For most people, a car is something they fill up with gas that gets them from point A to point B. But have you ever stopped and thought how does it actually do it? What moves it? Unless you’ve already adopted an electric car as your daily driver, the magic of how comes down to the internal-combustion engine that thing making noise under the hood. But how does an engine work, exactly?
What Is A Car Engine?
The engine is the heart of your car. It’s a complex machine built to convert the heat from burning gas into the power that turns the road wheels.
The chain of reactions that achieves this goal is set in motion by a spark that ignites a mixture of gasoline vapor and compressed air in a momentarily closed cylinder and burns rapidly. That is why the machine is called an internal combustion engine. When the mixture burns, it expands and provides energy to power the car.
To withstand its heavy workload, the engine must have a sturdy structure. It consists of two main parts: the lower, heavier part is the engine block, a housing for the main moving parts of the engine; The removable top cover is the cylinder head.
The cylinder head contains valve-controlled channels through which the air-fuel mixture enters the cylinders, and others through which the gases produced during their combustion are expelled.
The block houses the crankshaft, which converts the reciprocating motion of the pistons into rotary motion on the crankshaft. Often the block also houses the camshaft, which operates mechanisms that open and close the valves in the cylinder head. Sometimes the camshaft is mounted in the head or above.
How Does an Engine Work?
Specifically, an internal combustion engine is a heat engine in that it converts energy from the heat of combustion of gasoline into mechanical work or torque. This torque is applied to the wheels to get the car moving.
Engines have pistons that move up and down in metal tubes called cylinders. Imagine you are riding a bicycle: your legs move up and down to press the pedals. Pistons are connected to a crankshaft by rods (they’re like your shins) and move up and down to turn the engine’s crankshaft, just as your legs turn those of the bicycle – which in turn turns the bicycle’s drive wheel or car’s drive wheels drives.
Depending on the vehicle, there are typically between two and 12 cylinders in its engine, in each of which a piston moves up and down.
What drives these pistons up and down are the thousands of tiny controlled explosions that occur every minute and are created by mixing fuel with oxygen and igniting the mixture. Each time the fuel ignites is called the combustion or power stroke. The heat and expanding gases from this mini-explosion push the piston down the cylinder.
Almost all of today’s internal combustion engines (for the sake of simplicity we will focus on gasoline engines here) are four-stroke engines. In addition to the combustion stroke, which pushes the piston down from the top of the cylinder, there are three other strokes: intake, compression, and exhaust.
Engines need air (namely oxygen) to burn fuel. During the intake stroke, valves open to allow the piston to act like a syringe as it moves down, drawing ambient air through the engine’s intake system.
When the piston reaches the bottom of its stroke, the intake valves close, effectively sealing the cylinder for the compression stroke, which is in the opposite direction of the intake stroke. The upward movement of the piston compresses the intake charge.
The Four Strokes Of A Four-Stroke Engine
Most internal combustion engines work in a four-stage cycle process. These steps are formally known as strokes, referring to the four movements a piston makes to complete each cycle. The strokes take place in this order: intake, compression, combustion, exhaust.
With each stroke, the piston moves either up or down in the cylinder and moves in conjunction with the intake of air and fuel or the exhaust of exhaust gases. Here is an overview of how the process works
- Intake: The piston is pulled down inside the cylinder by the momentum of the crankshaft. Most of the time the car is moving along, so the crankshaft is always turning. The inlet valve opens, letting a mixture of fuel and air into the cylinder through the purple pipe.
- Compression: The inlet valve closes. The piston moves back up the cylinder and compresses (squeezes) the fuel-air mixture, which makes it much more flammable. When the piston reaches the top of the cylinder, the spark plug fires.
- Power: The spark ignites the fuel-air mixture causing a mini-explosion. The fuel burns immediately, giving off hot gas that pushes the piston back down. The energy released by the fuel is now powering the crankshaft.
- Exhaust: The outlet valve opens. As the crankshaft continues to turn, the piston is forced back up the cylinder for a second time. It forces the exhaust gases (produced when the fuel burned) out through the exhaust outlet.
The Different Types of Engines
There are, of course, exceptions and tiny differences between the internal combustion engines on the market. Atkinson engines, for example, change valve timing to make a more efficient but less powerful engine.
