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The failure analysis of an aluminum two-stroke single-cylinder 250 cc motocross engine piston with significant material cracking was performed using both computational and theoretical approaches revealing several contributing factors to the cracking. A main central crack in the piston skirt is the direct result of mechanical fatigue imposed by the contact loads exerted on the piston during cold-start situations. Two symmetric secondary cracks also observed on the piston skirt region are similarly caused by the resulting contact of the piston skirt against the engine cylinder wall. Although thermal fatigue is considered, theoretical calculations dismiss the likelihood that thermal stresses develop as a result of the piston-cylinder wall contact under normal operating conditions. However, under extreme temperatures due to cold start or altered air/fuel ratios, thermal fatigue plays a more likely role. A finite element analysis confirms the critical stress locations resulting from the contact of the piston skirt against the engine cylinder wall, and analyses of the fracture surfaces confirm the initiation and propagation of the fatigue cracks.
Sharma, D., Ali, A., Alabdullah, M. et al. Thermal and Mechanical Failure Analysis of a Two-Stroke Motocross Engine Piston. J Fail. Anal. and Preven. 14, 21–26 (2014). doi: 10.1007/s11668-013-9770-6