EngineLabs’ Tool Of The Month — Summit Racing Pro Ring Filer

When it comes to building an engine, better tools often lead to a much better assembly process. Whether it’s through increased ease of use, faster task completion, or more accurate results, having nice tools makes the process of building an engine nicer for the person turning the wrenches (as a reader of EngineLabs, that person is most likely you). Enter Summit Racing’s Pro Ring Filer, which does all three of the things mentioned above.

Properly sizing the piston ring gap is an absolutely crucial step in any engine build. That spec is important, and properly achieving that gap is a lot more challenging than it first appears. First and foremost, you must remove the proper amount of material in order to achieve the proper end gap. Next, you need to ensure that the end you’ve been filing on is square in two separate axes. Third, you need to ensure your finish is smooth, clean, and free of any burrs that might cause physical damage or hot spots once installed.

The included diamond wheel dressing tool is designed to dress your abrasive wheel, making it square to the ring end. It fits in the grinder the same as a piston ring being run against the wheel.

There are a number of types of filers on the market. The manual styles can be as simple as a hand file, but are usually a hand-cranked grinding wheel. The Summit Racing Pro Ring Filer is a power filer — that is, it uses an electric motor to spin the grinding disc. Even within this category, there is a wide range of styles, ranging from a manual-style wheel with a drill motor attached to it, up through various levels until you get to the tool you see here, which has every bell and whistle possible. Oh, and it’s available in a huge array of colors and candy finishes.

Building A Better Mousetrap

Designed and built right here in the USA, with American materials, we’ve actually seen them being built in-person while down in Phoenix, Arizona. The heavy-duty steel parts are precision bent, minimizing the number of welds needed in the units’ construction. It uses either a 110-volt or 220-volt high-precision electric motor (depending on your electrical requirements) that sounds only like a smooth hum at full song.

Here you can see the progress of dressing the wheel over about .012 inch of feeding. While that is only .012 inch over an inch and a half (or half a degree), now we're sure to be 100-percent square.

At first, the Summit Pro Ring Filer might look complicated and intimidating, with several knobs, moving parts, and indicators, but all those components combine to actually make it far simpler to use. The main platform houses a clamp to securely hold the piston ring and an adjustable post for repeatable locating of the ring. The whole platform pivots down to run the ring face across the face of the grinding wheel at the perfect angle every time. The flip-up platform lock also doubles as a ring-face stop, which in conjunction with the adjustable post, lines everything up the same every time.

Cutting Rings With A Power Ring Filer

The process for setting the filer up takes longer to read about than to do. Once you have the piston ring locked in, the magic really starts to happen. First, you lower the platform and dial in the bed until the ring just contacts the grinding wheel. At that point, you zero out the dial indicator. For the first ring, you’ll want to make a test cut less than the final gap spec, in order to ensure the cut is square once in the bore. If it isn’t, you simply adjust the post until you get a straight cut.

Using the table stop as a ring stop, you square up your ring. Then when you drop the stop, you can rock the table forward to run the face of the ring against the grinding wheel.

Once that is all set up, it’s as simple as determining how much needs to come off of a particular ring, mounting it in the grinder, and grinding that exact amount off of the ring. The included dial indicator measures to the thousandth of an inch, so with careful reading, you can be precise to the half-a-thousandth.

Once you have your ring cut to size, there is a deburring/dressing wheel on the opposite side of the Pro Ring Filer that allows you to dress the edges of your freshly cut ring, easily, quickly, and without any chance of messing up that fresh face of the ring. That’s it, done. The dial indicator cuts down on how many times you need to recheck the gap in the bore. The tilt table eliminates any worries of cutting the ring at an angle, and all of the stops and locks mean that each ring is locked into the same spot with no hassle, every time.

Getting a square cut on the end of the ring is extremely important. The Summit Racing Pro Ring Filer makes it easy to get a perfect cut every time.

Let’s address the elephant in the room; the unit is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. However, it is the top of the line when it comes to the Summit Racing piston ring filer lineup (or really, ring filers in general) and after using it, along with other styles of ring filers over the years, it is absolutely worth the investment. It’s faster, easier, and more precise to use, while looking awesome to boot!

Once cut, the convenient deburring wheel allows you to clean up the edge of your cut for a perfect fit on the piston.

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About the author

Greg Acosta

Greg has spent nineteen years and counting in automotive publishing, with most of his work having a very technical focus. Always interested in how things work, he enjoys sharing his passion for automotive technology with the reader.
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