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Crankcase Breather (20)

A crankcase ventilation system is a way for gases to escape in a controlled manner from the crankcase of an internal combustion engine.

This is necessary because internal combustion inevitably involves a small but continual amount of blow-by, which occurs when some of the gases from the combustion leak past the piston rings (that is, blow by them) to end up inside the crankcase.

The first refinement in crankcase ventilation was the road draft tube, which is a pipe running from a high location contiguous to the crankcase (such as the side of the engine block, or the valve cover on an overhead valve engine) down to an open end facing down and located in the vehicle's slipstream. When the vehicle is moving, airflow across the open end of the tube creates a draft that pulls gases out of the crankcase. The high location of the engine end of the pipe minimises liquid oil loss. An air inlet path to the crankcase, called the breather and often incorporated into the oil filler cap, meant that when a draft was generated at the tube, fresh air swept through the crankcase to clear out the blow-by gases.

The road draft tube, though simple, has shortcomings: it does not function when the vehicle is moving too slowly to create a draft, so postal and other slow-moving delivery vehicles tended to suffer rapid buildup of engine sludge due to poor crankcase ventilation. And non-road vehicles such as boats never generated a draft on the tube, no matter how fast they were going. The draft tube discharged the crankcase gases, composed largely of unburnt hydrocarbons, directly into the air. This created pollution as well as objectionable odors. Moreover, the draft tube could become clogged with snow or ice, in which case crankcase pressure would build and cause oil leaks and gasket failure.

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