Why Honing Is Done in Cylinder Liners

Engine Liners & Sleeves: Unlocked Guide for Auto Buffs

Sourcing a liner supplier isn’t an arduous job nowadays. The real challenge is sourcing the RIGHT part. After reading this engine liner & sleeves guide, you’ll know the most important things about engine liners in the automotive industry like the back of an auto tech’s palm.

Today, OEMs and aftermarket products flock to the market giving fair advantages over its pricing. Cylinder liners & sleeves are definitely not a new commodity in the automotive industry. 

Hence, if you want to know more about this important automotive part, read on. This guide presents the basic know-how and practical guide on what is an engine cylinder liner, how is it installed, and the difference between liner types. 

Alongside this, we’ve also discussed the production process, CNC machining and honing of liners, as well as the basic tolerancing of high-quality engine sleeves.

PS. Have you thought about what separates high-quality engine cylinder sleeves from a cheap ones? We have listed the best cylinder sleeve manufacturers in the world manufacturing robust quality aftermarket liners fit for over 1000+ engine models.

What Are Cylinder Liners?

Cylinder liners are engine components that function as the inner wall of an engine cylinder. The role of the main engine liner is critical as it prevents the engine block from direct contact with the stress and temperature produced in the combustion process. 

Being an essential component in engines, a diesel engine liner is widely used in the automotive industry, as well as in various equipment, industrial, marine, and other heavy-duty engine applications. 

How Cylinder Liner Works

The IC engine cylinder and liner fulfills the following roles in an engine:

1. Serves as a sliding surface

Engine block liners provide a sliding surface for the piston rings inside the combustion chambers, while maintaining lubrication. Since metal-to-metal contact is present, the cylinder sleeve should be able to hold lubricant to prevent wear while allowing for a smooth sliding surface.

2. Transfer heat from combustion to chamber efficiently

Cylinder sleeves are responsible for transmitting heat from the cylinders to the engine coolant. This means that the best engine sleeves should be made of conductive material with high resistance against extreme temperatures. 

3. Create a gas sealing 

The main engine cylinder liner also prevents the gas and air mixture inside the combustion chamber from escaping. This is to ensure that the engine delivers power efficiently and prevents engine failure. 

4. Prevent corrosion, stress, and abrasive wear on engine blocks

Cylinder block liners are responsible for receiving high temperatures, friction, and extreme thermal stress. Hence, cylinder liner sleeves are precision-made from special metals with alloying elements.

Engine Cylinder Liner Types

There are 2 main types of engine liners. These are wet and dry cylinder liners. But aside from these, there are also other cylinder liner types such as finned cylinder sleeves and liners built with a fire ring

Wet Cylinder Liner

If the cylinder liner has direct contact with the engine coolant, then it’s a wet cylinder sleeve or liner. As they are directly exposed to very high temperatures and pressures, wet sleeve engine liners are built with heavier and thicker material components. As such, wet sleeves for diesel engines have more superior heat transfer capabilities.

Dry Cylinder Liner

Dry cylinder sleeves do not contact the engine coolant, but they can impart protection for the piston from impurities and wear. They are usually made with thinner walls than wet liners. Dry liners for engine blocks are the most common type of engine sleeves and therefore are almost often readily available.

Flanged Cylinder Sleeves

Dry sleeves that are flanged at the top are called Flanged cylinder sleeves and are designed to be more durable than liners without flange. 

This extra construction is used to lock the liner in place on top of the bore. The resulting assembly provides better strength and crucial support against any type of movement. 

Locking with flanged sleeves is also important to prevent lubricants from entering the bottom of the engine bore. This usually occurs when using aluminum blocks as there’s a significant rate of expansion between the two metals – iron and aluminum.

Finned Cylinder Liner

Finned cylinder liners have close-grained castings that ensure a more robust build, more efficient cooling, and longer life. 

Finned liners are often manufactured through a sand casting or shell molding production process by which the finished product has higher precision. This type of liner is usually made for Air-Cooled Engines which is why they are often called Air-Cooled Liners.

It works similar to a dry sleeve, however, the air is the cooling medium instead of a coolant. Heat then is dissipated along its fins built with high heat transfer efficiency.

