Smokstak Bulletin Board

Seating Piston Rings

Expert Oil Ring Advice Needed

OK everyone, here's the deal: I just rebuilt a 1914 12-25 Avery engine (MY tractor) and the sleeves are new and I have new over-width step-cut rings for which I re-grooved the pistons. I also installed new wrist pin bushings, new valve stems and guides – EVERYTHING - it's a NEW engine. PROBLEM: The Rings WILL NOT seat! It’s pumping oil like a pig even though it runs like a Swiss watch. I started with 20-50 oil, then I switched to 10 non-detergent oil and now straight 50. I don't have the pulley mounted yet as I need to do some differential gear work first. When I press a plank against the flywheel it clears right up. I've resigned myself to the “fact” that it's just going to take a long heavy load to do the trick. ANY SHORTCUTS? -- Craig

I don't claim to be an expert! But I have seen this happen when rod bearings are running excessive clearance in a pressure-fed engine. This causes excess oil to be slung from the crank throw onto the cylinder. Under load, (in certain cases) bearing clearances can be reduced during part of the cycle, thus reducing the amount of oil being pumped through the bearing. I'm not familiar with your specific engine. If you don't have pressure oil feed to your rod bearings, then everything I'm saying is hogwash. But if you DO, then try tightening your rod bearing clearance. Also, I don't know what style of oil ring you are using, but if it's a simple gapped ring, make sure that the gap faces the wall of the cylinder opposite from the wall that gets all the oil. If it's a compound ring, make sure that you stagger all of the gaps appropriately. Good luck. Keep us posted on your progress. – Harvey

Craig, I had a neighbor friend of mine overhaul a Farmall H one time and his tractor ran great, but pumped oil worse than it did before he overhauled it. I helped him tear it down and found that he put the oil ring in upside down. There were no marks to put towards the top of the piston on the rings so he just put them in the way they came out of the package. Turned out that the rings had a groove on the inside that had to face up, towards the top of the piston. After we did this it cleared right up. – Justin

An old tractor engine man told me how he would quick seat an engine when it was being difficult. He would remove the air filter and put a fair amount of Bon Ami in a cloth and dust it in front of the carb. He claimed just enough abrasive going in would seat the rings and not hurt the engine. I have never done this but found it interesting and filed it with other not so normal things to do to an engine, but, who knows? – Randy

You guys are right on the ball! As to the oiling system Harvey: there are 2 SOLID streams of oil delivered through 3/8" pipe and shot over the connecting rods. Talk about overkill! That's probably why all the journals are nearly PERFECT! Randy, that's not the first time I've heard the BON AMI thing! And also BAKING SODA delivered through the carb. At this point I'm tempted to try the bicarb thing. As to NORMAL: Ah - the hell with it! Who's NORMAL in THIS hobby? Thanks! -- Craig

Craig, you and Randy must be about the same age as I am. I have heard the same thing about Bon Ami years ago but hadn't thought of it until Randy mentioned it. No telling what a feller can learn on this Site. Having fun and getting cooler in S.E. Ks. – Dale

Please go easy with the Bon Ami stuff, guys. While this used to be an accepted way of seating in an engine fast, it is also a very fast way to destroy an engine. Use it only as a last resort! In older engines with low piston speeds and travel, it was marginally workable. Just remember that abrasives counteract the lubricants that you are putting into the engine. The abrasives were typically used to resolve compression issues, not oil consumption issues! It sounds like you have plenty of compression on this job, but oil wiping is the prevailing issue. If you guys have never worked with the BaBo, Bon Ami thing, please do it on a very unimportant engine first to determine if that's where you really want to go! As stated earlier, I am not an expert, but I learned a lot of lessons a long time ago at an early age. Please proceed carefully with these remaining gems - once that metal is gone, we'll never get it back!! Regards -- Harvey

I have seen a engine ruined beyond repair with the Bon Ami trick. I would not recommend it! – Dan

Well believe it or not Caterpillar used to have some stuff they called Break in Powder. It was used to seat rings in the manner described here. I tried the Ajax thing on my 16-30 Rumely as it had considerable blow by but the results were inconclusive. Now with more time on it, it seems a lot better. I wonder if there wasn't something special about the original Avery bottom rings. What type of rings did you put in the bottom groove? I did a little checking in a reprint catalog and would think with 5 rings there wouldn't be much oil getting by. I know if my 25-45 has too much oil in the crankcase everything within 50 feet is all black spots including the operator. -- Ken

Here's some more info: They are 5 ring pistons: 3 compression, 1 holds the wrist pin from damaging the cylinder should it get loose (FAT CHANCE) and the 5th ring is below that. IMMEDIATELY below that ring is a chamfered groove with drill holes for oil escapement - sort of a substitute for a REAL oil ring. I talked with a friend tonight and he asked where I got my rings. He said he has heard and experienced that some rings are harder than normal which are VERY difficult to run in. Could this be my problem? -- Craig

This entire tractor was ORIGINAL. Even the valves and seats were factory numbered - and they matched! Tell me more about the "BREAK-IN POWDER" thing! I'm going to call a diesel shop tomorrow and ask a few questions. I should've done that a week ago. – Craig

Craig Because of the rotation of the Averys and their oiling system all the oil goes to the front cylinder or cylinders. Averys smoked when new, because of what they called their oil control ring. It’s the holes drilled in the piston next to the last ring and it never worked. I have seen bushings put in the oil lines to help with this, but that’s not a good idea. Put a real oil control ring in the 5th and 3rd on the front cylinder and in just the 5th on the rear and don't forget to drill the pistons under the rings. – Ed

