Improving 4-Stroke Powersports Engines from Top to Bottom

July 10, 2017 / by Jordan Powell

Take a look at how Wiseco can improve performance and reliability of your 4 stroke engine from the bottom up.

Powersports enthusiasts tend to have one thing in common: they want the absolute best components possible to make their machines run faster and better than before. Typically, the average enthusiast opens up their wallet first for an aftermarket exhaust. While the gains from this install can be noticeable, it’s what’s inside the engine that can bump your machine up to that next tier of performance. The performance gains from an aftermarket piston and crank kit can be substantial, which is why many teams across the professional motocross paddock enlist help from aftermarket performance parts manufacturers. However, with many brands and options out on the market, it could be difficult finding what’s right for you.

Wiseco pistons are bar to box. They complete every step of the production process in house.

Wiseco has performance product offerings for each of the critical areas of the 4-stroke performance engine. Dave Sulecki, Global Powersports Product Manager for Wiseco, emphasized that not only do they have the experience, they have the ability to develop, test, and produce all of their products in their facility in Mentor, Ohio. “There are no aftermarket forged performance piston companies in the United States that have an in-house dyno and research and development facility,” explains Sulecki. “We’re able to develop the part in-house and work out all of the questions about the design before we hand the part over to the customer; whereas our competition will hand over a part and say, ‘Let us know how it works.’ That’s what separates us from everyone else.”

Wiseco offers a large breadth of parts, including everything you need for a quick clutch freshening up to just about everything for a complete engine rebuild.

Forged Piston Benefits

One of the biggest and well-known products they have to offer, though, are their forged pistons. Compared to a cast piston, a forged piston is much more stable under high demands and is extremely reliable. “When a piston is manufactured in its cast, you take molten aluminum and pour it into a mold,” explains Sulecki. “From that shape you can machine it into a piston. What happens when you do that, though, is you degrade the molecule structure and you get a lot of voids, inclusions, and defects. So, you have somewhat of a weak structure. When you forge aluminum, you actually force all of the constituents of the metal closer together, and they become bonded to each other. That not only increases the tensile strength of the material, but it also improves the ductility. Ductility is the ability for the aluminum to bend before it breaks, compared to a cast aluminum structure that will break before it bends. I always like to use the comparison of bending a paper clip over and over when explaining ductility. If you keep bending it back and forth, eventually it breaks.

Wiseco offers a variety of forged 4-stroke pistons, each of them designed with unique features for specific applications.

“Another reason why forging a piston is better than casting it is that you’re forcing the material grain structure to flow into its new shape, which in this case is a piston. So, you’ve actually improved the strength of the material and its features through this grain flow. Any high end four-stroke racing engine of today can only have a forged piston. A cast piston is not strong enough in those applications. They just can’t simply withstand the forces, loads, and heat that a forged piston can.”

The Racer's Choice and Racer Elite pistons come with a DLC coated pin. Read on to learn more about these pistons.

When it’s time to actually forge a piston, the block of aluminum is chosen, but not all aluminums are created equal. Wiseco primarily works with two different materials: a 4,000 series alloy and a 2,000 series alloy. What does this mean? Well, a 4,000 series alloy is a high-strength, aerospace grade aluminum, however; it’s molecular structure includes a great amount of silicone in it. Silicone is a great chemical compound that fights against abrasion and wear and tear, but it’s not as strong as a 2,000 series, which has less silicone. “While it’s really good for things like wrist pin wear and ring groove wear, it doesn’t have as much strength as a 2,000 series alloy. So, in a four-stroke piston, we primarily only use a 2,000 series alloy, and a 4,000 series alloy for two-stroke engines.”

Piston Skirt Coating

Wiseco then takes their manufacturing process one step further by giving each piston a protective coating that was formulated and designed in-house called ArmorGlide. “ArmorGlide is a proprietary skirt coating that we’ve developed through our research and development department, and it’s a dry film lubricant that’s permanently bonded to the piston skirt,” Sulecki explains. “It’s moly based, and it stays on the skirt for the life of the piston. It’s there to reduce friction, and it actually helps increase horsepower. Another added benefit from the coating is that it also helps the piston run quieter in the cylinder bore, which could come as an asset to people wanting to reduce engine noise. You’ll see that our competitors will a lot the times use a spray on coating that’s almost like spray paint on the piston skirt. It’s there on the piston for the break-in period, and after 30 minutes it’s completely worn off. Unlike our competitors, we have some testimonial parts that still have the ArmorGlide coating after 8,000 miles on it.”

The ArmorGlide skirt coating is not just there for break in. It is permanently applied and reduces friction for the life of the piston.

