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Aluminium in valvetrain applications

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The pursuit of power in fixed-capacity, naturally aspirated engines has generally driven designers and engineers to increase engine speed. Simply put, engine capacity will dictate maximum torque (making some important assumptions), and the product of torque and speed equals power. There are several limits on increasing engine speed, but one of those against which engineers continually find themselves battling is the valvetrain, and in particular being able to keep the valvetrain under...


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The world of motoring and motorsport is changing. How quickly we move towards a world dominated by all-electric passenger vehicles is uncertain, although it’s unlikely that we will decide that hybrids and electric propulsion were a big mistake and that it’s OK to continue either burning fossil fuels or growing crops to provide all our liquid fuel. There is an increasing number of electric roadcars available (in Europe at least), some of which are very agreeable, with nice...

Crankshaft bearing selection

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Although the theory of designing crankshaft bearings is now so much more sophisticated, the practice of building the engine to the correct clearances is still a bit of a challenge. With the running clearance between bearing and journal measured in microns, and the difference between too little (resulting in seizure) and too much, leading to excessive wear and hence early failure, the selection of this gap is always likely to be critical. Typically a cylinder block machining line may...

Fishy tales?

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I was asked a question the other day that, for a moment, simply floored me. Strolling around an exhibition, my friend and I were talking about the stand we had just visited and the company’s claim that its camshafts were being ground to an accuracy of 3 microns (0.003 mm). “If they can grind camshafts to that level of accuracy,” said my friend, “why do I have to adjust the shims on the engine I am rebuilding?” A simple enough question for the uninformed, you...

PVD – the importance of cleanliness

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Such has been the rapid rise and acceptance of the hard, thin engineering coatings in many industries that they now form a part of the design specification for new parts. In the past, the use of such coatings was an exercise in research or a last attempt to solve a problem, but they are now accepted as a necessary part of achieving efficiency or reliability. While they do increase the cost of a single component, it is very often the case that such components would either not work without...