All You Need to Know About Car Engines

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All You Need to Know About Car Engines

When one is in the market for a car, it is wise to familiarise oneself with the internal workings of the car's engine. Such knowledge is especially vital if considering a used vehicle and wanting to ensure its quality before investing in it. Since car engines are fairly complex, no individual can hope to be an expert in car engines within just a day or two. However, a working knowledge of engine parts and functions can give buyers the confidence they need as they search for the right car. Cars, car engines, and car parts are available at local dealers and auto shops, as well as online through eBay.

Types of Car Engines

Ultimately, a car engine is a machine that uses gasoline to produce motion. Cars have internal combustion engines, which means they burn their fuel internally. Two basic types of internal combustion engines are the diesel engine and the gas turbine engine. Diesel engines usually power trucks and larger vehicles. Most cars do not have diesel engines, so buyers should focus their attention on the internal workings of a standard gas turbine engine.

Basic Components of a Gas Combustion Engine

First, buyers need to understand the terminology and components involved in car engines. The spark plug provides ignition to combust the fuel, start the car, and keep it running. Housed inside larger cylinders, the pistons resemble smaller metal cylinders that complete a regular up and down movement while the car is operating. Connected to each piston's movement are two valves, one for intake and one for exhaust. The valves open and close in rhythm with the pistons' cyclical motion.

The crankshaft takes the up and down movement of the pistons and converts it into circular motion the car can actually use. The connecting rod links each piston with the crankshaft. Around the crankshaft is the oil-filled sump, with an oil pan at the bottom. Piston rings keep exhaust, gas, and air from leaking out of the car's combustion chamber into the sump.

The Four-Stroke Combustion Cycle

Modern cars usually employ the Otto cycle, a four-stroke combustion cycle first developed in 1867 by Nikolaus Otto. The cycle starts with the intake stroke, moves on to the compression stroke and the combustion stroke, and finishes with the exhaust stroke.


The components involved in the initial cycle are the piston, crankshaft, and connecting rod. At the beginning, the piston is at the top of its range of motion. As it sinks downward, the intake valve connected to it opens, sucking air and gasoline into the engine.


The piston moves upward again. In the process, it efficiently compresses the gas and air. This phase is essential to obtaining the high-powered combustion necessary to achieve enough energy to move the car.


When the piston is at the very top of the stroke, combustion occurs. The spark plugs in the car come into play at this point, throwing out sparks that instantly ignite the compressed mixture of gas and air. The sudden combustion forces the piston back down for the final portion of the cycle.


The piston reaches the lowest point of its range of motion, triggering the opening of the exhaust valve. The leftover air from the combustion chamber flows out, exiting the car through the tailpipe. The piston rises to the top again, preparing for yet another intake of gas and air as a new four-stroke cycle begins.

Cylinder Number and Arrangement

In a car, this four-stroke process happens in each of the engine's cylinders. The number of cylinders in the car typically determines how much power it possesses. Some cars have four cylinders, while others have six or even eight. Beyond the number of cylinders, the arrangement of the cylinders differs as well, depending on the car's manufacturer. Common orientations of the cylinders include the flat or boxer arrangement, the inline arrangement, or the V arrangement. Each arrangement offers unique benefits in cost-effectiveness, ride smoothness, and other features.

Car Engine Design Related to Performance

Buyers should look for cars that include high-end timing features such as the Intelligent Variable Timing Electronic Control (1-VTEC) technology from Honda. Such technology enables the car to control valve timing more intelligently and precisely, resulting in higher efficiency and greater power from the engine. Buyers also need to look at the compression ratio of a car's engine, which indicates the performance level of the car. A car with a higher compression ratio often promises better performance, but may also demand more expensive fuel.

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