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Welding an engine block is often required when the block undergoes structural damage. This damage can be internal or external. Usually, a cracked engine block is bad news, and often the recommendation is to sell your car rather than spending on repairs. However, depending on the severity of the damage, there is a chance that you will be able to fix the cracked engine block by welding.
How Do Engine Blocks Develop Cracks?
There are several reasons that an engine block might crack. The inside surface of an engine block deals with immense pressure and various forces that result from combustion. On the outside, events like a collision can cause the exterior of the engine to crack. Lets look at this in more detail.
Most engines are made from steel or iron. They are heavy and built to last. However, the design of an engine features uneven thicknesses in different parts, making the block weaker in some sections. When these sections experience the high temperatures resulting from combustion, they can expand and eventually develop cracks.
The coolant and engine oil play a major role in distributing and dispersing heat and preventing the hotspots that may result in expansion and crack formation. However, if the coolant level is low or there are issues with the engine’s cooling system, hotspots will eventually develop within the engine. Since metal expands with heat, the engine will experience irregular expansion at different hotspots, leading the engine block to crack.
Similar to how heat affects the engine’s structural integrity, freezing temperatures also lead to similar issues. When the temperature drops beyond the freezing point, the coolant inside the engine will freeze; that is why the coolant’s composition also includes a substance called “anti-freeze.”
A coolant without an anti-freeze will turn to ice at a specified freezing point. This freezing coolant expands within the engine and pushes against the lining, causing the engine to crack under pressure.
Car enthusiasts often invest in modifications to enhance the performance of their vehicle’s engine. This modification usually involves altering the engine’s designed power cycle and making the engine burn a greater amount of fuel with more oxygen supply. Unfortunately, these changes increase the cylinder pressure as well as the heat. When this pressure and heat exceeds the engine’s design limit, the engine will blow out. The significant pressure increase can sometimes even punch a piston through the engine case.
Collision is one of the external reasons that can lead to a cracked engine block. When a vehicle crashes or experiences high force impact on the front area, it can damage the engine. The force of impact can cause the engine casing to break.
5 Tips to Weld a Cracked Engine
In most cases, you cannot repair damage to the engine block. While it is possible to weld an engine block crack, it is not always recommended, since repair jobs on engine blocks may not always hold up to the forces produced within the engine. However, there may be cases when the cracks are minor, enabling you to weld carefully to avoid complete engine block replacement. If that’s the case, here are some of the tips you can follow when welding a cracked engine block.
Tip 1: Understand the Engine Block Material
The first step in any welding process is to understand what you are trying to weld. Engine blocks are made from a wide variety of materials, such as steel, iron, and aluminum. As a starting point, identify which type of material your engine block is made up of to determine the correct welding method.
Tip 2: Remove the Engine to a Workable Setting
You cannot weld an engine when it is still mounted on the vehicle. There are various pipes and wires going in and out of the engine, and you’ll want to avoid causing any further damage to them. Hence, the first step is to disconnect everything from the engine and take it out of the vehicle. Orient the engine so that the crack is easy to access before performing the weld.
Tip 3: Clean Any Grease or Grime from the Engine
Clean the engine surface to remove all dirt and oil. During welding, these impurities can burn up and mix with the weld pool, leading to weaker welds that may not hold up to the rigorous environments within an engine.
Tip 4: Create a Hole at the End of the Crack to Prevent it from Spreading
If you try to weld a metal crack without using the hole technique, the crack will spread along with the weld. This is due to the fact that heating up metal in a concentrated spot will cause the metal near it to expand. The workaround here is to drill a hole at the end of the crack to prevent it from spreading further.
Tip 5: Choose the Correct Welding Method
TIG, MIG, or stick weld, the choice should be based on the type of metal and the weld quality that you want to produce. For aluminum engine blocks, TIG welding produces the best results. When TIG welding aluminum engine blocks, pay close attention to the filler metal you use.
Similarly, for cast iron, TIG welding with a high nickel content rod is usually recommended. However, when welding a cast iron block, be sure to keep the temperature levels optimum, since cast iron is prone to cracking at higher temperatures.
For steel engine blocks, you can use both TIG and MIG welding. However, TIG is usually preferred since it produces less splatter. When welding a cast steel engine, follow the same precautions as for cast iron.
Magnesium engine blocks are rare today; they were mostly used in older engines. However, if you’re dealing with one as a part of your restoration project, you can weld magnesium engine components with TIG welding. However, make sure to take extra safety precautions, since magnesium is flammable.
Before you plan to weld an engine block, make sure that you factor in the costs associated with it. If your engine block is commonly available, it is more cost-effective to simply buy a rebuilt one. However, for small cracks or for rebuilding a rare engine, welding is the only choice.