By this point, anyone with a somewhat-solid grasp of internal combustion motor mechanics and piston rings is familiar with the ever-present, and utterly unpleasant effects of engine blow-by. Not only does blow-by reduce engine efficiency and snip motor oil life down to size, but it also significantly impacts performance gains. For all of us here, those are words we never like to hear.
So what can be done to offset these awful yet seemingly unavoidable issues from materializing in the first place? The guys at Shaver Specialty Racing Engines, have been contemplating these same questions for quite a while, and the crew was ready to put the whole debate to rest.
With the help of the piston ring gurus at Total Seal, a series of torture tests were put into play. The goal was simple: Determine whether a gas-ported piston or a gas-ported piston ring was better for performance, and then compare both to a standard non-gas-ported setup.
Since Total Seal has been studying cylinder-to-piston sealing for well over 50 years, providing some professional insight on the matter was pretty much second nature. Widely recognized for its “gapless ring technology,” Total Seal is the undisputed king of the piston ring. From Formula 1 internals to weekend warrior drag racers and street machines, there isn’t an engine block on the planet that this brand isn’t willing to investigate and improve upon.
This leads us back to the whole topic of gas-ported top rings, and whether or not this technology will help bolster a piston ring’s ability to seat (and subsequently seal) the harmful fumes emitted within the combustion chamber. But how does this magical “ring of fire” actually work and what are the inevitable downsides to opting for this highly-specific style of engine upgrade?
Let’s Take It From the Top
Unlike many of its competitor’s designs, Total Seal’s Gas-Ported Rings are manufactured with an exclusive set of horizontal slots that have been machined directly into the top perch of the ring itself. The purpose of this subtle modification is to channel combustion gases inward instead of outward. This affords a specialized bevel on the inside of the ring to gather those gasses and press the ring more firmly against the cylinder wall.
Not only does this drastically improve ring seal, but it also eliminates the risk of failure during heavy operation due to relying upon the naturally occurring byproducts produced by the engine’s rotating mass and internal temps. This creates a series of additional perks that are impossible to ignore, with the following five benefits being the most notable.
1. Keeping That Oil Slick, One Seal At A Time
One of the top reasons why race car teams and high-performance builders prefer gas-ported piston rings is because of how little oil contamination occurs once the engine has been broken in. By improving the piston ring’s ability to seal itself from the deck of the block downward, blow-by becomes a worry of the past.
Also, there is no more combustion chamber carbon build-up or ultra opaque oil on fluid change day. This not only saves a significant sum of money for owners of street machines, as oil changes need not be conducted as frequently, but it also extends the life of the engine.
2. Gas Pressure, It’s Not Just For Chili
Gas-ported rings feature more gas ports than the typical gas-ported piston. As a result, the gas pressure is more evenly distributed. This produces improved ring sealing. For more on improving gas pressure via ported piston rings, be sure to check out Total Seal’s YouTube channel, as it is heavily populated with information pertaining to this topic.
3. Piston Power Is A Go-Go For Launch
By gas porting the ring itself (instead of the piston), the resiliency of the top ring land is not weakened by the porting. Exhaust-valve relief pockets see the greatest benefit. This is because the concept drastically reduces the amount of scorching hot combustion gasses hitting the block. Not only does this keep engine oil cooler, but it also generates more power by reducing heat-soak, which in essence is the best of both worlds.
4. Self-Scrubbing Cylinder Ports FTW
Since piston rings are not nailed down in any way, their floating and rotating physiology allows them to hit virtually every nook and cranny of the cylinder bore wall. Another benefit is that the gas ports on Total Seal’s piston ring are self-cleaning. Longevity remains one of this performance product’s biggest selling points.
A gas-ported top ring eliminates the headaches associated with ported pistons. This is because it constantly wiggles around within the confines of the ring land on the piston itself, forcing the cylinder walls to wear evenly over time.
5. How To Get Gas-Ported Piston Ring Performance
When opting for a Total Seal piston ring set, check to see if your engine is supported by the brand’s Classic Race line of ductile-moly rings. These upgraded rings are also gas ported but are more race-oriented. Due to their unique genetic makeup, they offer impressive cost-per-performance perks.
As one of many options within the Total Seal piston ring portfolio, the CR Classic piston rings rely on ductile iron. What’s more, the ring pack is outfitted with plasma-moly coated top rings. By running conventional cast iron second rings and three-piece, standard-tension stainless steel oil rings, these street- and race-use internal upgrades can even withstand the abuse offered by low-level nitrous and forced-induction platforms.
Parting Piston Pumps
Total Seal offers its gas-ported rings in a broad array of configurations, even within the company’s cutting-edge gapless design and the ever-popular Advanced Profiling (AP) steel ring sets. However, as we mentioned in the intro, gas porting can be added to virtually any top ring within the portfolio for a fee, so give Total Seal a shout to see if they have your specific application covered.