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What is a Cylinder head?
In an internal combustion engine, the cylinder head sits above the cylinders and consists of a platform containing part of the combustion chamber and the location of the valves and spark plugs. In a flathead engine, the mechanical parts of the valve train are all contained within the block, and the head is essentially a flat plate of metal bolted to the top of the cylinder bank with a head gasket in between; this simplicity leads to ease of manufacture and repair, and accounts for the flathead engine’s early success in production automobiles and continued success in small engines, such as lawnmowers. This design, however, requires the incoming air to flow through a convoluted path, which limits the ability of the engine to perform at higher rpm, leading to the adoption of the overhead valve head design. In the overhead valve head, the top half of the cylinder head contains the camshaft in an overhead cam engine, or another mechanism (such as rocker arms and pushrods) to transfer rotational mechanics from the crankshaft to linear mechanics to operate the valves (pushrod engines perform this conversion at the camshaft lower in the engine and use a rod to push a rocker arm that acts on the valve). Internally the cylinder head has passages called ports for the fuel/air mixture to travel to the inlet valves from the intake manifold, for exhaust gases to travel from the exhaust valves to the exhaust manifold, and for antifreeze to cool the head and engine. The number of cylinder heads in an engine is a function of the engine configuration. A straight engine has only one cylinder head. A V engine usually has two cylinder heads, one at each end of the V, although Volkswagen, for instance, produces a V6 called the VR6, where the angle between the cylinder banks is so narrow that it utilizes a single head. A boxer engine has two heads. The cylinder head is key to the performance of the internal combustion engine, as the shape of the combustion chamber, inlet passages and ports (and to a lesser extent the exhaust) determines a major portion of the volumetric efficiency and compression ratio of the engine.
A Crossflow cylinder head is a cylinder head that features the intake and exhaust ports on opposite sides. The gases can be thought to flow across the head. This is in contrast to reverse-flow cylinder head designs that have the ports on the same side. A Crossflow head gives better performance, but the popular explanation put forward for this — that the gases don’t have to change direction and hence are moved into and out of the cylinder more efficiently — is a simplification since there is no continuous flow because of valve opening and closing. But since there is overlap between the intake and exhaust profiles there is a point in which both valves are open. At that point the inertia of the exhaust gases leaving the cylinder helps to aspirate the intake gases into the cylinder. The other main reason for a crossflow’s performance is that the ports and valves can be larger and its physical separation of the hot exhaust manifold keeps the air in the intake manifold cooler. Most modern engines are of a Crossflow design. “Crossflow” is often used to refer specifically to Ford Motor Company’s Kent Crossflow 4-cylinder OHV engine. This unit has been used in cars from the 1960s up to the present day, albeit with the addition of fuel injection and a modern engine management system. The term was also briefly used in the early 1980s in Australia for the revised 4.1 litre inline six-cylinder engine in Ford’s Australian large family car, the Falcon. This was in response to the post-1979 fuel crisis where the Falcon was a comparatively fuel-inefficient car compared to its contemporary rivals. This term is used for engines which have only one intake and one exhaust valve per cylinder; four (or five) valves per cylinder engines get their superior performance from total port size, not the relative location of the ports.