There’s a reason most engine internals, including the pistons, are made from metal. As part of the combustion chamber, they’re subject to immense changes in heat and pressure—something that only a metal alloy can withstand without fracturing or deforming. So what happens when you substitute metal pistons for plastic ones? This Russian YouTube channel found out for themselves.
Garage 54 on YouTube decided to see if one of the junked cars in their collection would run on pistons made from Bakelite, a plastic made from synthetic compounds. The pistons are cut to size, fitted with piston rings and rods, and put back into the engine. Somehow, the pistons manage to generate enough compression to actually get the car running… for a few minutes, anyway. The heat generated from the constant combustion quickly deforms the plastic, seizes the engine, and causes smoke to fill Garage 54’s shop.
The team doesn’t give up, though. They allow the pistons to cool and start up the engine a few more times before it finally gives up for good. A compression test done after the fact shows the engine has fully lost compression in two of its four cylinders. The pistons are inspected upon removal, and show some serious signs of wear and damage. Not too surprising given what they were just subjected to. For the full story and video, check out this article from Road & Track.