Cylinder Liner with Fire Ring

Cylinder Liner with Fire Ring
Photo Credit: Motor Mechanic

Cylinder liners with a fire ring prevent carbon deposits from forming to prolong the engine’s life and offer more durability. 

The fire ring has a smaller inside diameter than the bore diameter of the cylinder which makes it possible for the carbon deposit to be scraped. Fire rings are built at the top of the cylinder liner end as a rectangular shape.

This extruded part will then be inserted loosely in a recess during assembly. The cylinder head will hold this in position later on. 

As the engine piston travel along the end of the cylinder, the scraper removes the deposits from the piston thereby preventing carbon components from forming on the top land.

Cylinder Liner Applications

Cylinder Liner Applications
Photo Credit: MS Motorservice

There is a wide range for the applications of cylinder liners. Basically, any industry that uses an engine will require the use of engine cylinder liners and sleeves. The most popular, the automotive industry, requires a large variety of cylinder liners that are needed for an assortment of models and brands. 

1. Agriculture, Oil Fields, Power Generation

Moreover, there are also smaller industries that operate with engines as well, namely the following: agriculture, oil field, power generation, non-road vehicles, etc. Other machines that operate with reciprocating pistons such as air compressors also use cylinder liners. 

2. Marine and Massive Engines

Finally, the high-strength engines also use cylinder liners for their engines. An example is a marine cylinder liner. Massive engines installed in the off-highway sector, such as marine, locomotive, and construction equipment, rely heavily on cylinder liners to produce efficient power and prolong engine lifespan.

What are Cylinder Liners Made of?

Every cylinder liner is made of complex metallurgy that makes a high-performing liner fit for every engine model. 

The most common cylinder sleeves base material is cast iron. This material is then alloyed with other elements that make the engine sleeve has improved capabilities against high pressure and temperature. 

Different manufacturers use different metallurgical techniques in formulating liner materials. The main goal is to produce a product that prevents corrosion and abrasion, as well as stand against combustion temperature and pressure while providing good service life and maintaining an economic amount of lubricant.

Most engine liners are made of cast iron with chromium, nickel, copper, or aluminum alloys. The chemical compositions differ depending on the specification of the engine block. Below are the most common cylinder sleeve materials.

Cast Iron Cylinder Liners

Most cylinder liners are made from cast iron. Cast iron cylinder sleeve is a high-strength material that contains graphite that functions as a natural lubricant. The material has a porous exterior that may also function as a damper for engine vibrations. Lastly, it provides assistance for the engine piston whenever galling occurs.

Elements Alloyed with Cast Iron

To provide better characteristics on its surface, cast iron may be alloyed with the following elements. This not only improves its wear resistance but also helps the metal withstand high pressure and extreme circumstances during combustion. 

The most common alloyed materials are Chromium, Vanadium, Nickel or Copper in 5% compositions.

Alloying ElementsPropertiesFormulation
– Increases anti-corrosion capabilities
– Adds hardness
– Increases strength and resistance to wear
– Adds to wear resistance properties
– Boosts tensile strength without leaving an impact on its machinability
– Strengthens the mechanical abilities of cast iron and boosts its wear resistance.
– Improves the machinability of cast iron
– Imparts uniform hardness all throughout the cast
– Gives extra hardness, viscosity
– Improves cast machinability.
– Gives a fine-grain cast-iron surface improving its metallic base
– Gives strength and improves fragility
– Keeps impurities away and frees the cast from blowholes
– Gives extra structure and liquidity to the cast that improves the microstructure0.35
– Gives assistance during cooling as it reduces the shrinkage speed of the cast iron
– Gives extra strength to the structure
1.6 to 2.7

Steel Cylinder Liners

Steel cylinder liners offer the lowest mass to engine blocks compared to cast iron and aluminum. Steel liners are used for engines as they exhibit high strength and stiffness. Steel liners do not suffer from cavitation, however, they may need surface treatments to prevent corrosion.

Ductile Iron Cylinder Sleeves

Ductile iron cylinder sleeves are high-quality sleeves that exhibit less brittle properties. Ductile iron is a type of cast iron that, in general, does not easily fracture during impact. Rover V8 top hat liners are made from high-performance ductile iron cylinder sleeves.

