In an internal combustion engine, the cylinder head (often informally abbreviated to just head) sits above the cylinders on top of the cylinder block. It closes in the top of the cylinder, forming the combustion chamber. This joint is sealed by a head gasket. In most engines, the head also provides space for the passages that feed air and fuel to the cylinder, and that allow the exhaust to escape. The head can also be a place to mount the valves, spark plugs, and fuel injectors.
Internally, the cylinder head has passages called ports or tracts for the fuel/air mixture to travel to the inlet valves from the intake manifold, and for exhaust gases to travel from the exhaust valves to the exhaust manifold. In a water-cooled engine, the cylinder head also contains integral ducts and passages for the engines’ coolant – usually a mixture of water and antifreeze – to facilitate the transfer of excess heat away from the head, and therefore the engine in general.
In the overhead valve (OHV) design, the cylinder head contains the poppet valves and the spark plugs, along with tracts or ‘ports’ for the inlet and exhaust gases. The operation of the valves is initiated by the engine’s camshaft, which is sited within the cylinder block, and its moment of operation is transmitted to the valves’ pushrods, and then rocker arms mounted on a rocker shaft – the rocker arms and shaft also being located within the cylinder head.
In the overhead camshaft (OHC) design, the cylinder head contains the valves, spark plugs and inlet/exhaust tracts just like the OHV engine, but the camshaft is now also contained within the cylinder head. The camshaft may be seated centrally between each offset row of inlet and exhaust valves, and still also utilizing rocker arms (but without any pushrods), or the camshaft may be seated directly above the valves eliminating the rocker arms and utilizing ‘bucket’ tappets.
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