Bad Piston Rings Causes and Fixes: Simple Solutions

Bad piston rings causes and fixes are great to know in case you see signs of the problem in your vehicle. The signs can include excessive smoke, loss of vehicle performance, or gray exhaust smoke.

Bad Piston Rings

It can be frustrating to figure out why it’s happening, especially if you’re not an automobile expert. In this article, our automobile team explains the leading causes of faulty rings and how to fix them.

What Are the Common Causes of Bad Piston Rings?

The common causes of bad piston rings are overheating, insufficient lubricant, subpar performance of the engine, fuel flooding, and excessive wear and tear. Other causes of this problem include an oil leak or low-quality oil. Whatever the cause might be, it’s essential to understand the process of fixing it yourself.

– Overheated Engine

The most common cause of piston ring wear and tear is an overheated combustion environment. The rings work by expanding when an engine overheats and contracting when the engine cools. This continuous expansion and contraction can crack or break the piston rings. The causes of overheating may vary, and they include a damaged radiator, a malfunctioning thermostat, and several others.

– Oil Spills

Oil spills are another reason why your compression rings are faulty. When oil leaks or burns at higher rates, the seal no longer controls the oil flow. This will increase excessive oil consumption and emissions and create carbon deposits around the rings, altering their performance. The oil can also increase the engine’s temperature, causing it to overheat and emit excessive smoke.

Common Causes of Faulty Piston Rings

Also, when the air filter doesn’t work effectively, it can cause a leak. Dirty air filters allow debris and other contaminants into your engine. Apart from the piston rings, your cylinder walls and Mass Air Flow sensor can also be damaged as a result of oil spills.

– Subpar Engine Output

A common reason for a worn piston ring is poor engine performance. It is also one of the common damaged piston ring symptoms. When an engine is performing sub-optimally, there can be incomplete combustion of fuels and poor oil consumption. This can lead to a carbon buildup on the piston rings, causing them to lose their compression ability and altering their performance.

– Poor Heat Exchange

Poor heat exchange or transfer is another reason why you have worn wiper rings. These rings are saddled with the burden of sealing off the combustion chamber and ensuring that oil is evenly distributed around the pistons. They also cause heat to dissipate from the piston to the cylinder and allow for an even transfer of heat. Poor heat transfer can lead to a piston seizure or a melted ring.

– Contaminated Oil Filter

Another cause of a faulty piston ring is a contaminated filter. When an engine is contaminated, it begins to accumulate dirt which, over time, damages both the rings and its walls. This leads to poor oil control, increasing the risk of emission of blue exhaust smoke from the engine.

– Piston Blowby

A piston blowby happens when the fuel in the combustion chamber trickles down the gaps between the piston and its rings. This burns the rings, their walls and groove, and leads to damage to the piston rings. It can also lead to loss of compression, poor acceleration, and loss of the engine’s power.

Piston rings expand and contract according to the temperature of the engine. This leaves a gap after every expansion and contraction. However, the engine can have a crankcase pressure if the gap is too big. This will be followed by a lot of blowby and loss of oil.

– Insufficient or Poor-Quality Engine Oil

Another reason for piston damage is insufficient or cheap engine oil. Oil is essential for the smooth and unhindered running of your car engine compartment. It also prevents the metal-to-metal friction which occurs between the rings and their walls.

If there is excess oil consumption and the oil is of poor quality, there won’t be enough when the rings run against the cylinders in their movement. This metal-to-metal contact damages the inner walls of the cylinders as well as their rings.

– Insufficient Lubricant

Insufficient lubricant is another reason for a bad piston ring. As the pistons move up and down the cylinders, the rings allow for smooth movement. If the lubrication is absent or insufficient, it can cause the rings to wear easily. It can also cause damage along the piston walls and cause decreased acceleration.

– Excessive Wear and Tear

The rings in your car engine are responsible for regulating the oil as well as controlling its pressure. Heavy wear and tear can lead to a damaged ring, which in turn can lead to many other problems that will require the attention of an expert mechanic.

– Over Fuelling in Carbureted Engines

Over fuelling occurs when a mixture of fuel enters the engine and is unable to burn completely. It is another cause of damaged rings as it forms a thick layer of unburnt fuel around the cylinder. The fuel mixture will begin to replace the oil, and the rings will begin to have metal-to-metal contact with the cylinders.
Continuous contact will cause metal-to-metal friction until the fuel has been removed from the engine through exhaust ports.

