Cylinder Grinding and Honing

If a cylinder has excessive taper, out-of-roundness, step, or its maximum size is beyond limits, it can be reground to the next allowable oversize. If the cylinder walls are lightly rusted, scored, or pitted, the damage may be removed by honing or lapping.

Regrinding a cylinder is a specialized job that the powerplant mechanic is not usually expected to be able to do. However, the mechanic must be able to recognize when a cylinder needs regrinding, and he or she must know what constitutes a good or bad job.

Generally, standard aircraft cylinder oversizes are 0.010 inch, 0.015 inches, 0.020 inch, or 0.030 inch. Aircraft cylinders have relatively thin walls and may have a nitrided surface, that must not be ground away. Nitriding is a surface hardening process that hardens the steel surface to a depth of several thousandths of an inch. Any one manufacturer usually does not allow all of the above oversizes. Some manufacturers do not allow regrinding to an oversize at all. The manufacturer’s overhaul manual, or parts catalog, usually lists the oversizes allowed for a particular make and model engine.

To determine the regrind size, the standard bore size must be known. This usually can be determined from the manufacturer’s specifications or manuals. The regrind size is figured from the standard bore. For example, a certain cylinder has a standard bore of 3.875 inches. To have a cylinder ground to 0.015 inches oversize, it is necessary to grind to a bore diameter of 3.890 inch (3.875 + 0.015). A tolerance of ±0.0005 inches is usually accepted for cylinder grinding.

Another factor to consider when determining the size to which a cylinder must be reground is the maximum wear that has occurred. If there are spots in the cylinder wall that are worn larger than the first oversize, then obviously it is necessary to grind to the next oversize to clean up the entire cylinder. 

The type of finish desired in the cylinder is an important consideration when ordering a regrind. Some engine manufacturers specify a fairly rough finish on the cylinder walls, that allows the rings to seat even if they are not lapped to the cylinder. Other manufacturers desire a smooth finish to which a lapped ring seats without much change in ring or cylinder dimensions. The latter type of finish is more expensive to produce.

The standard used when measuring the finish of a cylinder wall is known as micro-inch root-meansquare (micro-inch rms). In a finish where the depth of the grinding scratches are one-millionth (0.000001) of an inch deep, it is specified as 1 microinch rms. Most aircraft cylinders are ground to a finish of 15 to 20 microinch rms. Several low-powered engines have cylinders that are ground to a relatively rough 20- to 30-microinch rms finish. On the other end of the scale, some manufacturers require a superfinish of approximately 4- to 6-microinch rms.

Cylinder grinding is accomplished by a firmly mounted stone that revolves around the cylinder bore, as well as up and down the length of the cylinder barrel. [Figure 1] The cylinder, the stone, or both may move to get this relative movement.

Figure 1. Cylinder bore grinding.

The size of the grind is determined by the distance the stone is set away from the centerline of the cylinder. Some cylinder bore grinding machines produce a perfectly straight bore, while others are designed to grind a choked bore. A choked bore grind refers to the manufacturing process in which the cylinder walls arc ground to produce a smaller internal diameter at the top than at the bottom. The purpose of this type grind or taper is to maintain a straight cylinder wall during operation. As a cylinder heats up during operation, the head and top of the cylinder are subjected to more heat than the bottom. This causes greater expansion at the top than at the bottom, thereby maintaining the desired straight wall.

After grinding a cylinder, it may be necessary to hone the cylinder bore to produce the desired finish. In this case, specify the cylinder regrind size to allow for some metal removal during honing. The usual allowance for honing is 0.001 inch. If a final cylinder bore size of 3.890 inches is desired, specify the regrind size of 3.889 inches, and then hone to 3.890 inches.

There are several different makes and models of cylinder hones. The burnishing hone is used only to produce the desired finish on the cylinder wall. The more elaborate micromatic hone can also be used to straighten out the cylinder walls. A burnishing hone should not be used in an attempt to straighten cylinder walls. [Figure 2] Since the stones are only spring loaded, they follow the contour of the cylinder wall and may aggravate a tapered condition.

Figure 2. Cylinder honing

Deglazing the cylinder walls is accomplished with the use of a deglazing hone. A cross-hatch pattern must be placed on the cylinder wall to allow for piston ring break-in. This is accomplished by a deglazing hone turned by a drill being moved in and out of the cylinder rapidly. [Figure 3]

Figure 3. Cross-hatch pattern on cylinder wall

After the cylinders have been reground or deglazed, or both, check the size and wall finish, and check for evidence of overheating or grinding cracks before installing on an engine.