A basic guide on how a car engine works

As a group, we set out on this adventure to the center of the earth to locate the component of a vehicle that is considered the most vital: the engine.

Without it, we would be talking about a vehicle that has been sterilized, also known as a car that cannot move because there would be no component capable of turning the four wheels.

how a car engine works

The following comparison demonstrates this point: If the heart is the organ in a human responsible for pumping blood throughout the body, then the engine is the component in a vehicle responsible for ensuring that all of the stored energy is converted into forward motion for the wheels.

On the other hand, things get more complicated when our pride gets the better of us and we believe that we have the correct answer to the question…

How exactly does a car’s internal combustion engine function? When we try to answer that question that we thought was so obvious, incongruity takes over our words, and that’s when we realize that the answer is somewhat more complex than it initially appears to be.

At first, we believe it is something straightforward, but incongruity takes over our words when we try to answer that question.

Let’s proceed with caution and break this down into manageable chunks, shall we?

What exactly do we mean when we talk about a car’s engine?

A conventional internal combustion engine is a piece of machinery intended to convert the energy generated in the form of heat by the explosion (gasoline) or combustion (diesel) of fuel into a movement capable of turning the wheels of a vehicle.

Petrol engine

The spark that ignites a mixture of compressed air and fuel within a cylinder and sets off the gasoline engine, also known as the explosion engine, is what kickstarts the vehicle’s motion.

The explosion caused by the spark and the mixture occurs within this cylinder, and it is this explosion that causes the gases contained within this cylinder to expand, which in turn causes the piston to move.

To put it another way, the explosion caused by the spark and the mixture converts the chemical energy of a fuel (gasoline) into mechanical energy.

The combustion of the mixture causes the gas to expand, which transfers mechanical energy to the pistons, which in turn transfers power to the wheels.

Diesel or diesel engine

In a diesel engine, the diesel fuel is burned inside a combustion chamber (hence the name), which converts the fuel’s chemical energy into mechanical energy capable of generating movement in the pistons.

This contrasts with the gasoline engine, which burns fuel outside the chamber.

The diesel or gasoline engine is also referred to as a heat engine because it generates mechanical energy by transforming heat into the desired form.

Consequently, the compression ratio of the two engines is very different. For the fuel to ignite in diesel engines, the compressed air must first reach temperatures higher than those required in gasoline engines.

Therefore, due to the higher compression, the components that comprise a diesel engine are required to be more robust when compared to those of a gasoline engine.

How the fuel is ignited is the primary distinction between the two different types of engines.

Spark plugs are not present in diesel engines; on the other hand, they are in gasoline engines.

Despite this, diesel and gasoline engines adhere to the four strokes of a combustion engine, which will be covered in more detail in the following paragraphs.

The five fundamental elements that make up a combustion engine

Before we talk about the four stages established to get a dose of mechanical energy capable of moving the wheels on our car, let’s get something out of the way first.

We must have a solid understanding of the five primary components of a gasoline or diesel engine.

After that, we will discuss the four stages necessary to understand a combustion engine’s workings.

1. The block of the engine

It is generally agreed that the engine block is the most critical component of an internal combustion engine.

Why? Because it serves the purpose of “housing inside it the cylinders and the rest of the elements that make up the so-called reciprocating train,” it has the purpose of “housing inside it the cylinders and the rest of the elements” (crankshaft, connecting rods and pistons).

At the same time, the engine block is a component responsible for determining the displacement.

This is because the displacement is calculated by multiplying the diameter of the cylinders by the stroke of each piston. Consequently, the engine block is an essential component.

Because the rest of the components we will look at below are either a part of it or are connected to it, and because the internal combustion process takes place inside of it, we refer to it as the engine.

In a nutshell, it is the essence of the engine.

2. Pistons

When it receives the energy from the combustion (diesel) or explosion (gasoline) of the fuel mixture with compressed air, the piston is a cylindrical part that moves longitudinally inside the cylinders.

