The 'correct' Way to Measure a Cylinder Bore and Measure Cylinder Using Piston Diameter





Introduction: The 'correct' Way to Measure a Cylinder Bore and Measure Cylinder Using Piston Diameter

About: Working on motorcycle since age 11 Instructor at MMI from 2000 until mid 2011. Started in a Honda/Yamaha/(old) Triumph twin dealers, moved to Suzuki/BMW/Vespa dealers in 1980

Hi All,

Purpose of this Instructable is to hopefully teach how to measure a cylinder and piston, the correct place to measure a piston and why you find the largest possible diameter.

From my activities in many on-line motorcycle groups I've seen a number of people posting things are 'worn out' or wrong parts fitted because they can rock or move top of piston in cylinder bore after cylinder head has been removed

The piston and cylinder being measured are from a 1968 Suzuki T305

Suzuki also made a T250 which looked pretty much identical and a year later a T350 so make sure you have correct specifications

Before making any decisions on parts, you will need the stock
specifications, it's hard to judge clearances between parts when you don't know what exactly they should be so get service manual or technical data manual

In this case, the standard piston size is 59.955mm~59.940" but it's also given as an inch size of 2.360"~2.359"

During operation (ie, when engine is running) the top of piston is exposed to full heat of combustion which is normally around 7~800f or higher. Aluminium has a very high expansion when heated so at running temperature the piston top expands to 'fill' the cylinder bore (top of piston is probably averaging over 300f ?) This is a two stroke (two cycle) motor, conduction removes heat from top to underside of piston and fresh charge helps cool it and prevent a 'melt down' (mostly)

Pistons are machined so the largest mass of metal has room to expand and thinner sections (which don't expand as much) are different diameters. The sides of pistons where gudgeon (piston) pin fit, having more material then the thinner sections of skirt are also smaller than the 'nominal' diameter. It may be easier to picture a piston as being barrel shaped top to bottom and kind of 'pear' shaped looking down from top. The reasons are also linked to the way piston is 'pressed' into front or back of cylinder due to the connecting rod angle and direction of rotation of crankshaft

Step 1: Measure the Piston

As previously stated, 'we' are looking for the largest diameter of the piston so in this case it is inverted and measuring point (usually 5~10mm from base) this particular bike uses 26mm from base of piston. Very surprisingly (in view of age and mileage of bike) the actual size of piston is in specification, 2.359 and a few ten-thousandths of an inch ( I no longer have micrometer reading to 1/10,000" but it isn't really needed - most of the time)

Step 2: Gather Material and Find a Flat Surface to Work On........

My wife borrowed fold up workbench to paint house, although you may think she only painted work surface.

You will need a pad and something to write with as your going to make multiple measurements at various points of cylinder. A couple of blocks of wood to hold cylinder off bench are also handy (in my opinion) Personally I prefer to measure cylinders from the top down but some people will invert them and measure from the bottom up (as cylinder is inverted your still going from top to bottom)

The wood is needed because the cylinder spigot protrudes through cylinder and makes it unstable on a 'small base', much easier to use the flat gasket face plus you can measure close to bottom of cylinder without gauge contacting bench (and messing up readings)

Step 3: Some Measuring Equipment and Set Up Bore Gauge

To accurately make measurements you will need some specialty measuring equipment, in this case, 'cheap' micrometer and bore gauge (I've had and used expensive ones, these do the same job)

To set up bore gauge, you need to know size of bore or size of piston. (2.360") In this case I had piston which was still in specification so didn't re-set micrometer plus it will give a direct reading of the actual clearance between cylinder and piston. (actual piston size closer to 2.3595")

The bore gauge has a range of only 0.050" measuring in ten-thousandths of inch. The contact end of gauge is about 2" long so a contact tip is needed to reach 2.360", the tip is for 2.400" bore so gauge will be compressed at least 0.040" (nicely within range)

The pictures show the disassembled head with contact tip and nut then assembled in between micrometer anvils

The top cover of bore gauge box has soft foam lining, from experience I've found the easiest most convenient way to set gauge or 'hold' micrometer is just sit it on the foam.

The flare from flash pretty much obscures the secondary dial (slightly above and to right of '4') It is important as it tells how many full revolutions the primary dial (with long pointer) has made. Picture of gauge set at 'zero' wasn't too difficult to take as I didn't have to worry about sliding out of micrometer anvils (I know, it's 'off by 1/10,000", actual setting is correct.

The majority of video's or tutorials will tell you to use a micrometer stand but I've found it really difficult to keep gauge contact points between micrometer anvils, the contacts are rounded and about 3/32", the micrometer anvils, 1/4" diameter. The hardened/carbide faces don't want to stay in place (it is possible but why make life deliberately difficult?)

Step 4: Taking Measurements.................

The bore gauge doesn't take direct measurements, that is to say, it doesn't tell you the actual bore size, you need a little bit of math later on.

What it does do is compare the size it was set at to the hole size.

We know gauge is set to piston size and will be taking measurements at top of cylinder 'side to side' and 'front to back' getting a reading of the actual piston clearance. Max allowable is around 0.006", after that things start breaking up very quickly

Just so you know where you are, it's common practice to measure as X and Y, the X is side to side, the Y is front to back. Your also measuring from the top to the bottom, ABC, Top Mid Bot, etc (whatever floats your boat)

From the numbers, it's easy to see that the top of cylinder is close to danger zone, the middle is well into catastrophic failure region and the bottom has 'strange' numbers which are actually easily explained.

