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12 Steps to free a stuck piston

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Old 05-07-2007, 09:29:55 PM
B Kedrowski's Avatar
B Kedrowski B Kedrowski is offline
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Photo 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

I have seen some different ideas on Smokestak on how to free a stuck piston. A friend of mine, Larry Webb, just bought a Fuller & Johnson with a stuck piston on Saturday (May 5) and showed me how to free it (see steps below). The piston is freed today, Monday, May 7.
  1. Disassemble the engine.
  2. Scrape outer edge of piston with jacknife. This will help the oil to penetrate.
  3. Sand exposed rusty cylinder walls.
  4. Get the crud out of the engine.
  5. WD-40 (or favorite penetrating oil) both sides of piston.
  6. Block up with combustion end up (if the rod end is up, there is a danger of melting the babbitt on the end of rod).
  7. Pour one part ATF transmission oil, one part gas into cylinder (approx. 1 cup each).
  8. Light the oil/gas in the cylinder.
  9. Let the fire burn out.
  10. Let it cool slowly overnight.
  11. Lay engine on it's side. Hit the piston with a wooden block and maul.
  12. If the piston does not move, go back to step 5 and repeat.

The pictures (below) show Larry doing the steps above. He fired it (repeated the process from step 5) twice to get the piston out. Larry says the heat will expand it and the cooling will contract the metal and will allow the oil to penetrate it so the piston will come out. Larry has done this successfully many times with over 100 engines. Larry will be at the Baraboo show and would like to hear your questions/comments. Hope this helps.
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Old 05-07-2007, 10:28:46 PM
Ironman Ironman is offline
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Default Re: 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

I have used that same method MANY times to free up stuck engines, and it works great. About the only thing different that I do is to tear off a couple of small pieces of a cloth rag and throw them in with the gas in the cylinder. Sometimes, a small breeze will blow the flame out. When I toss a couple of 1" wide by 3" long pieces of cloth rag into the mixture, they float at the top and act like a wick, therefore keeping the fire burning when it is a little windy.

It's a small world. I left the showgrounds on Friday evening and went up to Wisconsin Rapids to pick up a set of tractor wheels from a fellow that lives near the south edge of town. Had I known there was an engine collector living in Wisconsin Rapids, I would have looked you up and visited for a few minutes.

I guess us engine guys are EVERYWHERE.................
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Old 05-07-2007, 10:29:14 PM
Gailey Henderson Gailey Henderson is offline
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Default Re: 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

Item 7 uas brake fluid by its self put a cotton rag or cotton waste as a wick without the gasoline it will burn slower and you dont have to worry about the babbit
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Old 05-07-2007, 10:42:14 PM
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B Kedrowski B Kedrowski is offline
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Default Re: 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

I forgot to say use automatic transmission fluid in Step 7. Ironman, the wick is a great idea! See you at Baraboo! Larry and I will have a couple engines on display behind the large engine shed.
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Old 05-07-2007, 10:54:52 PM
Kevin O. Pulver Kevin O. Pulver is offline
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Default Re: 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

I think what you described is very sound practice.
But don't fall into the trap of thinking that this will work in every case.
There are guys that have done what you described repeatedly only to have the engine stay stuck. Sometimes they need more soaking, more heat, more push, more time. An old boss of mine used to say, "Some days nuthin works."
It sure is an exciting thing to see 'em start to move isn't it!
Thanks for the story Kevin
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Old 10-17-2007, 06:20:09 PM
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Default Re: 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

I've been working on this one for 3 years and this is the second time I've set it on fire and 40hours of electrolysis. This time I hooked up some air on the bottom water drain plugs to keep the kingsford glowing hot for about 5 hours. I then flipped it up on the head and poured water in the piston and wacked it on the connecting rod end lightly with my 10lb sledge and a 4x4 block of wood. This time it moved a 1/2" and after 30 more hits it finally came out.
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Old 10-17-2007, 06:49:55 PM
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Default Re: 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

