How to Prevent Gasket Failure
Gaskets are more than just inexpensive seals that separate parts from each other: they're the last line of defense for keeping power inside the engine.
The internal combustion engine on a motorcycle, ATV or car is an air pump: it pulls air into the engine; mixes it with fuel for an explosion in the cylinder that moves the pistons; and then forces that air and other products from the combustion out through the exhaust. One key to efficiency in an internal combustion engine is sealing the power of combustion, and that's where gaskets come in.
What Gaskets Do
Gaskets have a very simple job: to create seals between two parts, and ensure that whatever is happening between those two parts doesn't get out. That could be anything from preventing coolant or oil leaks to keeping combustion gasses inside the engine.
Of all the gaskets and seals found inside the engine of a motorcycle or ATV, perhaps none have a more critical job than head gaskets. They cement the cylinder head and engine block together, and seal the power of combustion inside the cylinder to keep the motor running. Gaskets are durable, and can handle enormous amounts of heat, pressure, and contact with chemicals, but are also soft and pliable enough to mold to imperfections in parts to achieve the best seal.
Why Do Gaskets Fail?
What a gasket is made of depends on what it's used for. Some gaskets commonly found in engines are made of layered steel, while others are made of copper for a mix of performance and durability.
Composite gaskets (often found in older motorcycles) are less reliable, but can sometimes be upgraded to more modern materials. Whatever they're made of, powersports engine gaskets operate under intense conditions, and can fail when they're pushed beyond their limits.
The results of a failed gasket can be catastrophic. Head gaskets are often the culprit in engine failures, and can completely destroy an engine. There are several reasons gaskets fail, including:
- Poor design
- Improper torque
Preventing Gasket Failure
It's a lot easier to prevent gasket failures than it is to repair the severe damage they cause. Routine maintenance is a great way to protect a motor and its gaskets. Changing the oil keeps the engine lubricated and temperatures cool. Lower temperatures mean less pressure, which means less stress on gaskets.
Another way to protect the gaskets is to check coolant levels and other engine fluids. Even changing the transmission fluid can protect the gaskets around the transmission from the stresses of heat and pressure.
Removing Worn Gaskets
The old gasket needs to be completely removed with a scraper and/or brush before a new one can be installed. Sounds simple enough, right? However, old gasket material left behind can negatively impact the sealing power of the new gasket. Watch the video below for a quick tip on how to remove an old gasket.