One of the most critical components in an engine rebuild or upgrade is the cylinder head.
Camshafts, carburettors, and exhaust systems are easy ways to improve the air and fuel flow into and out of an engine. Whilst replacing or upgrading these components will enhance performance, it’s the cylinder head that will limit the amount of air that can flow into and out of the engine.
Attempts to increase power without considering the cylinder head usually don’t end well. Getting the cylinder head performing correctly with other components offers the most significant potential for increased power and efficiency and is particularly important with vintage or muscle cars.
A well-performing cylinder head also helps prevent fuel wastage or damage by partially burnt air/fuel mixture.
So, no matter what you bolt on to increase power and performance, you must ensure the cylinder head is up for the task. Otherwise, you won’t get optimal performance out of the other components.
Should you recondition or buy a new cylinder head?
The three main reasons to consider reconditioning your cylinder head rather than buying a new one are:
Availability – getting a new cylinder head for older model engines is impossible for some vintage vehicles as they’re just not being produced anymore. Even engines that are only 20-30 years old. In the rare case that your cylinder head can’t be repaired, you can usually find a donor head for reconditioning.
Cost savings – the cost of reconditioning a cylinder head is considerably cheaper than buying a new one. Most cylinder heads can be repaired, and it could be that only a few components are damaged.
Performance – as mentioned above, improving your cylinder head’s airflow, fuel burn, compression, and strength can offer the best way to increase power and performance. Matching these to suit your camshaft, carburettors and exhaust system is essential to ensure you get the most out of your engine.