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3 Components That Damage Your Engine's Pistons

Piston
Your car generates power inside of its engine — more specifically, inside of the engine's cylinders. A mixture of air and gasoline flows into the cylinders, where the pistons compress the mixture tightly and the spark plug then lights it on fire. Over time, this cycle of controlled explosions can stress the pistons, particularly if your car isn't in the best of shape.
Knowing what components can harm your engine's pistons will help you prevent and avoid piston damage. Learn more about three components in your engine that can create havoc on your engine's pistons.

1. An Unmaintained Cooling System

Along with power, an automotive engine generates an incredible amount of heat. The longer your car runs, the more this heat will build up underneath the hood, being absorbed by the engine and other components. If the engine becomes excessively hot, piston damage and other serious problems may ensue.
To keep the engine within an acceptable temperature range, all cars come equipped with cooling systems. These systems use coolant to absorb heat, carry it out of the engine, and disperse it safely in the radiator. Provided you keep your cooling system in good shape, you should have little to fear from overheating.
Yet if your cooling system falls into disrepair, engine temperatures may shoot up into dangerous territory. As cylinder temperatures start to climb, your pistons absorb more and more heat. Such heat may cause them to swell to the point that they rub up against the walls of the cylinder, leading to serious damage for both pistons and cylinder.

2. Unclean Fuel Injectors

One of the most critical aspects of engine performance has to do with the air-fuel ratio. As its name suggests, this ratio expresses the relative amounts of air and gasoline entering the cylinders during each engine cycle. For maximum efficiency, the air-fuel ratio must remain within a strict range. Too great a deviation in any direction can lead to serious issues.
Excessive air levels represent an especially potent threat and can lead to the problem known as preignition. Preignition happens when the air-fuel mixture in the cylinder spontaneously combusts before the spark plug has fired. This creates excessive amounts of pressure inside of the cylinder. Over time, such pressure leads to piston damage.
Fuel injector tips that are clogged or partially blocked by debris or gas deposits cannot supply an engine with the ideal amounts of gasoline. As a result, the air-fuel mixture will skew towards the air side of the equation. As the injectors become dirtier and dirtier, fuel levels continue to drop and preignition becomes a greater threat.

3. Faulty Knock Sensors

Another common engine problem goes by the name of detonation. While not quite as severe as preignition, detonation can still lead to piston damage over time. Detonation often stems from improper spark plug timing — in other words, spark plugs that fire either slightly too early or slightly too late.
To protect against detonation, your car likely contains a component known as the knock sensor. The knock sensor monitors the vibrations produced by your engine. If the vibrations occur at a frequency associated with detonation, the knock sensor instructs your computer to make the appropriate timing changes.
Unfortunately, knock sensors sometimes become faulty and cease to register problematic vibrations. As a result, engine detonation may go unrecognized, and can lead to piston damage. For that reason, you should have a trained mechanic inspect your knock sensor at regular intervals to ensure proper functioning.

For more information about how to protect your pistons from undue wear and damage, please contact the car maintenance and repair pros at Vans Auto Service LLC.

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