Replacing Your Diesel Spacer Plate: When Should It Be Done?

Installing a cylinder head is a big and expensive job, whether you're doing it on its own or as part of an overhaul. It's not unusual for diesel owners to want to find ways to save money where they can on the repair.

CATERPILLAR 3406E C15 SPACER PLATE NEW 6I4421But is your spacer plate a good place to do that?

We're taking a look at when it's okay to reuse your spacer plate and why you might want to go ahead and replace it.

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What Does a Diesel Engine Spacer Plate Do? 

Older Engines

In older engines, spacer plates weren't really used. Instead, counterbore engines were popular to help reduce pressure and stress on the liner flange. 

In these, a ledge is machined into the block for the liner to sit in. 

This wasn't always as successful, though, especially as load demands on diesel engines increased. 

Cracks would still occur on the head, leading to leaks and other engine problems. So spacer plates and spacer plate gaskets were developed.

Spacer Plate Engines

In a spacer plate engine, the spacer plate sits on top of a spacer plate gasket on the block. The head gasket then goes between the spacer plate and the cylinder head. 

This design reduces stress on the liner flange, but it still maintains the seal of the head gasket. 

The reduction of stress helps prevent cracks and prolong the life of your cylinder head.

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Replacing Your Cylinder Head

Many factors might lead you to replace your cylinder head. Most commonly, though, cracks from overheating are the culprit. 

How do Cracks Form?

Rapid heating in the engine forces the head to expand and then shrink back down quickly as the engine cools. This motion eventually leads to cracking. 

If cracks occur in your cylinder head, you'll almost definitely need to replace it.

Symptoms Your Cylinder Head is Failing

You might notice some of the following signs if your cylinder head needs to be replaced:

  • Overheating

  • Poor Fuel Economy

  • Excessive Oil Consumption

  • White Smoke

These symptoms don't always indicate a cylinder head problems, but it's one place to start investigating. This is especially important, because a cylinder head problem can lead to so many other failures within your engine. 

You might experience oil contamination, damage to your engine block, or cylinder damage. If you don't address the problem, you'll not only be replacing your cylinder head, but you'll be looking at other costly repairs as well. 


Do I Need to Replace My Spacer Plate? 

The short answer is that in most cases, yes, you want to replace your spacer plate. 

Odds are, if you're experiencing issues with your cylinder head or head gasket, your spacer plate has been affected as well. 

When Can I Reuse My Spacer Plate? 

The most important thing to look for as you decide whether or not to replace your spacer plate is the amount of visible damage. Do not reuse a plate with cracks or wear, as this will not maintain the seal of the head gasket properly.

If the spacer plate has only slight indents on it, you might be safe to reuse it.

In the long run, though, it still might be best to replace it. You'll have peace of mind knowing that all the components are new and working as they should. 

Plus, if you spend a lot of time and money on an overhaul, do you really want to cut corners? You can save yourself time, headaches, and money later on by addressing the problem now.

So while it might just seem like one more thing to replace, in the end you'll probably be glad you didn't ignore the spacer plate when you removed your cylinder head.


HHP Can Help With Your Cylinder Head and Spacer Plate Needs!

At Highway & Heavy Parts, we have:

  • ASE Certified Technicians on staff to help diagnose your diesel engine problems

  • Fast and accurate quotes

  • A huge inventory of replacement parts

  • Fast and easy ordering—call or shop online!

  • Fast shipping

  • Industry leading warranties

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

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