Symptoms of a Bad Piston Ring | Causes of a Bad Piston Ring

What is Piston Ring?

The inner side of the vehicle engine contains a series of rings that are called piston rings. The piston ring helps to regulate the oil pressure and the amount of oil consumed by the engine.

The main function of the piston ring in the vehicle engine is to control the oil pressure and regulate the engine oil consumption. 

piston ring

The piston is connected to the connecting rod, which also connects to the crankshaft. As the piston travels downward, it rotates the crankshaft, which creates the power that propels your vehicle.

Pistons must form a tight seal against the cylinder walls in order to achieve complete and efficient combustion. This seal is created by a series of piston rings that envelop the piston. As the engine wears, the piston rings may not seal as well, or they may even crack over time due to heat or incorrect tolerances.

Worn or damaged engine rings will usually lead to a myriad of problems and will require engine repair. Here are some of the warning signs that could mean your vehicle has fried piston rings.

Symptoms of Bad Piston Ring

As the piston ring goes bad, it produces one of the below-given symptoms:

1) Excessive Oil Consumption

A very common symptom of cracked pistons is loss of engine oil. It can be difficult to diagnose this as it may look like there is no apparent oil leak.

A cracked piston can cause excessive oil consumption if the oil that is supposed to lubricate the piston within the cylinder, manages to bypass the piston rings and enter the combustion chamber.

Oil in the combustion chamber is bad news for your engine. Not only is there less oil to lubricate the engine, but the oil will also damage the inside of the engine cylinder and can adversely affect the exhaust system. A small amount of oil inside the cylinder will burn off and create blue exhaust smoke. Over time, carbon deposits left over from the burning oil will build up inside the cylinder causing damage to the valves, spark plugs, and the cylinder wall.

If there is a lot of oil leaking into the cylinder, this will cause engine misfires and reduce fuel economy and overall engine performance.

2) Too Much Exhaust Smoke

If there is a lot of exhaust smoke coming out of your vehicle, this could be an easy sign that you have bad piston rings. This smoke will look very thick and have dark gray and blue colors to it. It is often accompanied by a burning oil smell.

When you have bad piston rings, the engine oil will start leaking into the combustion chamber. Once that happens, the oil will burn and create the thick blue-gray exhaust smoke that you see coming out.

3) Poor Engine Performance

As noted above, the loss of compression slows acceleration due to inefficient engine speed, causing the engine to stall. In extreme cases, a bad piston ring can cause you to lose all engine power and may have to tow your car.

Minor problems with the piston ring can only result in poor motor performance.

Complete engine shutdown will only occur if you ignore the initial symptoms of a damaged piston ring and continue to use the car without taking it to a mechanic for inspection

4) Poor Acceleration

When piston rings suffer wear or get damaged, your engine will lose its power because less compression occurs.

This means when you put your foot on the gas pedal to accelerate, the vehicle will take a long time to speed up. In this case, you will need to have your piston rings replaced to fix the problem.

5) Excessive Oil in Intake

Oil in the air intake is often a result of blow-by. Blow-by is when the air-oil mixture in the combustion chamber escapes past the piston rings and creates a positive pressure in the crankcase.

This pressure is vented from the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) hose back into the intake. When there is a large amount of blow-by, you may notice your intake is quite oily.

6) Dirty Air Filters

An increase in oil intake is often caused by blow-by when the air-fuel mixture in the combustion chamber flows through the piston rings installed to create more pressure in the crankcase.

When positive ventilation flows from the positive crankcase ventilation hose (PCV) back to the crankcase, a large amount of exhaust gas is discharged, and the intake air is very oily. Oily intake also causes an increase in oil consumption.

A blow-by is the leakage of the fuel and air mixture to the crankcase. Most blow-by occurs when exhaust gases enter the crankcase and pass through the piston rings.

 Bad Piston Ring Causes

1) Engine Overheating

A car that is constantly running hot or overheating will damage the engine block and potentially damage the pistons. If the engine temperature regularly exceeds the maximum tolerated temperature of the pistons, this will lead to stress cracks forming on the piston crown.

An overheating engine can have many causes, some of which include a coolant leak, low engine oil, a broken engine thermostat, a broken auxiliary fan, or low coolant levels.

2) Using the Wrong Viscosity Engine Oil or The Wrong Type Of Oil

Engine pistons operate in extremely tight conditions, and it’s essential that they remain well lubricated at all times.

The piston-to-wall clearance (the space between the outer piston surface and the cylinder wall) must remain lubricated when the engine is running. Because the distance between the surfaces is so small, it will only allow for a light film of oil to pass through.

If the wrong type or viscosity of the oil is used, it may not adequately lubricate the piston walls, leading to overheating and friction.

3) Bad Ignition Timing

In the combustion chamber, timing is everything. Without properly synced ignition, things can go wrong. Improper combustion is known to cause internal damage. The most noticeable of which is your piston rings.

In older engines, the crankshaft and camshaft synchronization may be turned off, which can also lead to an incorrect synchronization. And even if the timing isn’t entirely up to you, you can still look for such anomalies at the car service you’re planning on doing.

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