"Another added benefit is the gaskets are a uniform thickness allowing for a better clamp load distribution from the head into the block which in turn reduces overall bore distortion and improves piston ring seal. Composite gaskets focus the majority of the clamping load to the cylinder bore because of the fire rings that are typically used are thicker than the overall gasket."

Another useful feature of the MLS design is that it's easy to use the gasket as a method for dialing in the exact compression ratio you need. By making the inner piece (or pieces) of stainless steel thicker or thinner, you can control the compressed thickness of the gasket without affecting the quality of the seal.

"Cometic offers gasket thicknesses from 0.027-inch up to 0.140," Kistner says. "We design our MLS gaskets in a way that allows all thickness to seal equally. (But) the engine builder does need to keep in mind that intake manifold fitment and pushrod length need to be checked if the thickness of the head gasket has been changed drastically."

Better Bolts
"Head gaskets in general are extremely dependent on the head fasteners, torque values, and procedures," Kistner adds. "In fact, this is one of the main causes that leads to premature gasket failure. Cometic's MLS head gaskets will seal with stock bolts and stock torque values, however, if the cylinder pressure of the engine is enough to overcome the tensile strength of those bolts then the heads could lift the block enough to compromise the gasket. This is why so many engine builders prefer the use of aftermarket head studs made from stronger materials that have a higher resistance to stretching."

In other words, it doesn't matter if you're using premium gaskets in your engine build if the head bolts you've chosen aren't up to the job. Quality aftermarket fasteners are more expensive, but they will prove their worth, not only in improved sealing ability but also in the fact that they are reusable through multiple engine rebuilds while stock head bolts should be thrown out after every rebuild.

To give you a better idea of the best practices when it comes to installing a set of cylinder heads and getting optimum gasket seal, we visited the shops of Automotive Specialists where owner Keith Dorton was working on an ARCA SB2 race engine. We thought it would be interesting to show you an SB2 because, while you may never see these heads in Street Stock racing classes, it's becoming more accepted in other classes.

All the basic concepts are still the same no matter if you're working on the traditional Chevy small-block (the head bolt pattern is even the same) or a Ford Windsor. The complexity of the SB2 head just requires a few extra precautions. And a little extra time up front will result in better performance down the road.

Cometic Gaskets
8090 Auburn Road
OH  44077
Automotive Specialists
4357 Triple Crown Drive
NC  28027