Piston rings are designed to seal the gap between the piston and the cylinder wall. If this gap were too small, thermal expansion of the piston could mean the piston seizes in the cylinder, causing serious damage to the engine. On the other hand, a large gap would cause insufficient sealing of the piston rings against the cylinder walls, resulting in excessive blow-by (combustion gases entering the crankcase) and less pressure on the cylinder, reducing the power output of the engine.

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