Tech Tips: Diesel Cylinder Head Resurfacing

Replacing your cylinder head can be a big and costly job. If you're having trouble with your head, you're probably wondering if it's always necessary to replace it.

Caterpillar Diesel Stage 2 Cylinder HeadSo, when is it safe to resurface your cylinder head?

We get a lot of calls about cylinder head resurfacing. People have questions about whether or not it needs to be done, how many times it can be done, and the advantages of resurfacing. 

In this post, we're going to let you in on everything you need to know about cylinder head resurfacing.

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About Cylinder Head Resurfacing

So, just what is cylinder head resurfacing? 

Essentially, it makes the flat surface that rests against the block true again. It's going to make the head completely flat.

Why is My Cylinder Head Not Flat?

Sometimes, failures or engine environment conditions can cause your cylinder head to become uneven. Things like a blown head gasket or overheating can cause the head to warp and become uneven.

Overheating is an especially common cause of cylinder head problems because the head expands when heated beyond what it was designed to handle. As it cools, it will shrink in size again, but it likely won't go back to its original shape. 

This means you'll end up with a distorted head.

A warped or distorted head makes it hard to hold the head gasket, and a poorly sealing gasket can lead to leaks. 

If the issue isn't too severe, resurfacing the head can fix your problem.


Why You Might Not Want to Resurface Your Head

Resurfacing your cylinder head might seem like the best option to get more miles out of it between replacements. There are some situations where it might not work for you.

Cylinder Head Thickness

Cylinder heads have a minimum thickness. Too thin, and it won't function properly. So, you can only resurface if you're still within that frame.

This is for a few reasons:

1. Deck Strength

Taking material off the head reduces the strength of the deck. Too much off and you could be looking at major problems.

2. Overhead Cams

A lot of modern engines utilize an overhead cam design. When you resurface your cylinder head, you're actually bringing that cam lower and lower.

It will eventually get to the point where the adjustable idlers gears on the front of the engine don't have enough adjustment to compensate for the amount taken off the head.

So, it's important to pay attention to the minimum thickness of the head to help avoid issues down the line.

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When Shouldn't You Resurface Your Cylinder Head

In some situations, it's really not the best idea to resurface your cylinder head, or it's just not possible at all. This can be the case if the head has already reached the minimum thickness.

Some heads don't have an adjustable idler gear, like some Volvos. That means you can't take anything off of them, because that will lower the cam gear into the gear that drives it. 

This causes the lash or clearance to go away, which spells trouble for your engine.

What to Do If You Can't Resurface Your Cylinder Head

If resurfacing your cylinder head isn't going to work for your engine, you might need to look at getting a new head. We have a huge selection of new and reman cylinder heads for most major diesel engine applications. 

Our team of experts can help diagnose your problem and get you the parts you need fast! With quick and accurate quotes, you'll have your engine back up and running in no time!

Give us a call, or shop online!

From diagnosis through delivery, we're Highway & Heavy Parts!

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