Dimensional Inspection (Part One)

in Engine Maintenance and Operation

The dimensional inspection is used to assure that the engine’s component parts and clearances meet the manufacturer’s specifications. These specs are listed in a table of limits, which lists serviceable limits and the manufacturer’s new part maximum and minimum dimensions. Many measuring tools are used to perform the dimensional inspection of the engine. Some examples of these devices are discussed as the procedure for measuring the engine’s components for dimensional inspection is explained in the following paragraphs.

Cylinder Barrel


Inspect the cylinder barrel for wear, using a cylinder bore gauge [Figure 10-5], a telescopic gauge, and micrometer or an inside micrometer. Dimensional inspection of the barrel consists of the following measurements:

  1. Maximum taper of cylinder walls
  2. Maximum out-of-roundness
  3. Bore diameter
  4. Step
  5. Fit between piston skirt and cylinder
Figure 10-5. A cylinder bore gauge.

Figure 10-5. A cylinder bore gauge.

All measurements involving cylinder barrel diameters must be taken at a minimum of two positions 90° apart in the particular plane being measured. It may be necessary to take more than two measurements to determine the maximum wear. Taper of the cylinder walls is the difference between the diameter of the cylinder barrel at the bottom and the diameter at the top. The cylinder is usually worn larger at the top than at the bottom. This taper is caused by the natural wear pattern. At the top of the stroke, the piston is subjected to greater heat and pressure and more erosive environment than at the bottom of the stroke. Also, there is greater freedom of movement at the top of the stroke. Under these conditions, the piston wears the cylinder wall more at the top of the cylinder. In most cases, the taper ends with a ridge, that must be removed during overhaul. [Figure 10-6]

Figure 10-6. Ridge or step formed in an engine cylinder.

Figure 10-6. Ridge or step formed in an engine cylinder.

Where cylinders are built with an intentional choke, measurement of taper becomes more complicated. Cylinder choke is where the top of the cylinder has been made with the very top diameter of the cylinder smaller, to compensate for wear and expansion during operation. It is necessary to know exactly how the size indicates wear or taper. Taper can be measured in any cylinder by a cylinder dial gauge as long as there is not a sharp step. The dial gauge tends to ride up on the step and causes inaccurate readings at the top of the cylinder.

The measurement for out-of-roundness is usually taken at the top of the cylinder. However, a reading should also be taken at the skirt of the cylinder to detect dents or bends caused by careless handling. A step, or ridge, is formed in the cylinder by the wearing action of the piston rings. [Figure 10-6] The greatest wear is at the top of the ring travel limit. The ridge that results is likely to cause damage to the rings or piston. If the step exceeds tolerances, it should be removed by grinding the cylinder oversize, or it should be blended by hand-stoning to break the sharp edge. A step also may be found where the bottom ring reaches the lowest travel. This step is rarely found to be excessive, but it should be checked. Check the cylinder flange for warpage by placing the cylinder on a suitable jig. Check to see that the flange contacts the jig all the way around. The amount of warpage can be checked by using a thickness gauge. [Figure 10-2] A cylinder whose flange is warped beyond the limits should be rejected.

Figure 10-2. A method for checking cylinder flange warpage.

Figure 10-2. A method for checking cylinder flange warpage.

Valves and Valve Springs

The locations for checking runout and edge thickness of the valves are shown in Figure 10-7. Measure the edge thickness of valve heads. If, after re-facing, the edge thickness is less than the limit specified by the manufacturer, the valve must not be re-used. The edge thickness can be measured with sufficient accuracy by a dial indicator and a surface plate. Out-of-roundness is usually caused by a stuck valve. If a valve sticks, the rocker shaft tends to work up and down when the valve offers excessive resistance to opening. Inspect for out-of-roundness and oversize using a telescopic gauge and a micrometer.

Figure 10-7. Valve showing locations for checking runout and section for measuring edge thickness.

Figure 10-7. Valve showing locations for checking runout and section for measuring edge thickness.

Inspect the valve for stretch and wear, using a micrometer or a valve radius’ gauge. [Figure 10-8] If a micrometer is used, stretch is found as a smaller diameter of the valve stem near the neck of the valve. Measure the diameter of the valve stem, and check the fit of the valve in its guide.

Figure 10-8. Checking valve stretch with a manufacturer’s gauge.

Figure 10-8. Checking valve stretch with a manufacturer’s gauge.

Compression is tested with a valve spring compression tester. [Figure 10-9] The spring is compressed until its total height is that specified by the manufacturer. The dial on the tester should indicate the pressure, in pounds, required to compress the spring to the specified height. This must be within the pressure limits established by the manufacturer.

Figure 10-9. Valve spring compression tester.

Figure 10-9. Valve spring compression tester.

Inspect the shaft’s diameter for correct size with a micrometer. Rocker shafts are often found to be scored and burned because of excessive turning in the cylinder head. Also, there may be some pickup on the shaft (bronze from the rocker bushing transferred to the steel shaft). Generally, this is caused by overheating and too little clearance between shaft and bushing. The clearance between the shaft and the bushing is most important.