Project Super C, Piston Pressure
This is the 17th post in our ongoing series on Project Super C. We are chronicling the rehabilitation of our 1954 Farmall Super C tractor, which has taken up residence outside of the Farmers Business Network℠ office in San Carlos. If you are new to this series, please start with the introduction to the project in our first post.
Last time, we removed the crankshaft from the Super C’s engine. Now, we turn our focus to removing the pistons, which are firmly stuck in the cylinders.
At this point, having detached the connecting rods from the crankshaft, the pistons were no longer mechanically attached to anything and were only held in the cylinders by friction (and rust) between the pistons and the cylinder walls. As a reminder, here is what the pistons and cylinders looked like after we cleaned up a lot of rust and sludge:
The normal procedure for removing the pistons is to drive them out the top of the engine by hammering on their undersides. This should not require a huge amount of force in a well kept engine. For our engine, vigorous hammering enabled us to extract three of the four pistons (engine is upside down in picture):
In the picture on the right, you can see the extensive rust on the side of the piston, particularly at the top. This explains why the pistons put up so much resistance to being extracted. Unfortunately even after forceful hammering, one of the pistons refused to budge. You can probably guess which one (hint: the one that looks melted in the picture at the top of this post).
For the stuck piston, we tried penetrating oil and, separately, our old friend, Evapo-Rust®, to see if we could get the liquid to seep down between the piston and the cylinder wall and free things up:
Frustratingly, after letting each liquid soak multiple times for multiple days, the piston was still completely stuck. We had been patient for weeks, but our patience had finally worn out. We resorted to removing the engine from its stand and putting it in a hydraulic press in order to attempt to push the piston out through the bottom of the engine. We were going to get this piston out, or break the engine block trying! Here you can see the engine in the press:
We started applying pressure to the stuck piston, first a little and then a lot. Suddenly something popped:
The piston had moved just a little bit! We smelled victory and kept on pressing.
In the double-speed video below, if you look through the underside of the engine, you can see the bottom of the connecting rod that is connected to the piston inching its way downwards. This was not a smooth journey - it was associated with bumping and clanging noises all the way.
Finally, the moment of triumph arrived:
We could now examine our defeated foe:
That piston is in bad shape. It is caked in rust and carbon buildup and a lot of metal has been eaten away. It had already been evident that the top of the piston was badly damaged, and now we could see the missing metal on the sides:
We have known since we first saw the pistons that their damaged condition would require us to replace them. But what about the cylinder walls? Given the rust and the less-than-gentle manner in which we removed the pistons, will we need to bore out the cylinders to make the engine usable again? Luckily we do not—this engine has replaceable sleeves which line the interior of the cylinders! Extracting and replacing the existing sleeves with new ones is much easier than boring out the cylinders, and goes on our to-do list.
Finally, here is a picture of the engine with all of the pistons removed. It is starting to look pretty empty in there:
You can see that other than the cylinder sleeves, the camshaft is the last major internal component still to be removed. That will be the subject of a future post.
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