– Pinging, Knocking, and Overheating of the Engine

These can cause damage to piston rings. The trio leads to improper combustion, which is known to cause internal damage. In older-generation cars, you may turn off the crankshaft and camshaft synchronization to fix this problem.

A broken piston ring also makes pinging and knocking sounds when your car is on the move. These sounds are hard to ignore, and they grow worse when you accelerate. The sounds are one of the common symptoms of broken piston rings.

How Can You Fix Bad Piston Rings?

You can fix bad piston rings by replacing the oil and cleaning the engine head and piston rings with vinegar, brake cleaner, or penetrating oil. Other ways to fix the rings include the use of a sealant tube or seafoam to remove the hard carbon deposits from the engine.

Piston rings are built to last as long as the engine, lasting between 25,000 to 250,000 miles. But their average life expectancy is about 100,000 miles. If they constantly undergo maintenance, you should have no problems with them for a long time.

– Clean the Piston Rings

You can fix bad piston rings with vinegar, brake cleaner, and penetrating oil. This process requires that you remove the plug from its port and clean the grime and sludge that might surround it. Pour some vinegar, penetrating oil, and brake cleaner on the rings and leave them for some days.

Fixing Bad Piston Rings

You can do this fix at home as it doesn’t need the disassembling of the engine. However, it only works temporarily. For expert solutions and a piston ring replacement, you should call on a mechanic.

Make sure to do this process carefully. If you install the rings in a different pattern, such as backward, they will scrape up oil and pour it into the combustion chamber. This means you’ll burn up precious engine oil whenever you drive. Considering that piston rings replacement cost is expensive, this incorrect installation is a bad idea.

– Apply Seafoam

Mechanics recommend that pouring seafoam on damaged rings can fix them. A seafoam is an oil product that liquefies gum and removes hard carbon parts in the engine. It can also be used to remove stuck piston rings. The seafoam has to settle on the rings for days before you can notice a significant improvement.

– Use a Sealant Tube

Using a sealant tube can temporarily fix the issue. The sealant tube will assist the rings in better sealing the combustion chamber. However, keep in mind that this method is a temporary solution, and you should replace the rings as soon as possible. Failure to do so will only lead to further damage to the engine.

– Change the Oil

Using bad or low-quality oil can affect your piston ring and alter its performance. More importantly, the oil won’t be able to properly lubricate the components of the rings and cylinder because of its quality. This can cause a damaged ring and force the engine to consume more oil.

Once the engine oil begins to change color, replace it as soon as possible. It is an easy task that you can do yourself. All you need is a new oil, an oil drain pan, a car ramp, wrenches, and about 20 minutes.

– Clean out the Engine Head

It’s very important that you clean out the engine head before you take out the rings. This is because several contaminants and debris hiding around the engine may cause damage to the ring. Like using a sealant tube, cleaning the engine head is a temporary fix. For a lasting solution, you should get an experienced mechanic to troubleshoot the issue.

Cleaning the Pistons for Ring Issues

Can Bad Piston Rings Cause the Caliper Piston to Not Compress?

When experiencing issues with a caliper piston not compressing, one potential culprit could be bad piston rings. These rings, responsible for maintaining proper compression within the piston, may become damaged or worn over time. Thus, addressing the reasons for caliper piston not compressing becomes crucial to ensure efficient braking performance and prevent further complications.


You don’t need to worry or panic anymore if you have a faulty piston ring.

Here’s a recap of the main points discussed in the article:

  • Worn piston rings occur because of overheating, poor oil quality, and a faulty engine.
  • Other causes of the problem include a bad oil filter, engine blowby, or excessive wear and tear to the engine after extended use.
  • A temporary fix is to clean the piston and leave it for some days. You can also try cleaning the head of the engine to remove contaminants.
  • Seafoam and vinegar can also help alleviate the problem. Make sure to let the rings soak in the seafoam or vinegar for a few days for a thorough cleaning.
  • The most permanent fix, however, is to replace the piston rings. If you are not experienced in this field, it would be best to bring your vehicle to an expert mechanic instead of trying to do it yourself.

Make sure you consult a professional mechanic for proper diagnosis before repairs. With the information in this article, once you notice a damaged ring, you should be able to diagnose the issue and fix it immediately.

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