Piston rings are integral to the efficient running of a marine or industrial engine. If properly cared for, they can last a long time – significantly improving the lifespan of your machinery and saving time and money.

Failure to regularly review your pistons – or recognise when their condition is deteriorating – can lead to serious problems that are hard to rectify.

So when should you replace your piston rings – and what are the warning signs to look out for?

1. Performance is dropping off

Industrial and marine piston rings experience wear and tear over time. This can lead to a partial or total loss of power – meaning that, in a worst-case scenario, your machinery will become non-functional (and just as importantly, unprofitable).

The sooner you identify and attend to the problem, the greater the chance your valued components can be rescued. Even if the performance of your engine has dropped slightly, this could indicate less compression – hence the lower acceleration.

2. Higher than normal oil consumption

Has your engine started consuming more oil? This can happen if you haven’t replaced or repaired older pistons soon enough. This leads to oil penetrating the combustion chambers, leading to a noticeable increase in usage.

Using more oil than necessary is expensive. Knowing when to replace your pistons will help prevent costly problems like this from happening.

3. Excessive and continuous smoke production

If your engine is emitting thick smoke, it could indicate a problem with your piston rings. The likely scenario is that damaged rings have leaked oil that’s burned – thereby causing smoke.

The colour of this smoke will vary depending on the type of engine. With marine pistons, blue smoke is a sign there’s a problem. A worn-out valve or ring usually produces this effect – in which case, it’s best to call a qualified mechanic who can get to the root cause of the problem.

How to maintain piston rings

Knowing when you should replace your piston rings is helpful. But in an ideal world, you’d prefer the components of your engine to remain operational for as long as possible. Although durable and resilient, rings need to be properly maintained to ensure long-term efficiency.

As well as the issues mentioned – namely, higher oil consumption, excessive smoke production, and reduced performance – you should also regularly examine the chrome layer of your pistons to check for signs of flaking or general wear and tear.

Cleaning your piston rings

If you notice a problem, the first step is to carefully remove the rings surrounding your piston. Are the grooves noticeably eroded? If so, clean around these indentations and remove deposits clogging up the oil return holes.

Once you’ve thoroughly cleaned your rings, recheck them to see if there are any abnormalities that might be causing the issue.

When should you replace your pistons?

If the grooves are damaged upon initial or secondary inspection, a replacement ring is probably required. In the event you’re not sure, you could restart your engine to see what happens. If performance is still compromised then the piston is culpable and you’ll need a new one.

Contact us with any questions or for support

If your engine is not performing as expected, or you need help with sealing ring maintenance, we’d love to help. We are piston ring manufacturers specialising in marine and industrial.

Contact our knowledgeable team today to learn more or book an appointment.