Did you know that one horsepower actually equals 550 foot-pounds per second, which is the power needed to lift 550 pounds one foot off the ground in one second, or one pound 550 feet up in one second? Horsepower is the unit of measure for an engine's power, and is a common car term that many people do not know the actual meaning of. Come to think of it, how many people really know how a car engine works?
Some of the Basics
Obviously, there are variations between car engines depending on the make, model, and year of the car, and just in case … "make" is who made the car (ie Honda, Chrysler, Chevrolet), "model" is the specific, well, model (ie Civic, Challenger, Camaro), and the "year" is literally the year it came off the assembly line.
Engines are most commonly described by the number of cylinders they have (usually 4, 6, or 8) and their shape. Both engine efficiency and space efficiency determine the shape of the engine (eg a V shape and 6 cylinders in a V6 engine) and consequently the placement of the cylinders. The cylinder is where liquid gasoline is burned and power is produced. In general, more cylinders mean a more powerful engine, although the size of the cylinder is also a factor.
It is worth noting here that there are some steps (like what happens after ignition) that are controlled by computer (yes, your car has programming). This is what happens with modernization and increasingly sophisticated technology, but certainly was not always the case. Everything in your car used to function through some mechanical process rather than computer direction. But we digress … back to cylinders.
Inside each cylinder is a piston. Fuel injection is the mechanism by which the liquid gasoline is measured and, well, injected under pressure (a fuel / air mixture) into the cylinder. From the ignition sequence, an electrical current / spark from the spark plug burns the liquid gasoline, with the resulting pressure from the resulting gas making the piston move down. The pistons firing in sequence (yes, it has to be in sequence) make the crankshaft complete a revolution (a full rotation). It's this rotating mechanism that powers the transmission, which literally transmits rotational power the drive shaft, making the wheels turn.
However, there is one thing we have not mentioned yet, without which the engine will not even start. The car battery. This is a rechargeable battery that powers the electrical systems in the car, whether it's the headlights or the spark plugs.
Source by Stephan Kazanchian