Car Engines

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Most modern day cars are powered by a four-stroke, internal combustion gasoline engines. This type of engine has been refined as automotive technology has advanced over the last century. While even the most basic car engine is a complex machine, the principles behind its operation are easy to understand. 

Engine Basics

An internal combustion engine is what you will find in most modern day cars. The reciprocating pistol engine is the most common. Engines of this type are named in terms of size, overall interior volume and cylinders. Cylinders can be arranged in several different ways: a straight row, known as a straight or inline engine, directly opposite another (flat line engine), or at angle from one another, which is the popular V configuration.

The Four-Stroke Cycle

This engine cycle consists of intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust. In the intake phase fuel and air are drawn into one of the compression chambers. A piston rises in the chamber, compressing the mixture. The combustion phase begins when the compressed fuel mixture is ignited with a spark from the spark plug. Resulting in an explosion known as the power stroke. It forces the piston down and spins the crankshaft which results in power up your car. Finally, the exhaust valve opens to allow for the explosion of exhaust and any fuel that was unburned. 


Car engines can run into many problems.Some are a simple fix and others may make the engine permanently inoperable. Using gasoline with a low octane rating can result in engine knocking, which is a premature combustion in one of the cylinders. A cracked engine block is one of the most serious problems an engine can have. Blown headgaskets are more common and occur when an engine overheats, or the gaskets wear down. Broken connected rods or faulty spark plugs can leave an engine with one or more nonfunctional cylinders leaving it powerless.


While most car engines will eventually require a major repair, a basic maintenance schedule should be followed to ensure that the engine lasts as long as possible, so it can operate safely and efficiently. Regular oil changes are a must, as new oil will keep the engine lubricated and running smoothly. Keeping an adequate amount of coolant in the car, will help the car from overheating. On occasion, spark plugs will need to be replaced. The engine air filter is also another component that cleanses the air that is blended with fuel prior to combustion that needs regular up keep as well.

Other Types Of Engines

Besides the standard, gasoline powered internal combustion engines, there are other types used in some cars. A vast majority of engines are reciprocating piston engines, rotary engines operate on similar principles. They use a spinning rotor in place of a set of pistons to create compression. Diesel engines are similar to gasoline engines but are designed to burn diesel fuel, which is ignited with hot air, instead of a spark. Cars that use alternative fuels such as, hydrogen or electricity, are also becoming more common.


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