatch pattern for seating the piston rings during engine break-in. Some engine cylinder barrels are choked at the top, or they are smaller in diameter to allow for heat expansion and wear.


In some instances, the barrel has threads on the outside surface at one end so that it can be screwed into the cylinder head. The cooling fins are machined as an integral part of the barrel and have limits on repair and service.

Cylinder Numbering

Occasionally, it is necessary to refer to the left or right side of the engine or to a particular cylinder. Therefore, it is necessary to know the engine directions and how cylinders of an engine are numbered. The propeller shaft end of the engine is always the front end, and the accessory end is the rear end, regardless of how the engine is mounted in an aircraft. When referring to the right side or left side of an engine, always assume the view is from the rear or accessory end. As seen from this position, crankshaft rotation is referred to as either clockwise or counterclockwise.

Figure 1-19. Numbering of engine cylinders.

Figure 1-19. Numbering of engine cylinders.

Inline and V-type engine cylinders are usually numbered from the rear. In V-engines, the cylinder banks are known as the right bank and the left bank, as viewed from the accessory end. [Figure 1-19] The cylinder numbering of the opposed engine shown begins with the right rear as No. 1 and the left rear as No. 2. The one forward of No. 1 is No. 3; the one forward of No. 2 is No. 4, and so on. The numbering of opposed engine cylinders is by no means standard. Some manufacturers number their cylinders from the rear and others from the front of the engine. Always refer to the appropriate engine manual to determine the numbering system used by that manufacturer.

Single-row radial engine cylinders are numbered clockwise when viewed from the rear. Cylinder No. 1 is the top cylinder. In double-row engines, the same system is used. The No. 1 cylinder is the top one in the rear row. No. 2 cylinder is the first one clockwise from No. 1, but No. 2 is in the front row. No. 3 cylinder is the next one clockwise to No. 2, but is in the rear row. Thus, all odd-numbered cylinders are in the rear row, and all even-numbered cylinders are in the front row.