Here’s how your car’s engine works

Most people think of a car as a vehicle that they fill up with gas to get from A to B. Have you ever thought: How does it this? It moves. If you don’t have an electric car, the how magic is down to the internal combustion engine –that thing that makes noise under the hood. How does an engine work?

An internal-combustion engine, in particular, is a heat engine that converts heat from burning gasoline into energy, or torque. This torque is used to move the car. Except for an older two-stroke Saab, which sounds like a chainsaw and emits oily smoke from its exhaust pipe, your engine operates on the same principles regardless of whether you’re driving a Ford or Ferrari.

The pistons of an engine move inside tubes made from a metal called cylinders. Imagine you’re riding a bicycle. Your legs move up or down to turn the pedals. Pistons are connected to the crankshaft via rods, which look like your shins. They move up and down to spin their crankshaft. This crankshaft powers the bike’s or car’s drive wheels. There are usually between 2 and 12 cylinders within an engine depending on what vehicle you have. Each cylinder has a piston that moves up and down.

Where engine power comes from

The controlled explosions that power those pistons up or down are thousands of small controlled explosions every minute. These explosions are created by mixing fuel and oxygen and igniting it. The combustion stroke, also known as power stroke, is the time that the fuel ignites. This mini-explosion causes heat and expands gases to push the piston in the cylinder.

Nearly all internal-combustion engines today (for simplicity, we will focus on gasoline powerplants) are four-stroke. There are three strokes beyond the combustion stroke. This pushes the piston downward from the top of the cylinder.

To burn fuel, engines require air (namely oxygen). The intake stroke is when the valves are opened to allow the piston’s downward motion to be a syringe. This allows the engine to draw in air through its intake system. The intake valves are closed when the piston reaches its bottom stroke. This seals the cylinder for the compression stroke. The intake charge is compressed by the upward movement of the piston.

Four Strokes of a Four-Stroke Engine

Modern engines inject gasoline directly into the cylinders at the end of the compression stroke. Other engines mix the fuel and air during the intake stroke. In both cases, spark plugs light the fuel and air mixture just before the piston reaches its top travel.

The piston is pushed in the opposite direction by the expansion of hot, burning gases during the combustion stroke. This stroke is what gets your car’s wheels rolling. It is similar to when you pedal a bicycle. The exhaust valves are opened when the combustion stroke reaches the bottom dead center. This allows the combustion gases to escape the engine, much like a syringe expelling air. The exhaust is then expelled. It continues to the back of your vehicle’s exhaust system.

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Multicylinder engines have individual cycles that are offset from one another and spaced evenly so that combustion strokes don’t occur at the same time. This ensures that the engine is balanced and smooth.

However, not all engines are the same. There are many types of engines. The majority of automobile engines have their cylinders arranged in a straight line. This is called an inline-four. The combined volume of all cylinders in an engine’s engine is called displacement.

The Different Types of Engines

There are, however, some exceptions to this rule and there are subtle differences between the engines. For example, an Atkinson-cycle engine makes an engine that is more efficient, but less powerful. Supercharging and turbocharging are two options that combine under the forced-induction option. This increases oxygen in the engine and allows for more fuel to be burned. This results in more power when needed and less efficiency when not. All this is possible without spark plugs in diesel engines. The basics of how the engine works, regardless of its type, are the same. These are the basics. For more information check out

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