This sort of attention to detail is then replicated for each and every application. “No two pistons are alike, they are snowflakes. I don't mean that every CRF250R piston is different from the other CRF250R piston,” clarifies Sulecki, “but it is different from a KTM piston. They’re all individually designed for each application, depending on the size and shape, bore and stroke, combustion chamber, and the valve layout. That is all very unique to each brand and bike.”

Standard Series Forged Pistons

Everyone from the weekend hobbyist to the professional racer has a fitting piston option from Wiseco. The standard pistons are all forged from aerospace quality materials, have precision machined skirts, and are designed with optimized structure and domes to increase burn efficiency, ring seal, reliability, and overall performance.

Wiseco offers the ability to order your pistons complete with all the necessary gaskets for your top end.

Racer’s Choice Series Forged Pistons

The next level up is the Racer’s Choice series piston. “The Racer’s Choice Series Piston is a premium race piston for all high-end four-stroke motocross applications,” Sulecki explains. “This is a very feature rich piston design. The forging design is all fully box and strutted, which means it’s an extremely strong and stable piston platform. We apply the ArmorGlide skirt coating, and we also apply another coating called ArmorPlating. The latter is a really unique coating that’s designed to protect the piston from detonation, and it actually improves ring seal because it’s coated in the ring grooves. We also sell these pistons with a DLC (diamond-like carbon) coated wrist pin, which has an extremely low coefficient of friction. That added benefit helps the wrist pin reduce friction in the pin bore and also in the connecting rod. Each piston also comes with a titanium nitride coated piston ring. That actually helps the piston break into the cylinder bore quicker and seal up faster. So for the high-end racing applications, the customer is going to feel better throttle response, the engine is going to seal up faster, and they’re going to get a very enhanced performance just by dropping that piston in the engine.”

Racer's Choice pistons feature ArmorPlating on the dome, ring grooves, and pin bore, ArmorGlide skirt coating, and a box and strutted design for added strength.

450 Enhanced Pin Tower Forged Pistons

The added strength of the 450 enhanced piston is evident in the beefy-ness of the pin tower.

One piston with more limited applications is the 450 Enhanced Pin Tower piston. It shares some qualities with the Racer’s Choice pistons, including the box and strutted design and ArmorGlide skirt coating, along with the features of a standard piston. The idea behind this piston design was to create an affordable hi-performance piston option that provides enhanced strength to address the force the pin bore is exposed to during engine operation.

Racer Elite Billet Pistons

For racers who are the most demanding of their engines, Wiseco has the new Racer Elite series of pistons. These are no expense spared full billet pistons with a box and strutted enhanced pin tower design, along with an industry first asymmetrical skirt design. The asymmetrical skirt reduces friction and improves stability by having more skirt surface only on the side of the piston that makes the most stressful contact with the cylinder. The ultra flat ring groove and lapped ring also reduce blow by over 30%, which contributes to more compression and more horsepower gain. These pistons also feature the ArmorGlide skirt coating and a DLC coated wrist pin.

Wiseco Racer Elites are no expense spared pistons. Full billet, asymmetrical skirt design, ultra flat ring groove, box and strutted design, and ArmorGlide skirt coating.

Complete Bottom End Kit

Wiseco’s offerings don’t end at the piston, though. In fact, they have a complete line of parts to rebuild the bottom end, too. “The beautiful thing about the Wiseco crank kits is that they are a great value item because everything is included,” mentions Sulecki. “When you have to rebuild the bottom end of a motorcycle or ATV engine, it’s usually about 50 to 60 part numbers you’re dealing with. It’s pretty tedious to look up and buy all of those parts. So, we take out all of that hassle by putting all of those part numbers into one box, under one part number. When you buy the kit, you’re not only getting the crankshaft with a connecting rod, you’re also getting the main bearings, all of the engine seals, and all of the lower end gaskets all in one kit. For the hobbyist in the garage, that’s a great thing.”

Order one part number and receive everything you need to rebuild your bottom end.

Lifetime Warranty Forged Clutch

Another product Wiseco has to offer for their powersports costumers is their high strength clutch assemblies. “The technology that we use to forge our pistons is the same technology we use to forge our clutch baskets. Anybody with a high-end four-stroke or modern two-stroke application can buy from Wiseco a forged high performance clutch basket, that is the strongest in the aftermarket world,” raves Sulecki. “We guarantee it for the life of the part that it won't break or notch, which is the typical wear pattern for a clutch basket. So, when you buy our clutch basket, it’s the last one that you’ll have to buy. It’s high performance forged, we hard anodize and teflon seal it to give it a real smooth feel during operation, and we combine that with our internal clutch components–clutch plates and springs, inner hub, and pressure plates. So, really, you can do almost a complete engine solution from the Wiseco brand.”

Wiseco clutch kits include an industry first forged basket, and can be ordered at different levels based on the parts you need.

Topics: featured, PISTONS 101, Powersports, ENGINE TECH

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Written by Jordan Powell