How Do Car Engines Work?

How Do Car Engines Work
2018 Mercedes-AMG G65 Final Edition

How car engines work has long been a source of fascination for those who want to know how things work.


Engines are the most complex and essential part of a car.

Still, they’re also among the most valuable parts in other vehicles and machinery, making them worth understanding on multiple levels.

Here’s a look at how car engines work.

Parts of a Car Engine

There are six main parts of a car engine, and each of these parts plays a vital role in how your car runs smoothly.

  • Ignition coil

This is a crucial component in your car’s ignition system. An ignition coil helps deliver a high-voltage electrical charge to your engine’s spark plugs. The design of your engine can determine where these coils are located with each other, but you can find it near your carburetor or cylinder head.

  • Fuel injector

A fuel injector delivers gas and air to each cylinder’s intake manifold. Its job is to help mix gas and air before delivering them precisely at the right time, creating a fuel-air mixture that will burn efficiently.

The exact design of your engine can determine how many fuel injectors you have, but they can be found either near your carburetor or cylinder head.

  • Cuberator

The car’s engine uses a carburetor device to mix air and fuel and supply it to each cylinder at just the right time. If you check your owner’s manual, you can see what specific brand of carburetor your car uses.

  • Intake manifold

The intake manifold is a cylinder-shaped chamber designed to distribute fuel and air to each of your engine’s cylinders in equal amounts. This device is usually made of plastic or cast iron, but it can be found in other materials.

  • Cylinder head

The cylinder head is a device that holds each of your engine’s spark plugs, as well as fuel injectors, valves, and ports. It contains several passages that allow exhaust gases to leave when it’s time for a new set of the fuel-air mixture to be introduced. This part is made from cast iron, aluminum, or other metal.

  • Exhaust manifold

An engine’s exhaust manifold is designed to collect spent fuel and transfer it from each cylinder to your car’s catalytic converter. This part is made of cast iron, aluminum, or other metal. A popular carburetor in use today is a unit created by Carter YH, but there are many different options on the market.

How a Car Engine Works?

Now that you know the main parts of a car engine, you can better understand how a car engine works. First, a car engine works using a typical four-stroke combustion cycle:

Step 1 Intake: This is where your car breathes in fuel and air. The carburetor first draws air through an air filter and then mixes it with gasoline before pulling it into cylinders. From there, small valves are called throttle plates to control how much of that gas/air mixture gets sucked into each cylinder.

Step 2 Compression: The engine’s valves are closed, and each cylinder is filled with a gas/air mixture. The piston quickly moves up and down, forcing that gas/air mixture into a small space, thereby compressing it.

A spark plug ignites that compressed fuel-air mixture at maximum compression, creating an explosion of power (see below). Without compression, there’d be no explosion—and no combustion cycle.

Step 3 Combustion:  Once that gas/air mixture is ignited, it releases a massive amount of energy in a short time. Because of that enormous release of energy, your car’s pistons are forced to move up and down with tremendous force. This movement turns a crankshaft connected to your car’s transmission and drive wheels.

Step 4 Exhaust:  The exhaust manifold is where your car gets rid of all that used-up, carbon dioxide-rich gas/air mixture. It releases gases into one pipe, which ultimately leads to your vehicle’s exhaust pipe. From there, it’s released into the atmosphere as CO2—the same stuff we breathe out each time we exhale! All in all, each step of a four-stroke cycle takes about 1/10th of a second.

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