This movement occurs every time the piston receives the energy.

Pistons are the components responsible for moving the gases produced as a result of the combustion or explosion.

They do this by creating a vacuum within the combustion chamber, which, after being compressed and set ablaze, uses the force created by the chemical energy to convert it into mechanical energy.

To help you better visualize the movement of the piston, the direction is vertical and pushes the crankshaft (which we will see below) through the connecting rods.

This results in generating mechanical energy capable of propelling the car forward.

3. Crankshaft

The crankshaft is the longitudinal piece of the engine that transmits motion to the gearbox and connects the connecting rods to the pistons.

These connecting rods are joined to a single piece, the crankshaft, a central shaft. The crankshaft is an integral part of an internal combustion engine.

As was mentioned, the broken metal piece in question is the one in charge of coordinating the movements of the pistons.

4. The head of the cylinder

To locate the cylinder head, we must travel to the highest point of the engine.

Because we can find the cover that seals the combustion chamber inside of it, this component is also referred to as the cylinder head.

The valves and camshafts (both drive systems) are contained within the cylinder head of the engine.

These shafts rotate at speed equal to one-half that of the crankshaft, thanks to a timing belt connecting them to the crankshaft.

The camshaft is driven by the timing belt, which is attached to one end of the crankshaft.

The other end of the crankshaft is attached to the intake and exhaust valves, driven by the crankshaft at the appropriate time to allow the mixture to enter and the exhaust gases to exit.

5. The crankcase

The final step is to locate the crankcase, which is located in the lowest part of the engine. The crankcase is a component bolted to the engine block and serves as a reservoir for the oil.

It is responsible for ensuring that the engine’s internal components remain lubricated and cooled.

We could say that this tank performs the bathtub function, housing the oil pumped through the entire engine’s internal circuit using a pump.

This tank is located in the engine. To put it another way, the pump is responsible for ingesting the lubricant and then distributing it to the various internal components of the machine that call for it.

What are the inner workings of a combustion engine? The four different ones

And after all of this dose of mechanical information about what an engine is and what components make up an engine, one may still be wondering…

And how does an engine work? Now is the time to let the cat out of the bag: whether they run on diesel fuel or gasoline, all internal combustion engines are four-stroke engines.

This indicates that the engine must go through four phases before it caner to the wheels a quantity of mechanical energy propelling the vehicle forward.

Let’s take a gander at them, shall we?

1. Intake

When an engine is turned on, the piston will initially be positioned at the top of its stroke. This is the starting point for the operation of the machine.

The intake valves open when the piston is at its highest point, allowing the fuel mixture to enter.

The fuel mixture is then drawn in by the vacuum produced by the combustion chamber as the piston continues to descend until the valves are closed.

2. Compression

As soon as the valves are shut, and the mixture is contained within the cylinder, the piston will begin to return to its original position of rising (its upper end).

The air-fuel mixture is compressed in preparation for the detonation that will follow.

Although it is easy to become confused, we need to be very clear that the phase of the ascent of the piston that follows the intake phase is what we are referring to here.

The volume of the mixture may be reduced by approximately seven to ten times as the piston moves towards the upper end of its stroke.

3. Explosion

With the combustion chamber full of mixture and the valves closed, the piston reaches the upper point of its travel when a detonation is generated.

This detonation may be started by an electric spark (gasoline), or it may be created by the explosion itself, produced by compression (diesel).

Depending on the fuel, the force that is generated by the explosion or combustion pushes the piston downwards as it receives a strong impulse transmitted to the crankshaft.

This causes the crankshaft to rotate at a faster rate.

A basic guide on how a car engine works

4. Exhaust

After the explosion caused by the mixture of fuel and air, the exhaust valves will open, and the space will be cleared of the gases produced.

During this process stage, the piston’s upward stroke forces the gases to escape through the exhaust valves.

After the piston has reached its maximum upper point, the exhaust valves will close while the intake valves will reopen to begin the cycle again.

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