A piston is a cylindrical engine component that slides back and forth in the cylinder bore by forces produced during the combustion process. The piston acts as a movable end of the combustion chamber. The stationary end of the combustion chamber is the cylinder head. Pistons are commonly made of a cast aluminum alloy for excellent and lightweight thermal conductivity. Thermal conductivity is the ability of a material to conduct and transfer heat. Aluminum expands when heated, and proper clearance must be provided to maintain free piston movement in the cylinder bore. Insufficient clearance can cause the piston to seize in the cylinder. Excessive clearance can cause a loss of compression and an increase in piston noise.
Piston rings seal the combustion chamber, transferring heat to the cylinder wall and controlling oil consumption. A piston ring seals the combustion chamber through inherent and applied pressure.