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Copyright © 2005 by George Reid All rights reserved. All text and photographs in this publication are the property of the author, unless otherwise noted or credited. It is unlawful to reproduce—or copy in any way— resell, or redistribute this information without the express written permission of the publisher. See the copyright page of this book for further limitations and warranties.

Engine Math

hen you’re building an engine, it’s nice to be armed with the facts necessary to do it successfully. Much of engine building is about math — machining dimensions, compression and rod ratios, bore sizes, stroke, journal diameters, carburetors, port sizes, dynamic balancing, and all the rest of it. Without math, you cannot successfully build an engine. What follows are quick facts that will help you in your Ford engine building. Pi x (1/2B)2 x S = Volume of One Cylinder We can simplify this further by plugging in the numerical value for Pi, then doing some basic algebra that doesn’t necessarily need to be covered here — but trust us: the equation before is equal to this equation: B x B x S x 0.7854 = Volume of One Cylinder To determine the engine’s displacement, factor in the number of cylinders (N): B x B x S x 0.7854 x N = Engine displacement. So, let’s use this to figure out the displacement of a Ford engine that has a 4-inch Bore and a 3-inch Stroke: 4.000” x 4.000” x 3.00” x 0.7854 x 8 = 301.59 ci Ford rounded 301.59 up to 302 ci, or 4.9L. (Note: One liter is equal to about 61 cubic inches.)

An engine’s compression ratio is the ratio between two volumes: The volume of the cylinder and combustion chamber when the piston is at BDC, and the volume of the combustion chamber when the piston is at TDC. But there’s more to consider than just cylinder volume and head cc’s. To get the engine’s TRUE compression ratio, you need to know these volumes: • Combustion Chamber Volume (C) • Compressed Head Gasket Volume (G) • Piston/Deck Height (D) • Piston Dish Volume (P) or Dome Volume (-P) • Cylinder Volume (V) When the piston is at BDC, the total volume is all of these volumes added together. When the piston is at TDC, the total volume is all of these EXCEPT the Cylinder Volume (V). So... true compression ratio is this: V+D+G+C+P D+G+C+P
This diagram shows all the volumes you need to know to calculate an engine’s true compression ratio: Cylinder volume (V), piston dome (-P) or dish volume (P), piston/deck height (D), compressed gasket volume (G), and the combustion chamber volume (C). The compression ratio is the volume of the cylinder and combustion chamber (V + P + D + G +C) when the piston is at bottom dead center, compared to the volume of the combustion chamber (P + D + G +C) when the piston is at top dead center.

Combustion Chamber Volume
Combustion chamber volumes for stock heads and aftermarket heads are typically available from the manufacturer. If you can’t find the info or if you’ve modified the combustion chambers, you’ll have to measure the volumes (using a plastic deck plate, burettes, and a graduated cylinder) or have your local machine shop do it for you.

Compressed Head Gasket Volume
Compressed head gasket volume is simply the volume of the cylinder hole in the head gasket — think of it as a very shallow cylinder. So, its volume is computed the same way you compute cylinder volume: B x B x Gasket Thickness x 0.7854 = Compressed Head Gasket Volume In this case, the gasket’s compressed thickness is .038 inches, so . . . 4.000” x 4.000”x .038” x 0.7854 = 0.4775232 ci

Cubic-inch displacement is simply the volume displaced by the cylinders of your engine. So, if we calculate the volume of one cylinder, and multiply that figure times the number of cylinders, we have the engine’s displacement. The formula for a cylinder’s volume is: Pi x r2 x S = Volume of one cylinder. Where Pi is a mathematical constant equal to 3.14159, r is the radius of the cylinder, and S is the stroke. If you think back to your high school geometry, you may remember that a circle’s radius is half the diameter. In this case, the diameter is equal to the bore (B), so 1/2B = r. Plug that in, and our formula becomes:

(TDC) and measure the distance from the top of the piston to the deck of the block. This is normally somewhere between .008 and .025 inch. If the block deck has been machined, say .010 inch, then deck height will be smaller. Once again, this volume is a shallow cylinder. Compute its volume by plugging the piston/deck height measurement (D) into the cylinder volume formula: B x B x D x 0.7854 = Piston/Deck Height Volume In our example, this measurement was .015 inch, so we plug in that value to compute piston/deck height volume in cubic inches. 4.000” x 4.000” x .015” x 0.7854 = 0.188496 ci

Converting cc’s to ci’s
Combustion chamber volume, dome volume, and dish volume are generally measured in cc’s, not cubic inches. To convert cc’s to cubic inches, divide the measurement in cc’s by 16.4. cc/16.4 = ci

Piston/Deck Height Volume
Piston/Deck height volume is the small volume at the top of the cylinder that is not swept by the piston. Measure piston/deck height with a dial indicator. Bring the piston to top dead center


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