Humans need food to create the energy to hike Camelback Mountain, go to work, and even to get out of bed in the morning. Just as you need the energy to get moving, so does your vehicle’s engine. In fact, the main task of the engine is to create energy from fuel to generate the power to move. This process is referred to as internal combustion as it literally creates small, controlled explosions to create movement. There are several components within the engine that assist in this process. Here’s what you need to know to understand how your gas engine works:
The Basics and How They Work
There are five basic components housed in the engine block that contribute to internal combustion: crankshaft, cylinders, connecting rods, pistons, and spark plugs. The cylinder head is the cover and holds two to four valves per cylinder, the intake and exhaust, and the spark plug. Pistons are attached to the crankshaft by the connecting rods and placed into the cylinders. The cylinder holds the piston in place and allows it to move up and down smoothly. There is one cylinder for each piston. The more pistons a vehicle contains, the more power the engine can produce, which is why vehicles with six, eight, or ten-cylinder engines are better for towing than a four-cylinder vehicle. The combustion cycle starts with the piston at the top of the cylinder. A four-stroke process, for example, is based on the total number of combined upward and downward motions or strokes, known as RPMs. The sequence of each cycle is as follows:
- As the piston moves downward, the intake valve allows the mixture of fuel and air in.
- The piston moves up the cylinder, compressing the mixture against the cylinder head.
- The spark plugs create a spark that ignites the mixture creating a small, controlled detonation.
- The reaction from the spark forces the piston in a downward direction. When the piston begins to move upwards again, the exhaust valve opens, allowing the carbon waste to be removed out through the exhaust system.
This cycle will be repeated hundreds of times per minute in order to propel your vehicle down the road. A two-stroke engine works in a similar fashion; however, it completes the cycle with less strokes and utilizes ports to transfer fuel and exhaust as opposed to the valves. Four-stroke engines are preferred over two-stroke engines, as they are more fuel efficient and produce less harmful emissions.
The Process Continues
As the pistons move downward, the crankshafts that they are attached to, are forced to move in a circular motion. The timing belt (or chain, depending on your engine) is connected to the crankshaft and collectively, rotate the camshaft. The camshaft controls the opening of the intake and exhaust valves, which requires precise timing. Concurrent to moving in their circular motion, the crankshaft also transfers this motion to the transmission, which eventually turns the wheels.
Because of the extreme heat the internal combustion engines produce, it is very important that the components are cooled and lubricated properly. Overheated engines can cause damage to pistons, bearings, and valves. Similarly, the cylinder heads that store the intake and exhaust, commonly experience damage as a result of overheating or lack of maintenance. Regularly performed cooling flushes and oil changes help to keep your engine in a like-new state, ensuring each component is properly cooled or lubricated to operate smoothly. Checking your timing belt for cracks, abrasions, or misalignments and replacing it as needed, will also prevent your vehicle from overheating or unexpected breakdowns.
The engine is an essential component in your vehicle and needs to be cared for properly with routine oil changes and other scheduled maintenance. Major engine repairs or replacements due to lack of maintenance or minor repairs can get very costly. How can you prevent disaster and protect your vehicle’s engine? With the experts at Sun Devil Auto! Our Service Consultants will review your vehicle manufacturer’s specifications on maintenance, discuss your driving habits including distance and frequency, and with consideration to the harsh climate of driving in the desert, will advise and recommend a specific time to perform preventative maintenance to keep your engine in peak condition.
With so many constantly moving parts and pieces contributing to the function of the engine, you need a skilled technician to perform maintenance or repairs. Sun Devil Auto’s ASE Certified Technicians are educated and proficient in all functions of many makes and models of cars, trucks, and SUVs from oil changes to engine repairs. Give us a call, schedule an appointment, or stop into any of our many service centers in the Phoenix-Metro area today!