You don’t have to learn all about your engine so you can get under the hood and do all your car repairs yourself. But it can be nice to know what’s going on and to know what your trusted mechanic is talking about. Our Salt Lake city car repair team wants you to feel informed when it comes to caring for your vehicle.

Even if you turn to Salt Lake City car repair experts at Master Muffler for all your car maintenance needs, it’s helpful to have a basic understanding of how your engine works. We’ll break down some of the terms and functions of your engine block so you’re familiar with the lingo.

Types of Engines

Internal Combustion Engine 

Gas-powered engines rely on internal combustion to create energy. The gasoline and air combine and combust inside the engine, which in turn moves other parts of the engine to put the wheels in motion.

External Combustion Engine

An engine that conducts the combustion process outside of the engine is referred to as an external combustion engine. An example of this is a steam-powered engine.

Parts of the Engine

There are a lot of moving parts in your engine, literally. The main components are as follows:

  • Engine Block – Also known as a cylinder block, the engine block houses cylinders for the pistons, as well as ducts that allow oil and coolant to be distributed throughout. Most cars these days have aluminum engine blocks, although iron has been used in the past. 
  • V6 vs V8 Engine – V6 and V8 refer to the shape and number of cylinders in your car’s engine. They’re positioned on the engine block to resemble a “V” when looked at from above. If the V is formed with six cylinders, it’s called a V6. If there are eight cylinders, you’ve got yourself a V8.
  • Combustion Chamber – This is where fuel and air are compressed to create a small explosion that moves the pistons. The process of combustion is facilitated by a cylinder, a piston, and a cylinder head. The cylinder is the chamber where a piston creates the bottom and the cylinder head creates the top.
  • Cylinder Head – Located at the top of a cylinder, the head is made of metal and creates a space for combustion to occur. The cylinder head and cylinder block are sealed with a head gasket, and valves, spark plugs, and fuel injectors are also mounted here.
  • Piston – The pistons in an engine move up and down within their respective cylinders when fuel is ignited in the combustion chamber. The piston moves down after combustion, which starts a chain reaction of movement in the engine. Piston rings on top of each piston make contact with the walls of the housing cylinder. Whether compression rings or oil rings, they create the seal needed in the combustion chamber and ensure any excess oil in the cylinder is returned to the crankcase.
  • Crankshaft – Your engine’s crankshaft converts the piston’s energy into rotational motion. Pistons move up and down, and the crankshaft is mounted horizontally on the engine block. Connected to the camshaft, the crankshaft allows movement to reach other parts of the car, eventually transferring to the wheels. O-rings on either end of the crankshaft prevent oil from leaking out of your engine. Underneath the crankcase that houses the crankshaft, you’ll find the oil pan that stores engine oil.
  • Camshaft – Working with the crankshaft, the camshaft and a timing belt control the opening and closing of engine valves. A camshaft is usually located above the crankshaft, and there’s usually only one on inline engines. A V6 or V8 engine (v-shaped) might have two camshafts.
  • Timing System – Timing is everything when it comes to your car’s performance. The timing belt or chain ensures the crankshaft and camshaft are working together in sync so your engine can function.
  • Valvetrain – This mechanical system is mounted to the engine’s cylinder heads to control the valves, rocker arms, pushrods, and lifters.
  • Fuel Injectors – Responsible for supplying fuel to the combustion chamber.
  • Spark plugs – Situated at the top of each cylinder, a spark plug is what ignites fuel and air. Replacing spark plugs is a common car repair fix if a car is idling rough, or having difficulty accelerating.

Valves, Rocker Arms, Pushrods, and Lifters

These parts of the engine are responsible for funneling air and fuel into the engine, followed by releasing exhaust gases.

  • Valves – Engines have both intake and outtake valves. Intake valves bring air and fuel into the combustion chamber to create the spark. An outtake valve releases exhaust from the chamber. Each cylinder usually has one intake and one outtake valve. Higher-performing cars have more valves per cylinder.
  • Rocker Arms, Pushrods, and Lifters – These help open and close the valves.

How an Engine Moves a Car 

Now that you know all the basic parts of an engine, how do they all work together to make a car move? Here’s a pared-down look at the process in a 4-stroke engine.

Intake Stroke

  • A piston lowers in a cylinder, drawing air through the intake valve as the fuel injector sprays fuel into the cylinder.

Compression Stroke

  • The valves at the top of the cylinder close while the crankshaft at the bottom pushes the piston back up the cylinder. This compresses the air and fuel together. 

Combustion Stroke

  • When the piston gets back to the top of the cylinder, the spark plug then ignites the compressed fuel and air. The energy this creates pushes the piston back down the cylinder. Every time the piston moves, the crankshaft is turning and transferring energy to the driveshaft, which in turn rotates the wheels of the vehicle.

Exhaust Stroke

  • When the piston reaches the bottom of the cylinder after the combustion stroke, the bottom valve (exhaust valve) opens and releases exhaust gases and fumes.

If you have questions about where to go for Salt Lake City car repair, give us a call and we can help you decide on a course of action.