Interference engines are designed with close clearances between the pistons and valves, which can cause the valves to be damaged if the timing belt or chain breaks. Non-interference engines have more clearance between the pistons and valves, so if the timing belt or chain breaks, the valves will not be damaged.

Interference engine

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One interference engine it’s a 4 stroke type internal combustion piston engine in which one or more valves in the fully open position extends to any area through which the piston can travel. In contrast, in a engine without interference, the piston does not move in any area where the valves open. The interference mechanisms depend on timing gears, chains or belts to prevent the piston from hitting the valves, ensuring the valves are closed when the piston is close to top dead center. Interference engines are prevalent among modern production automobiles and many other four-stroke engine applications; the main advantage is that it allows engine designers to maximize engine performance compression ratio. However, these engines run the risk of major internal damage if a piston hits a valve due to valve failure. camshaft transmission belts, transmission chains or transmission gears.

Timing gear failure

A pair of poppet valves bent by collision with a piston after timing belt failure. The engine was running at 4500 RPM.

In interference engine designs, it is essential to replace a timing belt at regular intervals or repair chain problems as soon as they are discovered, as incorrect timing can result in collision of pistons and valves and cause extensive internal engine damage. The piston will likely bend the valves or, if a piece of the valve or piston is broken off inside the cylinderthe broken part can cause serious damage inside the cylinder, which can affect the connecting rods. If a timing belt or chain breaks on an interference engine, mechanics check for bent valves by running a leak test each cylinder or checking valve clearances. Too large a valve clearance points to a bent valve. Repair options depend on the damage. If the pistons and cylinders are damaged, the engine must be rebuilt or replaced. If the valves are bent but there is no other damage, it may be sufficient to replace the bent valves and rebuild the cylinder head, as well as replace the timing belt/chain components.

Bent intake valves during a timing belt failure incident

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Interference Versus Non-Interference Engines • Cars Simplified: Engine Design

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