As a vital component in the valve train of internal combustion engines (ICEs), the cam/tappet pair undergoes high mechanical and thermal loads and usually works in a mixed and boundary lubrication regime. This leads to considerable friction loss and severe surface wear. Currently, the applications of diamond-like carbon (DLC) coatings for automotive components are becoming a promising strategy to reduce the friction and lower the wear. However, the practical performance of the coating is related to many factors, including friction coefficient, thermal properties, load conditions, and surface topography. In order to investigate these factors and successively improve the fuel efficiency and durability of the cam/tappet pair, a comprehensive multi-physics analytical model considering the mechanical, thermal and tribological properties of DLC coatings is established in this paper. Simulations are carried out for the coated as well as the uncoated cam/tappet conjunctions with different roughness at various ambient temperatures. The results show that both the fluid and asperity contact friction for the coated cam/tappet conjunction are significantly reduced due to their favourable characteristics. As a result, the friction loss of the coated cam/tappet pair is noticeably lower by almost 40% than that of the uncoated, despite a slightly higher asperity contact. In addition, the wear resistance of DLC coatings is also impressive, although the wear condition becomes progressively more severe with the increasing ambient temperature. Moreover, the roughness has complex effects on the friction and wear under different conditions.
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