Going back to piston measurement, the sides of piston are removed for gas to flow through transfer ports (remember, it's a two stroke -picture of side of piston) There isn't anything to wear the cylinder so it's most likely the 0.0024" was the standard clearance when bike was made..................... but.............. the pistons show no wear so they have probably been swapped for new ones and bores may possibly have been honed for new rings will 'bed in' meaning original clearance was less than 0.0024" ???

If anyone wants to do the math, just add the clearances to the piston size of 2.359"(+3 or 4 or 5 ten thousandths of inch, take your pick from micrometer picture - LOL) to get actual bore size

Step 5: And So.............................. Setting Up for the Next Section - Honing Cylinders 0.50mm Oversize

With the numbers in and from many years experience, the motor would have had a catastrophic failure first time it was run hard, piston rattling around would have broken off the bottom part and possible damaged other components

Made a DIY honing tank from old storage tub and scrap I had laying around.



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    How about a How to Measure a 2 Stroke Cylinder properly for Making a Tuned Pipe?

    2 replies

    Just realised what your asking (was in a rush this morning) You want set up with degree wheel to measure port opening and closing points, simple enough, just fit degree wheel to crank end and set to TDC=zero. You can also do it by measuring cylinder then use trigonometry but that is way more difficult as you need to take con-rod length and angle into account.

    Hummm.... That IS a two stroke cylinder. The process is exactly the same for two or four stroke but four stroke cylinders are easier as you don't have ports. Designing two stroke expansion chambers Is relatively easy, but, you need to make several for testing plus, correctly done it will amplify exhaust note so silencing becomes difficult without destroying the power you've obtained. At one time, several (most?) manufactures actually provided information on building tuned pipes (at least I know Kawasaki and Suzuki did) In the service manual for T305 there is a diagram of pipe.A lot depends on the engine your building for and the type of use. No point having a 500rpm power band on an MX bike as it would be almost unrideable but on a drag bike it's all you need

    Is it the idea that people pay a fee, to download the info?

    5 replies

    Not really, Instructables isn't public/ tax money funded but relies on subscribers. With a subscription you can download 'anything' for free. I've never yet been in a position to become a paying subscriber but have had full subscription status due to my Instructables being featured. (Pretty sure I don't have 'pro' status at present, but I haven't tried downloading anything) You can bookmark link and re-read it as much as you want for free though. If you checked my profile, I was an instructor at a motorcycle school. I had many experienced but untrained colleagues, some real good who cared and others OCD about management policy. I did this as there are way too many 'technicians' who don't ave a clue how to actually measure. I took a great degree of pride in making sure 'my' classes could actually instruct instructors who were doing things wrong

    It's part of the reason I was laid off when people who 'don't rock the boat' are still there even though they are totally inept in my opinion (and manufactures seem to agree, 'servicing' is now often restricted to oil and filter changes plus put some air in the tyres) less than 5% of students actually stay in the industry(2011 figures) plus, in my opinion, probably less than 1% will actually be 'good' at what they do (sadly, less than 10% of the 1% will actually make a good to decent living, no matter how good they are)

    Thanks, I am in the process of attempting to rebuild an engine block. But I need to know how to measure stuff and then learn how to use the lisle honing tool.

    The Lisle hone is almost exactly the same as Sunne which works well easy to use and VERY accurate after some practice (within 0.0001", yep, one TEN-THOUSANDTH of an inch)

    It's also a 'shedload' cheaper than the AMMCO's I have plus cheaper for consumables (and is more tolerant of mis-use / accidents)

    The 3 leg 'glaze busters' / brake hone's are worthless as a precision hone although work OK for intended purpose

    The best way to hone by hand is with a low speed drill, preferably one you can use at around100~ 150 rpm while learning (most rigid hones have max rpm around 400~450 up to 4" bore) Slower is MUCH easier to control as you have to get the stroke (in / out of cylinder) synchronised to the rpm to get a 45 degree cross hatch. Because I'm always broke, I got a Harbor Freight low speed high torque drill (plus coupons when it was on offer.) It maxes out around 450 rpm but I've never used it 'flat out'. I started an Instructable on 'How to Hone motorcycle cylinders' but got caught up with other stuff so never got any further

    This is good advice. How about stone selection to get the right finish. Do you have tips on it. I have seen a couple of videos using the tool already. It does look very much like the one used my machine shops.


    Hi, The AMMCO sets I have do give some idea of stone selection and speed/rpm for different sizes but doubtful the cheaper sets give enough advice?
    What are you trying to do?
    If you want to get cylinders to first oversize for new pistons it's best to start with a coarse grit stone, 80~100 if available. Hone to within 0.002" then switch to a 240 or 280 grit. You can either buy a 320~400 grit 'FlexHone' or use 400~600 grit for finishing, if your building a semi race motor or turbo/supercharged I would use 600 grit rigid hone as it will give a finer smoother surface but takes MUCH longer than the 'production' machine shops methods which is why it isn't used very often nowadays.

    Oh, and although this is under creative common licence, it's for 'home use' not commercial use

    1 reply

    NP, actually I want to learn how to do it. The nissan motor I had in a truck I bought was/is in poor shape.