Well, I think Ed has the answer. These old engines were made to work and with a wide open butterfly so there wouldn't be much suction to draw oil past the rings. The first Model T's had no oil rings either but that soon changed. You won't be very popular at shows blowing all those black spots in the air. The problem with the break in powder is it probably wouldn't get to the bottom rings where it is needed most and I don't think a regular ring will ever control oil as well as a scraper or oil ring. Some people recommend putting an oil ring in Rumelys also but most seem to control their oil level well enough without them. – Ken

I guess I'll weigh-in on this subject. What might be is that the rings never seated right. A long time ago, I rebuilt the engine in my '54 Ford (anybody remember the EBU engine?). I put in the first set of chrome rings I had installed and, after 500 miles or so of trying to carefully break the engine in, it was smoking like crazy. What I was told by the shop that did the boring job was that I had to forget using Overdrive and really stand on it a few times to get the rings to seat. They said that, if I was lucky, the bores hadn't yet glazed and that trick would work. I was in the A.F. and was going to drive the car back to KY from CA the next week so I drove over Donner Pass with my foot in it. Remarkably, going down the other side, there was no more smoke. Maybe what you need to do with the tractor is to simply hook it to a Baker fan or plows or something and, after checking everything and getting it up to temp, just loading the heck out of it. Be sure to vary the speed under load and every minute or so, give it a rest. If you try this, I'd really like to know how it works. I'm DEFINITELY not in favor of using any kind of abrasive to seat the rings as it will get into the valve guides and the oil and do damage. -- Elden

If I remember correctly, on the can of Bon Ami there is a picture of a chick with the comment "hasn't scratched yet." Wouldn't that indicate that there is no abrasive in it? I tried that trick on a little Economy years ago, but it never seemed to improve the compression that much. I think that engine had spent it's working live on a cement mixer and a lot of the sand and gravel went on the engine instead of in the drum. -- Bruce

I'm going to do the rest of the mechanicals and wait until our show next July when I'll put 'er on the dyno and let 'er rip. THEN I'll THINK about painting! I STILL think I’ve got hard rings. Ed Dina's rotation note makes sense! If you could see the stream of oil pouring over the rods you would NOT believe it! But IMHO there is NO OIL RING EVER MADE that would CURE the problem. I might, however, lift the timing cover again, and put a shield inside the crankcase to reduce the amount of oil getting thrown onto the front piston or modify that oil delivery elbow to shoot a wider, less concentrated oil stream! Thanks again all! -- Craig

Craig, lets straighten this out. You got the rings from me. Ed and Ken hit it square on the head. Until you put an oil ring in a closed crankcase multi cylinder engine it will smoke and burn oil period. You are looking at a prime example of teens technology before they knew what oil rings were. Did you ever watch any silent movies and see the cloud of smoke following the old cars? That was because that most cars then were oil burners. They didn't have oil rings in most cases. Rumleys without oil rings are sloppy pigs. You need an oil ring in the bottom groove and holes thru the bottom of the groove to let the oil thru. DO NOT use Bon Ami or dirt or any other abrasive unless you want to ruin the engine. The abrasive mixes with the oil to make a grinding compound that wears your engine out faster than you want to. There is no substitute for break in running time. My assumption from reading the thread is that your compression is acceptable and the oil slobbers everywhere. Is this correct? I consider the lack of oil rings in closed crankcase 4 cycle multi cylinder engines to be a design defect. You can live with it or fix it. -- Dave

Ed Dina is correct regarding the rotation of the engine. I had the timing cover off today and modified the oil feed to the front piston connecting rod and things have improved considerably already. As I explained before: Immediately below the bottom ring is another groove with numerous drill holes through the skirt. IMHO an oil ring above that would be superfluous. It's strictly a matter of TOO MUCH OIL ALL THE TIME. The rings will break in – eventually - when I can get it on a constant load for a while. It has compression like crazy! -- Craig

Even with the oil groove if you want it to be dry you need an oil ring in the bottom groove with holes at the bottom of the groove, at least on the front cylinders. As I stated before these early engines were lacking in oil ring technology. You wouldn't even dream of using such a lame system as a groove with holes in it below the bottom compression ring and no oil ring at all in a modern car engine. In a V 8 or anything, it does not work, period. If it did these cost cutting car makers would all be doing it to save 15 cents per car and pocket the change.
You need a wide double scraping edge that scrapes both ways not a half way setup. Look at the flathead Fords. Same problem but caused by too narrow of an oil ring. Henry insisted that 5/32" was wide enough for an oil ring. Well he was wrong. One of the posts referred to such a beast. Only he didn't know where his problems were coming from. When Henry Ford got out of the shop, Fords started using 3/16" oil rings and still do to this day. If you want to stop the oil burning, oil rings are the only way unless you mess with the oil flows inside the engine. Be careful that you don't cut the oil down so much that you cause damage. The original designers wanted the engine to get lots of oil and succeeded at that.
In any case were it mine I would be getting oil rings in the front cylinders at least. Talk to some Rumley owners about oil rings if you want to know how to dry them up and domesticate the beast. Without oil rings a Rumley slobbers and spits unless run full bore loaded constantly. This is despite the cylinders being angled down at the back. The early John Deeres had the same problems. Deere had a scraper compression ring that actually came out of the cylinder a little at the back. They insisted that they would scrape the oil down. It did not. I have piles here of these NOS "useless" oil scrapers that will not do the job. I can't sell them for what they were originally intended because they do not work. They pushed this useless trash on the public until the 1950's. Rumley never did wise up. There aren't enough Averys around to make a decision on them. I think that they were doing the best that they could with what they knew at the time.
Let me know if I can be of more assistance. If you want I can try to come up with an oil ring combination that will work. -- Dave (


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