Hey Scott;

I would be VERY carefull using the proceedure you described. That rapid cooling after heating the piston up can VERY easily crack a piston or even the cylinder walls. I wouldn't worry about it too much if the piston was junk and was going to be replaced anyways, but thermal shock like that can easily and quickly lead to unwanted results!
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Old 10-17-2007, 09:22:57 PM
Brian Riddle
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Default Re: 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

Instead of useing air use oil to push out the pistion. I have had very good luck with that, usally works well on headless engine. Oil will not compress like air. But is like the comment earlier not the samething will not always work.

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Old 10-19-2007, 09:48:16 PM
Jeff Miley Jeff Miley is offline
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Smile Re: 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

I recently bought a two cycle marine engine that had the piston stuck pretty tight. There was a fair amount of rust around the piston and the cylinder and head were in one piece. No chance of getting to the top of the piston. The rod was bronze so no chance of pulling on it very hard. After collecting alot of advice I made a heavy plate to go over the ignitor hole from 3/8" steel. I tapped a 1/4" grease fitting in it and pumped the cylinder full of grease with a hand grease gun. These actually put out several thousand PSI. I did not believe it either but I tapped a second hole in the plate for a gauge. The piston finally let out a bang like you hit a bell with a hammer. It had moved. I continued until piston reached the ports then I made additonal plates and gaskets to go over the ports. Eventually pushed the piston all the way out. Figuring the pressure in PSI put out by the grease gun and the area of the top of the piston in square inches the force generated is tremendous. The good points of this process are that you do not break anything, it works on two cycle and headless engines and you get to get greasy. If you do not like grease you are in the wrong hobby. Also, grease does not compress. The piston will not shoot out like a cannon ball as if you used compressed air. Any grease that works past the rings helps to lubricate the piston on its way out. Cheap grease is less than $1 per tube but it can take quite a few tubes (less expensive than a broken piston). Had to make a couple of trips to store. Still cleaning up grease. I suggest putting a large piece of cardboard down prior to starting. With two cycle engines, if the ports are full of grease just have it cooked out when done.
Work ed for me.
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Old 08-28-2011, 01:51:08 PM
davey1000 davey1000 is offline
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Default Re: 12 Steps to free a stuck piston

I saw an old vintage engine in Bridgwater UK. It dated back to about 1900 and the piston was stuck. The old timer had been soaking it in red diesel for a year and reckoned that after another two years he'd have a go at freeing it.

My little problem is a British Seagull outboard motor which looks as if its been under. The head was stuck tight to the barrel but after blowlamping, hammering and power brushing I got the head off. This exposed the four studs that held down the cylinder barrel. Unscrewing the studs was quite a job and needed a new "Record" made in Sheffield 14" pipe wrench (pipe wrenches with blunt teeth won't bite) Even with the studs out the barrel would not come off as not only was the piston seized, the crank was seized as well! I was able to undo the studs that hold the crankcase halves together and after removing one crankcase half it was possible to spray releasing fluid in. The crank was then turned and removed along with the piston and barrel. The big end screws were so tight that I had to use a drill press to apply pressure to the screwdriver. The screws then were undone by playing a torch on the big end and using a wrench on the screwdriver. I now have a cylinder barrel with piston and rod but the piston is stuck hard. As cast iron tends to fracture easily it looks as if a large washer will have to be machined to support the cylinder base whilst the piston is pressed. In actual fact pressing the piston is difficult because it has a sloping crown. Perhaps epoxy resin could be used to give it a flat top. I would advise people to always press pistons downwards as I once had an accident with a motorcycle piston and cylinder. The piston had seized low down in the cylinder. The top part of the bore had been cleaned so it seemed a good idea to send the piston upwards over the clean part. Wrong! The piston came up OK but it left part of the skirt behind. Its the oil control ring groove that weakens things! Duh!
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