A worn air compressor cylinder head gasket leads to excessive leaks, and that increases your energy usage when attempting to maintain a consistent air supply. Replacing the head gasket is often a simple matter of unbolting the top of the cylinder head, but locating a replacement gasket can take time or may even be impossible if the part isn't readily available. Fortunately, you can create your own replacement head gasket from copper that will achieve comparable results to the official manufactured part.
Copper gaskets provide excellent sealing and can last a long time on a well-maintained compressor. Below is a list of tools and materials you will need to craft a copper head gasket as well as a step-by-step procedure:
Tools and materials needed
- Dead-soft, annealed copper sheeting
- Wooden mallet
- Gasket dressing
- Shears or heavy-duty scissors
- Carburetor cleaner spray
- Triple-ought (000) steel wool pad
- Rachet and socket set
1. Remove the old gasket from the cylinder head - Unbolt the air compressor's cylinder head using a ratchet and appropriately sized socket and set it aside. The gasket may be stuck to either the upper part of the head or the bottom section, so peel it carefully from its location. Be sure not to drop any pieces of the gasket into the cylinder itself; debris can cause serious damage to the compressor.
2. Measure the thickness of the old gasket and the dimensions of the cylinder head - With a micrometer, measure the thickness of the gasket in thousandths of an inch. Copper sheets are often sold in mils, each of which is equal to one-thousandth of an inch. For example, a gasket that measures 15/1000 of an inch is equal to 15 mils.
With a ruler, measure the length and width of the old head gasket to its furthest dimensions; if the gasket is too badly damaged to measure, then measure the bare cylinder head. This will help you determine what size copper sheet you need to purchase.
3. Purchase a sheet of copper - For an air compressor head gasket, you will need to purchase a dead-soft, annealed sheet of copper. This type of copper is easy to shape and cut and will resist the heat and pressure created by a compressor. Be sure your copper is the same thickness, or as close as possible, to the gasket you removed and that the sheet is big enough to cover the cylinder head.
4. Outline and cut the copper gasket - After you have your copper sheet in hand, place it upon the top of the bare cylinder head so that it completely covers the head. Next, while firmly holding the copper in position, use a wooden mallet to lightly tap the edges of the cylinders and the surrounding edges all across the surface of the copper. Do not strike the copper hard and be sure to maintain its exact alignment with the cylinder head. Continue tapping until all of the edges have been tapped. Remove the copper sheet and turn it over to verify the lines of the edges are visible.
Once the lines are imprinted, use a pair of shears or strong scissors to cut along the lines. Work slowly and deliberately, and snip off jagged or other irregular areas.
5. Clean the copper gasket and head surfaces - Once the new gasket is cut, it should be thoroughly cleaned before installation. Spray the gasket surfaces using carburetor cleaner, front and back, and also the cylinder heads themselves. If necessary, scrub the cylinder heads with Triple-ought (000) steel wool to remove old residues. Allow the cleaner to evaporate before moving on the next step.
6. Spray the gasket with gasket dressing and install - For best adhesion, spray the cleaned gasket with a gasket dressing; allow the dressing to dry for a night before attempting to reinstall it. Reinstall the gasket using the same procedure that was used to remove it and tighten the bolts to reduce any possibility of leaking.
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