Ask The Editors: Predicting Ring Wear Without X-Ray Vision

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Dear ATVC:

Back in the two-stroke days, I used to freshen up the top end of my quad with regular frequency but quite frankly, the complexity and cost of a modern four-stroke engine intimidates me. Is there any way to know when I’m due for fresh rings without actually tearing down my top end?


Absolutely! Begin with the exhaust pipe. Is it smoking like the ashtray at a smokers anonymous meeting? There’s your first indicator. Additionally check the joints and sealing where the head pipe meets the manifold and where the pipe meets the muffler. Abundant oil collecting as these junctions is also not a good sign for the health of your rings.

Like with any engine, ring tolerance (along with the state of tune of the piston) dictates compression. Hence if your ATV’s compression suddenly drops, it’s very likely worn rings are the culprit.

But above all else, keep an eye on your engine’s oil consumption. Check the oil breather tubes before and after a ride. A little moisture here is normal but dripping/ leaking oil breather tubes is another sign of oil blowing by the cylinder seal being created by the piston’s rings. If you’re noticing you need to add oil after a couple hours in the saddle, you’re likely due for a fresh top end.

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