Charging and supercharging turbochargers, grouped under the forced aspiration options, pumps extra air into the engine, increasing the available oxygen, and therefore the amount of fuel that can be burned, resulting in more power when you wish so, and to be more efficient when you don’t need the strength.
What is a Car Engine?
The engine is the heart of your car. It is a complex machine built to convert heat from burning gas into the force that turns the road wheels. It consists of two basic parts: the lower, heavier section is the cylinder block, a casing for the engine’s main moving parts; the detachable upper cover is the cylinder head.
How does a Car Engine Work?
The engine consists of a fixed cylinder and a moving piston. The expanding combustion gases push the piston, which in turn rotates the crankshaft. After the piston compresses the fuel-air mixture, the spark ignites it, causing combustion. The expansion of the combustion gases pushes the piston during the power stroke.
What is the function of Car Engine?
The purpose of a gasoline car engine is to convert gasoline into motion so that your car can move. Currently, the easiest way to create motion from gasoline is to burn the gasoline inside an engine. Therefore, a car engine is an internal combustion engine combustion that takes place internally.
How does a car’s engine work?
In a spark-ignition engine, the fuel is mixed with air and then inducted into the cylinder during the intake process. After the piston compresses the fuel-air mixture, the spark ignites it, causing combustion. The expansion of the combustion gases pushes the piston during the power stroke.
How much is a car engine?
New engines start at around $4,000 for a 4-cylinder, around $5,500 for a V6, and $7,000 for a V8. Prices increase from these figures based on the complexity of the engine and the brand of car.
What kind of engines are used in cars?
As of 2017, the majority of the cars in the United States are gasoline-powered. In the early 1900s, internal combustion engines faced competition from steam and electric engines. The internal combustion engines of the time were powered by gasoline.
What do V mean in cars?
The ‘V’ represents the way cylinders are arranged in your engine. V-type engines have cylinders placed in a V-like shape, or to put it the other way, in two equal rows. This design is commonly used since it requires less space and can fit in most cars.
Who makes a V10 engine?
If V10 engines are effectively dead, that makes Audi among the last automakers to ever make one. Thankfully, the 5.2 liters naturally-aspirated V10 from the Audi R8 is a masterpiece of an engine, which revs harder and faster than any engine of its size should.
How many Motors does a car have?
You would be hard-pressed to find a late-model car with less than a dozen electric motors, while typical modern cars on American roads might easily have 40 electric motors or more.
What is the main part of a car engine?
The engine block is the backbone of the car’s engine and is often made out of aluminum or iron. It houses almost all the engine’s core components, such as the pistons, the crankshaft, and connecting rods, and is divided into three fixed sections: cylinder head, block, and crankcase.
How long do engines last for?
For some time, the average lifespan of a car’s engine was eight years or 150,000 miles. New designs, better technology, and improved service standards in recent years have increased this average life expectancy to about 200,000 miles, or about 10 years.
Is it worth replacing an engine?
New engines offer a long-term, reliable solution to your car troubles. On the other hand, used vehicles may come with their own set of engine problems. If your used vehicle replacement encounters engine issues, you could end up paying twice as much in the long run.
How much is a used engine?
Generally, used engines on most passenger cars can be replaced for $3000-$4000 and new engines can be between $4000-$6000. Some will be more, some less. The average price of a used car is well over $8000, and if you’re looking for a model 3-4 years old, that number jumps to over $20,000.
What is a good engine?
Engines that have high capacities for oil and coolant generally do a better job of handling the thermal stresses in an engine. Think of this as having more ammunition to fight an enemy. When engines have more room for coolant and oil, they have more firepower to fight back against the engines, well, firepower.
What are the 2 types of engines?
Basically, the engines are of two types, and these are external combustion engines and internal combustion engines.
What is the most common car engine?
Inline or Straight: This is the most common engine found in cars, SUVs, and trucks. The cylinders are upright, side by side which makes the engine compact and effective.
What does V12 mean on a car?
A V12 engine is a twelve-cylinder piston engine where two banks of six cylinders are arranged in a V configuration around a common crankshaft. V12 engines are more common than V10 engines.
Why are engines called motors?
“Motor” is rooted in the Classical Latin movere, “to move.” It first referred to propulsive force, and later, to the person or device that moved something or caused the movement. “As the word came through French into English, it was used in the sense of ‘initiator,’” says Fuller.