Performance Head Gaskets - Pressure Science

A Look Inside High-Performance Head Gaskets

Bob Mehlhoff Jan 23, 2007 0 Comment(s)
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Whether you're making some stunning numbers with the help of a big-inch small-block, nitrous, or forced induction, higher cylinder pressure demands that the head gaskets are up to the task, or else all that power can be lost in an instant. Fel-Pro and SCE Gaskets have spent years engineering their gasket lines, and without a doubt they tend to work exceptionally well in a variety of applications.

Like all aspects of building a high-performance engine there are choices that, if made properly, will help your engine perform at its best. However, to do this you'll have to be armed with solid information. Yes, it sounds cool to say that you have high-performance head gaskets made from copper, or the latest MLS set on your engine, but before you build your next hard-running bullet, let's explore some head-gasket science and the options available.

Gaskets 101
Imagine standing in a room at atmo-spheric pressure and the pressure on the opposite side of the door is as much as 100 times greater. The door would be on the verge of blowing in. Now add lots of temperature, say about 200 degrees F, and start applying heavy forces to the walls around the room. Seems pretty tough, right? Now add some high wind from a supercharger, maybe a little nitrous, or worse yet detonation. Get the idea? Yes, on a high-performance engine the head gaskets must withstand some tremen-dous forces, so the gasket must be installed properly.

Engines with lots of power may use either copper or MLS styles, but they must be selected specifically for your engine. Full-race aluminum engines with nitrous and superchargers may work well with one gasket and LS-series engines with another. But what we can show here are many of the differences in their construction and application. If you didn't already know, some gaskets are offered in varying thicknesses to change the com-pression ratio too.

Copper Time
Copper head gaskets offer a malleable metal-to-metal combustion seal that easily conforms to the surface. Addi-tionally, a copper head gasket has much higher tensile strength than its composite rival, and copper has a 25-percent coefficient of elasticity, so it's less likely to rupture. Today so much technology is built into an SCE Gasket, especially the ICS Titan copper head gasket. Unlike conventional copper head gaskets, the ICS does not require an O-ring to be grooved into the head or the block. These gaskets use a built-in combustion seal, which blocks lateral flow of combustion pressure. The special coolant seals applied to the copper head gasket are slightly offset from the top to the bottom to trip the load to the most important combustion seal and provide a stronger bond.

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