Valve Operating Mechanism (Part Two)

in Aircraft Engines


The valve mechanism of an opposed engine is operated by a camshaft. The camshaft is driven by a gear that mates with another gear attached to the crankshaft. [Figure 1-28] The camshaft always rotates at one-half the crankshaft speed. As the camshaft revolves, the lobes cause the tappet assembly to rise in the tappet guide, transmitting the force through the push rod and rocker arm to open the valve. [Figure 1-29]

Figure 1-28. Cam drive mechanism opposed-type aircraft engine.

Figure 1-28. Cam drive mechanism opposed-type aircraft engine.

Tappet Assembly
The tappet assembly consists of:

  1. A cylindrical tappet, which slides in and out in a tappet guide installed in one of the crankcase sections around the cam ring;
  2. A tappet roller, which follows the contour of the cam ring and lobes;
  3. A tappet ball socket or push rod socket; and
  4. A tappet spring.
Figure 1-29. Cam load on lifter body.

Figure 1-29. Cam load on lifter body.

The function of the tappet assembly is to convert the rotational movement of the cam lobe into reciprocating motion and to transmit this motion to the push rod, rocker arm, and then to the valve tip, opening the valve at the proper time. The purpose of the tappet spring is to take up the clearance between the rocker arm and the valve tip to reduce the shock load when the valve is opened. A hole is drilled through the tappet to allow engine oil to flow to the hollow push rods to lubricate the rocker assemblies.

Solid Lifters/Tappets

Solid lifters or cam followers generally require the valve clearance to be adjusted manually by adjusting a screw and lock nut. Valve clearance is needed to assure that the valve has enough clearance in the valve train to close completely. This adjustment or inspection was a continuous maintenance item until hydraulic lifters were used.

Hydraulic Valve Tappets/Lifters

Some aircraft engines incorporate hydraulic tappets that automatically keep the valve clearance at zero, eliminating the necessity for any valve clearance adjustment mechanism. A typical hydraulic tappet (zero-lash valve lifter) is shown in Figure 1-30.

When the engine valve is closed, the face of the tappet body (cam follower) is on the base circle or back of the cam. [Figure 1-30] The light plunger spring lifts the hydraulic plunger so that its outer end contacts the push rod socket, exerting a light pressure against it, thus eliminating any clearance in the valve linkage. As the plunger moves outward, the ball check valve moves off its seat. Oil from the supply chamber, which is directly connected with the engine lubrication system, flows in and fills the pressure chamber. As the camshaft rotates, the cam pushes the tappet body and the hydraulic lifter cylinder outward. This action forces the ball check valve onto its seat; thus, the body of oil trapped in the pressure chamber acts as a cushion. During the interval when the engine valve is off its seat, a predetermined leakage occurs between plunger and cylinder bore, which compensates for any expansion or contraction in the valve train. Immediately after the engine valve closes, the amount of oil required to fill the pressure chamber flows in from the supply chamber, preparing for another cycle of operation.

Figure 1-30. Hydraulic valve tappets.

Figure 1-30. Hydraulic valve tappets.

Hydraulic valve lifters are normally adjusted at the time of overhaul. They are assembled dry (no lubrication), clearances checked, and adjustments are usually made by using push rods of different lengths. A minimum and maximum valve clearance is established. Any measurement between these extremes is acceptable, but approximately half way between the extremes is desired. Hydraulic valve lifters require less maintenance, are better lubricated, and operate more quietly than the screw adjustment type.

Push Rod

The push rod, tubular in form, transmits the lifting force from the valve tappet to the rocker arm. A hardened-steel ball is pressed over or into each end of the tube. One ball end fits into the socket of the rocker arm. In some instances, the balls are on the tappet and rocker arm, and the sockets are on the push rod. The tubular form is employed because of its lightness and strength. It permits the engine lubricating oil under pressure to pass through the hollow rod and the drilled ball ends to lubricate the ball ends, rocker-arm bearing, and valve-stem guide. The push rod is enclosed in a tubular housing that extends from the crankcase to the cylinder head, referred to as push rod tubes.

Rocker Arms

The rocker arms transmit the lifting force from the cams to the valves. [Figure 1-31] Rocker arm assemblies are supported by a plain, roller, or ball bearing, or a combination of these, which serves as a pivot. Generally, one end of the arm bears against the push rod and the other bears on the valve stem. One end of the rocker arm is sometimes slotted to accommodate a steel roller. The opposite end is constructed with either a threaded split clamp and locking bolt or a tapped hole. The arm may have an adjusting screw, for adjusting the clearance between the rocker arm and the valve stem tip. The screw can be adjusted to the specified clearance to make certain that the valve closes fully.

Figure 1-31. Rocker opposed engine arms.

Figure 1-31. Rocker opposed engine arms.

Valve Springs

Each valve is closed by two or three helical springs. If a single spring were used, it would vibrate or surge at certain speeds. To eliminate this difficulty, two or more springs (one inside the other) are installed on each valve. Each spring vibrates at a different engine speed and rapid damping out of all spring-surge vibrations during engine operation results. Two or more springs also reduce danger of weakness and possible failure by breakage due to heat and metal fatigue. The springs are held in place by split locks installed in the recess of the valve spring upper retainer or washer, and engage a groove machined into the valve stem. The functions of the valve springs are to close the valve and to hold the valve securely on the valve seat.