Know it all Tuning Your Car with High Performance Engine Pistons

There is no substitute for cubic inches when you are considering an upgrade to your engine so that you can enjoy added power and torque. Stroker motors are probably the most popular motors and that fact really helps put momentum into the piston industry. Small block engines for Chevy and Ford have long rules the engine builder’s garage. However, with more available parts coming out all the time, LS1 and the Ford 4.6 liter engines have stepped up to the rebuild arena. Regardless of the style of engine you are rebuilding, one thing is for certain, aftermarket engine pistons will do you some good in getting it to perform to its max.

This article will help clarify some things and give you tips as you add better engine pistons to your build.

How Does an Engine Piston Work?

At the heart of your engine you will find your cylinder. Within that cylinder there are your engine pistons that move up and down. Depending on your type of engine, you typically will have four, six, or eight cylinders. Because there is more than one cylinder, they will be arranged in one of three fashions, a V, inline, or boxed. Each has their own set of quirks and positive aspects in terms of operation, cost, and fitment. These characteristics make them better suited for different applications.

  • It is the piston’s job to transfer force from the gas that is expanding in the cylinder to the crankshaft. The pistons in each cylinder are connected by a rod which allows the up and down movement. Air and fuel are mixed and pulled into the cylinder. The cylinder compresses it, the spark ignites it, and boom- you have power via combustion. The expanding gases caused by this combustion, force the engine piston to move during the power stroke.
  • Pistons undergo high temperatures and tons of force as they operate within your engine. When you increase your outputs and add things like a turbocharger, you subject them to even higher temperatures and more force and abuse.
  • Aftermarket engine pistons can help minimize wear and tear under these straining conditions by design modifications and special coatings that help reduce friction. This allows you to rebuild your engine and other areas of your vehicle with upgrades to gain that max torque and power.
  • Stock engine pistons just could not handle the pressure. Due to the incredibly harsh environment this important component resides, it should definitely be one of the modifications you should consider.

General Specifications and Considerations

  • Typically 4, 6, or 8 in an engine;
  • Found in reciprocating engines;
  • Usually stock engine pistons are made from cast aluminum alloy because of its ability to transfer heat;
  • With new technology and manufacturing techniques, pistons can be designed and created in a very short amount of time. This allows profitability in short runs and thus, manufacturers can offer pistons that would otherwise have had to been made custom;
  • There is a wide variety of designs available so that there is likely something to fit every application;
  • Forged pistons are ideal for applications that run higher horsepower or include modifications such as nitrous oxide.

PROs and CONs of Engine Piston Tuning


  • Better materials allow for increased capability to handle higher temperatures and heavier impacts;
  • Greater available range of products make it easier to find the piston to fit your need;
  • Contains silicon to reduce expansion and minimize scuff;
  • Many have coatings that reduce friction and/or work as a thermal barrier;
  • Can greatly increase torque, power, and performance;
  • Allows you to integrate other power increasing modifications on your vehicle.


  • Require greater skirt to wall clearances depending on the type of material the piston is made of;
  • With so many profiles, it can be confusing to figure out which one is the best for your specific build;
  • Many get confused with the needed amount of compression. Finding that ideal compression is necessary. This is because if you go too much over it, the pistons get slammed like hammers. Consequently, internal parts can get damaged;
  • You will likely have to replace the rod as well.

Examples of Engine Pistons

Speed-Pro Hypereutectic Pistons

This piston is specifically built for lighter truck applications. However, they have a FM244 aluminum alloy construction. This way, they can give you up to 30 percent more strength and durability than stock engine pistons. Ideal for high performance street racing, bracket racing, and oval track.

Reviewers love the perfect fit this brand offers and the tight-bore clearances. Customer service is top notch and the price is not sky-high. Great value for a great product.

Keith Black Performance Pistons

Since 1922, United Engine and Machine have been building a reputation for their pistons of the utmost quality. Thus, they carry and manufacture Keith Black pistons. These pistons mostly contain high silicon aluminum alloy. This makes them not only light weight but extremely durable. They are offered in a wide variety of styles to fit many applications.

Customers enjoy the high durability these pistons offer without them being too heavy. The knowledgeable staff is very helpful when having to choose the right profile. As price goes, they tend to run a bit higher than other pistons. But the power you gain is worth it.

JE Pistons- Big Block Flat Top

JE Pistons have gained the reputation as a go-to company for their precision and quality. The world’s top professional engine builders look to them for their incredible parts. You can enjoy that same quality in your engine.

Reviewers rave about the durability of these engine pistons.

Wrapping Up

Aftermarket pistons are a great way to help your engine perform under harsher conditions created by upgrading your build. In fact, for many applications such as street racing, it is a necessity. Choosing the right engine piston can be confusing. However, when you do find that right one, the power it brings is incredible.

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