smalldrobanner.gif (3353 bytes)

Sealing the Unsealable:
Engine Gasket Installation Tips

Text and photos by Glen Grissom.

It's easy to take for granted how critical engine sealing is until a gasket or sealing bead of RTV (Room Temperature Vulcanizing) silicone rubber fails. In today's modern drag race engine, with its incredibly high combustion pressures and high vacuum being pulled on the oil pan, for example, durable and stable gasket sealing of engine mating parts is paramount for solid runs. The consequences of inadequate gasket installation range from engine damage at worst, say when a head gasket fails; or marginalized performance at best, for instance when an oil pan gasket won't fully seal. Either way, you may not advance to the next round.

Drag racing places engine gaskets in extreme conditions. Copper head gaskets are the norm at high HP. Laurie Cannister uses Flatout copper gaskets with their unique Masket fluid-sealant bead in her Funny Car. (Photo courtesy Flatout Race Gaskets)

DRO has gathered here some basic engine gasket prep and installation tips. We got veteran race engine builder Keith Dorton, owner of Automotive Specialists to reveal some of his hard-earned gasket survival tips and advice. Over his 35-plus years in comprehensive and varied race engine building -- one of his first engine jobs was at Ford powerhouse Holman-Moody -- Keith has done head gasket durability research for a major race engine gasket manufacturer. One part of that research involved access to many bottles of nitrous oxide and stacks of prototype head gasket designs, and the enviable mandate to apply the nitrous and make power until the gaskets or engine parts gave out. Consequently, he knows plenty about the "care and feeding" of engine gaskets used in racing action.

Keith Dorton points out a typical oil pan/engine block mating problem due to production tolerances. The pan pinches down to allow no gap for a gasket.

For readers whose idea of horsepower begins at 800 HP and above, DRO talked to Patrick Wilkerson of Flatout Racing Gaskets about sealing with copper gaskets. Patrick and co-owner Mark Adelizzi are former long-time employees of venerable gasket maker Fel-Pro, so they too have plenty of technical savvy and insight about getting the best engine sealing when too much HP is just right.


Having a clean work area is obvious when doing engine assembly, and you can't go wrong getting a race engine's mating surfaces meticulously clean before applying a gasket. For instance, that means removing all traces of previous gasket material; use a non-metallic scraper (i.e., brass) if prepping an aluminum surface so you don't gouge it and bung up the sealing surface. Carefully inspect all passages for any stray residual trash after a engine block or head or other part is cleaned in a spray washer or soaked in a hot/cold chemical tank.


Go to the place to by cool junk from DRO and CRO. We've got all sorts of cool trash and trinkets for your purchasing pleasure on our secure e-commerce platform.

Most of the stuff you'll find here is unique to us and it is only sold here.

Show everybody that you've got a different perspective.




Diecast Cars


Copyright 1999-2001, Drag Racing Online and Racing Net Source