New materials, improved designs and lower prices (at least for some valves). That pretty much sums up what’s going on with valves, retainers and springs today. These are extremely important parts in every engine because of their impact on engine performance, durability and cost.
Satisfying demand is the key. Rick Simko of Elgin Industries, Elgin, IL, says his company is focusing on more late model engines that are in demand, such as the Chrysler 2.7L in 1998 and newer Dodge Intrepids and other models, the Chrysler 4.7L in Durangos and Jeeps, plus Ford’s 5.4L and 6.8L V8s, and other engines. These are all engines that are being rebuilt so there’s a growing demand for parts for these applications.
“We’re not abandoning the small block Chevy by any means, but there’s only so much you can do with new valve materials and designs for the older engines. We do have performance valves but we’re not getting into titanium,” says Simko.
He says Elgin has plans for other new metals for spring retainers. As for springs, the company specifies “valve grade” wire which is better quality than the “commercial grade” wire many spring manufacturers use. It’s more durable than ordinary wire. “We are also doing conical beehive springs for the newer Ford and GM engines that require these type of springs.”
New Or Reman Valves?
“You can now sell a reman cylinder head with new valves for about the same price as a head with reclaimed valves,” says Hunter Betts of Enginetech, Carrollton, TX. “That’s why we are seeing more rebuilders moving away from reclaiming valves and buying new valves. The prices have really come down and are very competitive with reclaimed valves.
“You don’t have to clean, sort, rechrome or grind valves if you use new ones, and you don’t have to install guides or liners either. All you have to do is ream out the guides to accept a new valve with an oversized stem and drop in the valve. It’s a much faster and easier process for most people,” Betts continues.
“For many years, production engine builders were the only ones who were buying new valves in significant numbers,” Betts says. “Now we’re seeing the smaller five- and six- man shops buying a lot of new valves.”
Why the change? Betts says it eliminates a bottleneck in the shop and speeds everything up. Rebuilders can turn jobs around faster, lower their labor costs, and be more productive and profitable.
“It’s the same with springs,” Betts says. “New springs are so cheap why would anybody waste their time cleaning and checking old springs? It’s easier just to replace them. You also reduce the risk of comebacks caused by spring failures.”
Jeff Richardson of Federal-Mogul, Southfield, MI, echoes those same sentiments. “Most production engine builders today buy new valves and ream out the old guides to .015 oversize, then drop in the new valves with oversize stems.”
Today’s engines also require higher quality valves that contain more nickel to withstand the heat. Federal-Mogul recently changed the alloy of its exhaust valves to a 21-4N which contains four percent nickel, says Richardson.
Exhaust valves require tougher alloys because they’re exposed to much higher operating temperatures than the intakes. They receive little cooling from the incoming air/fuel mixture. Consequently, exhaust valves typically see temperatures of up to 1,400