How are Cylinder Liners Manufactured

Cylinder liners are manufactured through a set of rigorous processes. The first step in its production is we take the cylinder liner drawing and specifications from our clients. Then the following takes place:

1. Melting & Alloying

The metals are placed in the furnace for a long duration in order to acquire the melting temperature at around 1400°C to 2000°C. 

2. Testing of Metal Grade

The metal is then tested for material composition using a metal analyzer.

3. Removing Slag and Controlling Impurity Levels

Slag materials will then be removed, such as sulfur and phosphorus, while impurities will be controlled at acceptable levels. 

4. Adding Alloying Elements

After the reduction of impurities and removal of slag, alloying materials are then blended. These are added in amounts according to the mechanical property requirements of the cylinder sleeve. They can also be customized according to customer requirements. 

5. Centrifugal Casting

The molten metal is poured into rotating die machines to undergo centrifugal casting. This process is the most ideal for cylinder liner manufacture. As cylinder liners have thin walls, they need to be manufactured with a uniform grain structure and high purity. With centrifugal casting, the cylinder sleeve will be manufactured with no weak points, but equal properties in all directions. 

Centrifugal casting is also used for the manufacture of other products that require durability. Some of these are machine fittings and railway carriage wheels, which are also exposed to extreme conditions, and require grain uniformity and overall balance in order to perform and endure their working conditions. 

Also, it is important for centrifugal casting that problems such as contamination, fluidity problems, and formation of bubbles.

6. Cooling

The metal is then let cool and solidify. This can be done with quick or slow cooling. Slow cooling allows for coarse-grain construction, while quick cooling creates finer grain construction. 

Although the cooling process seems simple, this process is critical as the cooling curve should be controlled. The cooling process will define the difference between low-quality and high-quality cast. 

7. Testing and Inspection

With CNC machining, the cylinder outer diameter, radius, and grooves are processed. Each cylinder liner undergoes thorough inspection for defects. The precision and accuracy of wall thickness are also closely monitored and corrected through machining.  

Semi Finished Cylinder Liner

Semi Finished Cylinder Liner

As the name suggests, Semi-Finished Cylinder Liners are engine sleeves that have unfinished surfaces. Once you fit them into the cylinder block, you need to bore and hone to size the liner so the piston can go through it. 

The reason for manufacturing and supplying unfinished cylinder liners is so machine shops can do the finishing according to the ovality and taper needed.

Why Honing Is Done in Cylinder Liners

Honing is a manufacturing process done as a conditioning method for the cylinder wall. This process aims to create a very fine crosshatch on the surface of the cylinder. To put it in imagery, the crosshatches are imperfections that are the peaks and valleys in the surface of the cylinder. 

Cylinder liner honing is done in order to help the retention of lubrication on the surface. This is essential because, in theory, there has always to have a thin layer of oil that coats the cylinder wall, as well as the piston rings. If there is no oil in between the two metal surfaces, there will be too much friction, which can cause wear for either the cylinder liner or the piston ring.

How to Install Cylinder Liners

Proper cylinder liner installation is crucial to the best performance of the engine.

“Some engine guys still want to force the sleeves into a hole”. Her further says that the right procedure in installing cylinder liners is through “differential temperature and the hole should have the equal of surface roughness of the sleeve OD. Also using a full-length close-tolerance mandrel and a hydraulic press on all blocks is the best way to get alignment and straight insertion.”

Dave Clinton, CEO of Darton Sleeve

Furthermore, we can learn from Brian Zimmerman from Interstate-McBreminds that:

“Cleanliness and measurements are key to the success rate of heavy-duty diesel engine liner installation,”

Brian Zimmerman from Interstate-McBreminds

This video shows how to install a cylinder liner:

How to Remove Cylinder Liners

Below we discuss the proper ways to remove cylinder liners.

Here’s a video on how to do it.

For removing cylinder liners, here are the tools needed:

  1. Cylinder liner puller

Cylinder liner pullers come in three types: 

Universal Liner Puller M50010-A: The most common type, has two spring-loaded adjustable legs.

Universal Liner Puller M50010-A

M30150 Liner Puller: The newest type of cylinder puller. This is used to remove the cylinder sleeve from the bottom part, pulling the piston assembly. The bulky cylindrical component with rubber O-rings is the part that grabs the liner out.

