The term “building an engine” has a few different meanings. For some, upgrading factory parts with stronger, better ones, or going all-out and building an engine for racing or pulling. Today, we’re discussing MAHLE Motorsports and its latest release in the PowerPak piston line for the Power Stroke, Cummins, and Duramax diesel engines.
Power Stroke performance has certainly come a long way in the last decade. And with that, I had a few questions for the experts at MAHLE. In fact, I was lucky enough to speak with Justin Dossett at MAHLE Motorsport to get the real scoop on these PowerPak pistons. Are the stock pistons known to fail in Power Stroke engines? Why do Power Stroke engine builders need to use MAHLE’s PowerPak pistons instead of the stock units?
All The Details
“While it is known that the stock Power Stroke pistons will support much higher than factory horsepower numbers (some engines higher than others), they are not designed for competition use. Our PowerPak forged pistons for the Power Stroke engine are designed to the customers’ specs to their desired power levels,” says Dossett.
That means you can completely customize your piston design based on your needs? This isn’t just an off-the-shelf unit that everyone has? “Correct”, Dossett affirms. “We can do virtually anything you need. We can increase crown thickness, skirt thickness, pin-boss area, bowl geometry, piston skirt, and land shape, all to tailor them to your specific engine needs.”
For me, someone who is heavily into motorsports, it seems as if this is a great option. I want deeper valve reliefs, I can get it. I want thicker crowns, no problem. I realize these pistons are, for now, forged, and this means they are intended for racing and pulling applications with limited street use. With that said, the heat was a question of mine.
At what power level or heat threshold do you believe these pistons are necessary? Some use different injectables that may increase cylinder heat, which sometimes results in melted piston tops. “Since the MAHLE PowerPak pistons fo the Power Stroke is forged, yes they are limited to racing/pulling with not a ton of street use,” Dossett explained.
“There are several different engines in the Power Stroke family, and it is honestly tough to nail down a specific horsepower number for each, you know? I would say a rough range would be between 800 and 1,000-horsepower is when these pistons are necessary,” Dossett says. So, if you know you’re in or north of this range, it’s pretty clear you’re going to want a product you can trust.
Let’s say you’re ready. You’re deep into building a 6.4 for your pull or drag truck and you need a set. What’s the turnaround on a set? “Typically, manufacturing takes about four weeks. We send out a data sheet to the customer to be completed and depending on how long it takes to get that back, it could be up to six weeks,” Dossett states.
The datasheet he’s referring to is basically the anatomy of your pistons. This is how you can single-handedly choose what configuration your pistons will have. Enough talking about it, get yours today.
I’ve heard the term PowerPak piston before seeing this Power Stroke piston release. This must mean MAHLE offers them for multiple engines, right? “Yes! We offer Cummins and Duramax kits too. As a matter of fact, we are now letting everyone know we can do customization of all three of the big manufacturers. Cummins, Duramax, and Power Stroke,” Dossett says.
“The PowerPak kits are what MAHLE calls the shelf-stocking piston kits. These kits are ready to use off the shelf and include all of the necessary components to complete the piston, pin, clips, and ring assembly. In the past, competitor’s piston kits excluded rings and left the decision of which rings were used up to the end-user,” he says.
In my opinion, that seems like more guesswork than necessary. I would want to leave it to the experts to tell me how it needs to be, you know? Dossett continues, “Leaving that decision up to the customer could result in less-than-optimal performance since the ring grooves were cut to fit a wide array of rings. We decided to tailor our pistons to their rings which provide a better fit and performance using the PowerPak.”.
Finishing off our interview with Mr. Dossett, we had just one more question; What are some final thoughts for our readers when it comes to choosing the correct pistons and hardware for their build? “The advantage of designing from scratch allows us to take all of those factors into consideration and design a crown that achieves the customer’s desired compression ratio,” he states.
“This also allows us to maintain proper section thickness under the bowl and keep the overall mass in check. Another thing to mention as well, is the factory pistons aren’t designed for high RPM usage. The stock pistons can be modified to reduce bowl cracking and alter compression, but nothing can be done to overcome the RPM limitations.”
It was great talking with Dossett and the crew at MAHLE about its products, and it is exciting news that they are now offering the custom program for all platforms that we know and love. But before I signed it off, I wanted some feedback from some end users that have dealt with this process and the products first-hand.
When it comes to pioneers of the Power Stroke platform, I reached out to the guys at Rudy’s Diesel Performance. I was directed to Nathannial Delong, the guy in charge of all things Power Stroke at Rudy’s Motorsports. Delong stepped in and gave us a first-hand look at what it’s like dealing with MAHLE and what Rudy’s loves about the products.
“First off, let me start by saying I am usually the one out in the shop building engines, doing chassis fabrication, setting up the race trucks, etc. With that said, I will do my best to relay this information the best I can,” Delong said. “When I came to Rudy’s just over three years ago, I was put in charge of all of the race trucks.”
“I knew I needed to get a couple of engines ready, and just before I started, the four-wheel-drive truck grenaded an engine at the Ultimate Callout Challenge. In the past, I have used MAHLE pistons in other engines I’ve built, multiple customer engines, my own, and for friends that have competed in Diesel Power Challenge,” Delong states.
“All of these engines were Duramax or Power Stroke engines, and I’ve had nothing but great results and no issues with the pistons. Naturally, when you had success in the past, there is no reason to make a change, right? While I did more research, in the end, I decided to go with and stick with the proven MAHLE pistons.”