Think Thin: Gapless Rings Are Smaller And Make More Power

Photo by Heath Lawson

Every racer wants to win. That’s not exactly a big secret. It’s been that way for more than a century, and as long as there is racing, it will most definitely continue to be that way. More times than not, the difference in winning and losing can be found in the components that go into your race car.
There’s no shortage of desire amongst competitors to have the best parts available. Unfortunately, though, for many teams, it can be hard to gain access to the “latest and greatest” technology. So many times, access to cutting-edge products can be limited to only the upper-echelon teams.

With this problem in mind, Total Seal Piston Rings is stepping up to the plate to bridge the gap between the technologies that racers need and their ability to obtain it.

“Basically what we are doing is bringing top-notch, piston ring technology to the masses that previously only NASCAR level guys could get,” says Keith Jones, director of technical sales at Total Seal. “Our AP Ultra-Thin Ring Packs offer maximum efficiency and significantly reduced friction for normally aspirated engines.”

While Total Seal has really hit their stride in the past few decades, their drive to produce innovative and creative parts began 50 years ago in 1967. The late Joe Moriarty created the Arizona-based company with the intent of manufacturing two-piece Gapless ring sets. Of his own design, these were originally developed for use in a rotary engine.

Machining the Gapless piston rings out of his garage in Phoenix, Moriarty’s company quickly began to grow. An article in Hot Rod Magazine in the early 1970s brought national exposure to the company, and from that point, things really caught fire.

“The thing about Joe is that he was always striving to be better, and he instilled that value in the company, and it’s still here today,” Jones comments.

“Our main goal with our products is to continually find ways to improve efficiency. We work diligently to produce minimally-sized products so that the engine doesn’t waste horsepower on overcoming the demands created by friction,” he continues. “That led us to our AP Ultra-Thin Ring technology. While thickness and weight might be minimized in the piston rings, the strength and durability is stronger than ever.”

With the AP Ultra-Thin Ring Packs from Total Seal, the thickness of the top piston ring and second ring are half the thickness of a conventional ring pack. This smaller thickness results in less surface area in contact with the cylinder wall, which means less opportunity for friction. The oil ring is also less than half the thickness of an oil ring from a conventional ring pack.

This reduction in friction within the engine means more power to the crankshaft, which results in more overall power and better fuel economy.


In addition, the AP Ultra-Thin Ring Packs offer more power by implementing a 0.126-inch radial depth — typical radial depth is 0.20 inch. This reduced radial depth results in excellent bore conformability.

“The bore conformability is key for performance,” Jones notes. “The reality is that cylinders bend and twist a lot under load, so the rings need to conform to match the changes. This keeps the entire process operating more efficiently by limiting ‘blow by,’ which again leads to more power.”

The AP Ultra-Thin Ring Packs are available in both Gapless and conventional styles. While there are options in what you can choose for your engine, Jones is quick to note which choice is most efficient.

“For some racers and builders, there’s a bit of a comfort zone with conventional rings, and I fully understand that because they’ve been used for a long time,” he says. “However, the reality is that conventional rings just aren’t as efficient because they leave a gap. This gap allows air and fuel to escape on the intake stroke. Conversely, Gapless rings are sealing the gap, so it makes the engine a more efficient air pump.

“The bottom line is that we are more than happy to sell you either configuration, but the Gapless rings will always make more power.”


Total Seal is also striving to offer piston ring options for racers who are limited by specific rules packages.

“We’ve developed spacer sets for racers who are required to run big groove, stock pistons,” Jones comments. “The spacers allow these competitors to run our AP Ultra-Thing Ring Packs and get all of the great benefits they have to offer, while still remaining within the constraints of their track’s rules.”

From a power standpoint, Jones says the differences can be shocking.

“I’ve seen as much as a 28-hp gain with the use of these spacers and AP Ultra-Thin Ring Packs,” he says. “This comes because of a massive reduction in friction.”

Fifty years after Total Seal Piston Rings first began producing race-winning products, the company is now stronger than ever. With their newest technology, they are truly providing racers (from just about any division) with products that will keep them a cut above the competition.

Source: Total Seal Piston Rings,

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