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Engine blocks, also known as a cylinder block; contain all of the major components that make up the bottom end of a engine. This is where the crankshaft spins, and the pistons move up and down in the cylinder bores. On some engine designs, it also holds the camshaft.
Usually made from an aluminum alloy on modern cars. But, On older vehicles and trucks it was commonly cast iron. Its metal construction gives it strength and the ability to transmit heat from the combustion processes. Aluminum blocks typically have an iron sleeve pressed into them for the piston bores.
The engine block includes the cylinder bores, the water cooling jacket, oil passages, and the crankcase. This water jacket, is an empty system of passages, used for circulating coolant.
Common problems with engine blocks
Being a big, precision machined, hunk of metal, the engine block is designed to last the lifetime of the car. But sometimes things do go wrong. These are the most common engine block failures:
External engine coolant leak
Puddle of water/antifreeze under the engine? The block can crack and begin leaking, or a freeze out plug could work its way loose or rust out. Freeze out plugs can be easily replaced, but cracks are usually terminal.
Eventually, after hundreds of thousands of miles; the smooth machined walls of the cylinders will wear to a point where the piston rings can’t seal them. On rare occasion, the cylinder wall can develop a crack, which will quickly result in a motor needing a rebuild.
Porous engine block
Caused by contaminants which got into the metal during the manufacturing process; voids in the casting often cause no issues at all for a long time. Eventually a poorly cast block can start to seep and leak; either oil or coolant, from the area where the imperfections are. There’s nothing you can do about a porous engine block; because it’ll have been faulty from the day it was molded.
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