Copper Head Gaskets.
Copper head gaskets are great for extremely high compression ratio (over 13:1), turbocharged or supercharged engines that are running lots of boost pressure (over 15 psi), or engines with nitrous oxide that add an extra 150 to 200 or more horsepower.
Due to the fact that Copper conducts heat much better than most other metals, Copper will help to stabilize a cylinder head and cylinder block temperatures. This will prevent any hot spots that can cause detonation or head warpage, and a Copper head gasket reduces the risk of the head gasket blowing out or burning through.
Copper has a 25 percent coefficient of elasticity which allows it to stretch before it will fail. if an engine starts to detonate because the air / fuel mixture leans out, or there is excessive ignition advance or too much compression and low fuel octane, a Copper head gasket will provide a margin of safety. Copper is strong and the alloys used for copper head gaskets may have a tensile strength of up to 32,000 psi, which is many times stronger than that of the materials used in conventional performance head gaskets.
Copper head gaskets are reusable for a limited number of times (3). This is a plus in situations where the heads are on and off the block between races, or frequent tear downs are required. One of the downsides of Copper head gaskets, though, is that they do not seal oil very well. A Copper head gasket must be coated with some type of sealer, and both mating surfaces must be absolutely flat and clean.
The way to anneal a Copper head gasket is that the gasket should only be heated until it is a dark red color and no more. After the Copper head gasket gasket has air cooled, the surface needs to be cleaned with a brush or abrasive pad to remove oxide from the surface. The Copper head gasket should then be cleaned with brake cleaner or a similar product and allowed to dry before it is coated with a sealer.
The sealer must be allowed to dry before the gasket is installed. Some aerosol sealers may require multiple coats for the best results. RTV silicone also works, and may be applied around oil galley openings in the cylinder head gasket, the cylinder block or cylinder head, only a thin coating should be used, and it must be allowed to set before the gasket is installed.
Copper is a soft metal and it does not provide much conformability. This is a good aspect because the gasket doesn’t crush when the head bolts are torqued down, thus the thickness of the gasket remains the same and does not change. Unfortunately a Copper head gasket does not conform very well to small indentations and surface irregularities in the cylinder head or cylinder block
If a copper head gasket is accidentally bent during removal, it can be straightened and annealed. But if the gasket has kinked, it should be replaced because a kink concentrates stress and hardens the metal. This will increase the risk of a Copper head gasket cracking. Copper head gaskets should not be cleaned by bead blasting because it will harden the metal. The same is true for hammering the metal.
On all applications using Copper head gaskets there should be annealed / softened Stainless Steel or Copper wire O-rings installed in grooves that machined into the block or cylinder head. The wire rings help concentrate loading around the cylinders to prevent combustion pressure from blowing past the gasket. These wire rings are typically .041″ in diameter, and are placed in a .039″ wide x .030″ deep groove. The wires should protrude only about .010″ above the surface of the deck, and the thickness of the gasket should be about four times the protrusion of the wires in their grooves, or about .040″. Engines that produce over three horsepower per cubic inch should also have a corresponding receiver groove machined into the head opposite the O-rings in the block for optimum sealing. The depth of the receiver grooves should be 75 percent of the O-ring protrusion and the width of the grooves should be 1.5 times that of the wire.