Sealing the Unsealable:
Engine Gasket Installation Tips
Text and photos by Glen Grissom.
It's easy to take for granted how critical engine sealing is until
a gasket or sealing bead of RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) silicone
rubber fails. In today's modern drag race engine, with its incredibly
high combustion pressures and high vacuum being pulled on the oil pan,
for example, durable and stable gasket sealing of engine mating parts
is paramount for solid runs. The consequences of inadequate gasket installation
range from engine damage at worst, say when a head gasket fails; or
marginalized performance at best, for instance when an oil pan gasket
won't fully seal. Either way, you may not advance to the next round.
|Drag racing places engine gaskets in extreme
conditions. Copper head gaskets are the norm at high HP. Laurie
Cannister uses Flatout copper gaskets with their unique Masket fluid-sealant
bead in her Funny Car. (Photo courtesy Flatout Race Gaskets)
DRO has gathered here some basic engine gasket prep and installation
tips. We got veteran race engine builder Keith Dorton, owner of Automotive
Specialists to reveal some of his hard-earned gasket survival tips and
advice. Over his 35-plus years in comprehensive and varied race engine
building -- one of his first engine jobs was at Ford powerhouse Holman-Moody
-- Keith has done head gasket durability research for a major race engine
gasket manufacturer. One part of that research involved access to many
bottles of nitrous oxide and stacks of prototype head gasket designs,
and the enviable mandate to apply the nitrous and make power until the
gaskets or engine parts gave out. Consequently, he knows plenty about
the "care and feeding" of engine gaskets used in racing action.
|Keith Dorton points out a typical oil pan/engine
block mating problem due to production tolerances. The pan pinches
down to allow no gap for a gasket.
For readers whose idea of horsepower begins at 800 HP and above, DRO
talked to Patrick Wilkerson of Flatout Racing Gaskets about sealing
with copper gaskets. Patrick and co-owner Mark Adelizzi are former long-time
employees of venerable gasket maker Fel-Pro, so they too have plenty
of technical savvy and insight about getting the best engine sealing
when too much HP is just right.
BASICS: CLEAN, FLAT, ACCURATE
Having a clean work area is obvious when doing engine assembly, and
you can't go wrong getting a race engine's mating surfaces meticulously
clean before applying a gasket. For instance, that means removing all
traces of previous gasket material; use a non-metallic scraper (i.e.,
brass) if prepping an aluminum surface so you don't gouge it and bung
up the sealing surface. Carefully inspect all passages for any stray
residual trash after a engine block or head or other part is cleaned
in a spray washer or soaked in a hot/cold chemical tank.
to the place to by cool junk from DRO and CRO. We've got all sorts of
cool trash and trinkets for your purchasing pleasure on our secure e-commerce
of the stuff you'll find here is unique to us and it is only sold here.
everybody that you've got a different perspective.