M30150 Liner Puller

M30020: Typically used for 71 and 92 Detroit diesel engines, as this puller is among the oldest cylinder sleeve pullers. 

  1. Brake Parts cleaner

Steps in removing a Cylinder Liner: 

  1. In this illustration, we are using the Universal Liner Puller M50010-A.
  2. Clean out the oil in the cylinder wall and crankcase. You can use the brake parts cleaner for easier removal.
  3. Place your cylinder liner puller by placing the lower end of it under the lower end of the liner collar. 
Universal Liner Puller M50010-A liner puller
  1. Mount the puller on the bore of the crankcase. 
Mount the puller on the bore of the crankcase.

4. Turn the nut of the puller. This will slowly pull out the cylinder liner. Continue turning the nut until the cylinder liner is free from the bore.

Continue turning the nut until the cylinder liner is free from the bore

5. You can now easily lift the cylinder liner.

lifting the cylinder liner

Cylinder Liner Maintenance

Below are the most common cylinder liner maintenance that any engine guys should know.

How Cylinder Liners Are Lubricated

The lubrication system of an engine ensures that clean oil goes through each part of the engine with accurate temperature and pressure. 

The oil pump sucks oil from the sump and then into the filter. The oil passes through a pressure regulator to maintain a certain pressure for the oil. The pressurized oil is then fed through the oil lines and galleries in the engine and the crankshaft. It then proceeds to the bearings of the connecting rod and is finally sprayed by an oil sprout into the piston and cylinder walls. As the piston goes down, the lower ring of the piston then scrapes excess oil back down to the oil sump. 

How Is Cylinder Liner Wear Measured

Cylinder liners wear over time, but how do you know its wear is too much? First of all, the cylinder liner’s ovality must be monitored at regular intervals. You can refer to the cylinder liner’s maintenance manual for the frequency of gauging the cylinder liner. 

Here are the steps:

  1. Make sure you shut down the engine and cool it down. 
  2. Open the cylinder head and remove the piston. 
  3. Clean carbon deposits on the top of the cylinder liner.
  4. Visually inspect for wear.
  5. A standard template rod is then used to measure cylinder liner wear. The template consists of strategically placed holes. This is where the micrometer is placed when the measurements are done. 
  6. In general, the temperature of the liner and micrometer should be kept the same in this process. If not, a correction factor must be used.  

Troubleshooting Cylinder Liners

What Causes Cylinder Liner Damage

Cylinder liners wearing can be caused by the following:

  1. Corrosion
  2. Friction
  3. Abrasion
  4. Scuffing or adhesion

1. Corrosion:

Corrosion in the engine liner can be caused by the following:

  • Burning fuel in the combustion chamber – This may occur due to fuel oil containing high amounts of sulfur. Sulfuric acids are formed from the absorption of moisture from the inside space of the combustion chamber.
  • Low temperature in the combustion area due to lowered service load

2. Frictional wear

This occurs when the piston rings slide with friction against the walls of the liner.

Frictional wear engine liner
Image Credit:Emanuel Lyrakis

3. Abrasion

This is due to the hard particles that are formed during combustion. Ash, catalytic fines, metal debris, and accumulated dust that mixes with the lubrication can cause abrasion. 

It is observed that abrasive wear is seen more at the top BDC and TDC of the cylinder liner. This means that once the wear reaches the surface, this will expose the metal to corrosion wear as well. 

4. Adhesion or Scuffing

This can be caused by welding when particles are formed from abrasive materials.

What Causes A Cylinder Liner To Crack

Cylinder liners tend to crack due to the following reasons:

  • Poor cooling

This can cause hot spots in the liners that can further result in cracking due to thermal stress. 

  • Incorrect installation

If not properly seated, increased wear can happen to the cylinder liners, or worse, distortion and/or cracking. 

  • Improper Fit 

The use of the wrong size of pistons can cause cracks and further damage to the cylinder liner. 

  • Contamination with foreign bodies

Foreign bodies such as metal chips, burrs, nicks, or improper fillets can cause improper liner seating, so make sure to clean before reinstalling a new cylinder liner

Wrapping Up

Engine liners and sleeves are important parts of the engine. We hope this guide helped you understand more about liners and sleeves.

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