Taking care of and maintaining a car engine is very important for the long-term health of the car. When the engine is not working under perfect conditions, you will begin to notice this in the form of a decrease in engine oil, mileage and an increase in exhaust smoke or poor performance.
One of the many parts that go bad from daily use are piston rings. Over time, the piston ring can begin to break down and become compromised due to this wear and tear. When this happens, you end up with a condition known as blow-by where gasses can leak past the top of the piston into the crankcase. The best service for this is to replace the rings before they get too bad and allow more damage in your engine.
The cost of replacement alone will vary according to make and model, but also depends on how long it takes. You can expect to pay around $1,500 for a new set of rings installed.
We will take a further look at how much it would cost to replace piston rings and the relevant info you should take into consideration.
What Are Piston Rings
Piston rings are made out of steel which wears down with time. Eventually they will break down enough where they need to be changed in order to keep the engine running correctly. They are responsible for creating a tight seal between the piston and its cylinder, in order to prevent any leakage.
They work by being forced against the cylinder wall by the pressure of the compressed air during combustion. This keeps oil from leaking past into the combustion chamber, where it could be ignited and cause engine failure.
Piston rings are usually made out of steel or cast iron because these materials have a low tolerance for heat, which is necessary so they don’t expand too much when put under high temperatures for extended periods of time.
Bad Piston Ring Symptoms
There are a few signs that point to needing a new piston ring. A few things to keep an eye out for are:
Engine oil consumption
You will begin to notice a decrease in engine oil over a period of time. This happens because the pistons are no longer keeping all of the engine oil inside the engine, so it begins to leak into the combustion chamber.
Excessive white exhaust smoke
From the exhaust pipe you will see excessive white exhaust smoke. This is caused from the engine oil burning in the combustion chamber.
The vehicle will not perform well when it has low compression. It will feel sluggish when you try to speed up or process extra weight.
Decrease in fuel efficiency
As compression decreases, so does fuel efficiency. You will notice that your car requires more fuel to run the same distance.
Piston Rings Replacement Cost
The short answer is upwards of $1500, but it can be much more depending on the vehicle. The labor costs are the majority of how much the rings will cost.
The actual rings themselves can be purchased from auto part retailers for around $50-100. The real cost comes from the labor involved in taking out the old piston rings and putting new ones in.
There are over 30 parts that need to be removed before the engine can be taken apart enough for you to even begin working on replacing the rings. This is done with a process called “borescope cleaning” which involves sending high-pressure water into the cylinders through small holes drilled above each cylinder bore to remove any particles or remaining sludge, so your mechanic doesn’t have to worry about it getting stuck in your engine during reassembly.
The other cost involves removing other components so he can get access to other cylinders where he will replace the rings. This includes removing exhaust manifolds, camshafts, cylinder head bolts and pulleys, etc.
This brings the average range of $1,500 to $3,000.
When Should I Replace My Pistons?
When it comes to having your pistons replaced, it is often a difficult decision to make. It’s not something that should be taken lightly, as it can often cost a lot of money to have this done. A few things you might want to consider before making a decision are:
- The age and condition of your car
- How many miles are on the engine?
- How severe are the symptoms?
- How often you perform tune-ups or oil changes
If you’re not sure whether or not you need your pistons replaced, it’s always best to take it in for a check-up. Most mechanics will be able to tell you pretty quickly whether or not this is something that needs attention.
Piston replacement is an expensive but necessary part of car maintenance because if you put it off for too long, the broken piston ring will cause more damage such as damage to the valves, cylinder walls or even worse engine damage.
In some cases, owners may choose to sell or trade in their car when the repair cost is too high to justify keeping the vehicle.
Can a Car Run with Bad Piston Rings?
You must know by now how horrible an idea it is to run a vehicle with bad piston rings can be for the engine. It’s not a good sign when any of these symptoms start happening and it would be best to take it in for a checkup as soon as possible. However, you may be wondering if a car can run with bad piston rings.
The answer is yes, but it’s not going to run very well. You will notice a decrease in performance, fuel efficiency and an increase in exhaust smoke. If the symptoms get worse, the car might not start up at all or even worse lead to catastrophic engine failure ending with a seized engine.
Can you replace piston rings without removing the engine?
Sadly, no. In order to replace the rings, you have to get access to near every part of the engine, which means it’s going to be a long and tedious process. This is why most mechanics will advise you to replace the engine rather than try to repair it if there is a problem with the pistons.
What does a bad piston ring sound like?
The sound is going to vary depending on where the broken ring is. For example, if it is along one edge and not across the entire width of the ring, the sound will be more of a metallic scratching noise. If it is on the other end, you will notice a misfiring engine that doesn’t get up to its regular RPMs.
Can bad piston rings cause overheating?
Very simply, yes. You will notice a regular overheating problem if your engine is running with bad piston rings. One of the main reasons for this is because the oil around the engine won’t be getting to all parts in time, so there is no way for it to properly cool everything.
Shortly put, piston rings are rings that provide the seal between the pistons and cylinders of an engine. They can get worn out over time, causing a loss in compression, which then leads to poor performance of the engine. Replacing piston rings is not easy, but it’s worth doing because it will help your car run better for many years. It’s best to take it in for a check-up if you start noticing symptoms such as high fuel consumption, lack of power or loud knocking sound.
The cost associated with replacing the piston rings will vary depending on the work required to reach these parts of your car. Labor can cost up to $100 an hour, especially if you are paying for a professional mechanic or someone who specializes in this area. You can expect labor costs to be around $1,000. The other large part of the total investment is going to be the parts.