How a car works

A look into cars

A nice picture of a Stutz Blackhawk, one of my favorite cars. (http://imgarcade.com/1973-stutz-blackhawk.html)

A nice picture of a Stutz Blackhawk, one of my favorite cars. (http://imgarcade.com/1973-stutz-blackhawk.html)

Alex Nakamura, Staff Writer

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We use cars every day, to get to school, work, or maybe just down the street to the store. They’ve been around for centuries, and go back as far as the 1880’s. They change the way we live our lives, but it can be quite confusing to understand how power from the engine is used to turn the wheels. But I’m here to explain it to you as simply as I can.

 

The Ignition System

This is the first step to running a car. When a key (typically) is placed into the ignition and turned, a switch is engaged with a small motor called the starter motor. It does exactly what the name implies. Power from the battery is drawn through thick wires directly into a part called the solenoid. The solenoid transfers power through an electromagnet into another part called the pinion gear. The pinion gear is shot out from the starter and engages with the flywheel on the engine. Once this happens, the engine is turned over a full rotation and begins to run on its own.

 

The Engine

The engine is the most important part of a car. We’ll be covering a basic and common engine in this article known as an inline four engine. This means there are 4 cylinders arranged in a line. Engines in cars do what is known as internal combustion. They require air and fuel to create power, and do so on a four stroke basis. The first stroke, known as the intake stroke, brings a mixture of air and fuel into a combustion chamber through an intake valve. On the second stroke, the piston compresses the mixture, and allows it to create more power. This is known as the compression stroke. On the third or power stroke, the spark plug ignites, causing an explosion and forcing the piston downwards. Finally the last stroke, as the piston begins to move upwards again, the burnt fuel exits the combustion chamber through the exhaust valves. This is known as the exhaust stroke. A camshaft is used to control when the intake and exhaust valves open and close. The pistons inside the engine are attached to a crankshaft through connecting rods.

 

The Fuel System

The fuel system in a car transfers gas from the gas tank to the engine, where it mixes with air and combusts in the combustion chambers. There are different ways of mixing gas and air in the engine, but we’ll just cover two of the most common ones, the first one being with fuel injectors. Gas is shot directly into the individual cylinders during the intake stroke. The second being with a device called the carburetor. This mixes the fuel with the air as it flows into the engine.

 

The Exhaust System

The exhaust system contains several different parts. We’ll start with the exhaust manifold, which connects to the engine and converts the 4 exhaust valve pipes to one. Next is the catalytic converter, which transforms harmful gases such as O2 into less harmful gases like CO2. Then, there’s the muffler which decreases the noise made by the engine, and the resonator, which cancels out certain frequencies of sound, and can be used to change the note of your engine. Finally, the O2 sensor which is connected to a computer and can detect whether the parts are working correctly, and the tail pipe where the fumes are exhausted.

 

The Drivetrain (Rear Wheel Drive)

The drivetrain is typically the least understood, and the most confusing. It consists of the transmission, differential, and drive shaft. We’ll be looking at rear wheel drives in particular, where power from the rear wheels is used to move the car forward. RWD are most beneficial for cars because it distributes the job of steering and power which provides greater handling and acceleration abilities. The transmission is the first stop from the engine. It’s attached through a flywheel, and takes the torquing movement of the engine and passes it down to the drive shaft. Modern day cars use hotchkiss driveshafts, where you can see the actual tube spinning, in comparison on torque tube driveshafts where it’s enclosed. The differential is the last stop on the drivetrain. This is where the driveshaft connects to the axles on the wheels, and allows them to spin at different speeds.

 

There is more to a car than simply an engine that makes it go. Cars are an essential part of life that is often overlooked. They do a lot for us as a civilization. Without them, I would end up having to walk the six miles to school every day which is around two hours for me. Within the past century there has been a multitude of innovations and inventions for cars and in cars. Next time you see a car, take some time to appreciate the mechanics of it and how it works so complicated yet is to be used so simply.

 

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