Car Facts Episode 1 – Learning Car Engines

Learning car engines subaru bayThere are some people out there who can simply hear an engine rev and tell you the make, model, and even year of the car producing that sound. While you may have some knowledge of vehicles, chances are if you’re reading a garage’s blog, you might not have the same knowledge as some gearheads out there. That’s not a bad thing! Gary’s is here not only for expert service, but for quality help as well. Here we’ll take a look at the common ways people talk about learning car engines, and how you can use these terms in your day to day life.


Getting Started – Learning Car Engines

Cars are incredibly complex machines. Having a complete, working knowledge of them can take years to accomplish. When getting started learning car engines, knowing the basics about the engine is a must. There are a few phrases out there that may baffle someone new to cars, and some concepts that just seem strange to talk about. Lets look at some common ones:

Talking About Engines In Litres – If an engine is a solid piece of steel, how can it be measured in liquids? A common question when learning car engines. When people talk about engines being 2.3 litres, 6 litres or whatever size, they are referring to the engines displacement. What does that mean? Inside your engine are cylinders. In those cylinders are pistons. The piston compresses gas and air in the cylinder, and that mixture is ignited by your vehicles spark plug. This explosion pushes the piston back down, which turns a series of gears and drive shafts (specifically the crankshaft) driving your car forward. The total volume (combining all the cylinders in your engine) that can be pushed out by pistons is where the measurement of litres comes from. For example, imagine you were to fill all the cylinders in your car with water, and let the pistons push out all that water. If that amount filled a large soda bottle, you could determine that you have a 2 litre engine. This measurement is used in relation to performance because (normally) the more an engine can displace, the faster it can go. For comparison, a Smart Car has about 800 cubic centimeters of displacement, while the Bugatti Veryon has 8 litres of engine displacement.

learning car engines with v shapesV8 Isn’t Just Vegetable Juice   Typically following engine size in litres is a number with the letter V. The V simply refers the the way the engine is laid out. As mentioned above, there are a number of pistons in cylinders in your engine. Each of them turn the crankshaft, which powers the car. In order to save space in a vehicle, the cylinders are arranged in a V formation along the crankshaft. The number following the V refers to how many cylinders are in the vehicle. For example, a V8 engine has 8 cylinders arranged in a V formation. Some older cars may have a “straight” 6, 8, or even 12 cylinder construction. This means all the cylinders are lined up in a row, rather than in a V formation. These numbers will most often be an even number. 4 and 5 cylinder engines are typically straight, which is why they are referred to as 4 cylinder engines rather than V4’s.

What Is Horsepower Really – Horsepower doesn’t literally mean how many horses are under your hood. Horsepower became a standard unit of measurement in the early 1700’s. Generally, the higher a vehicles horsepower, the faster it will go. In essence, a horsepower is a unit of measurement created to describe mechanical power. Horsepower was originally defined as the amount of effort it took to lift 75 kilograms one meter in one second. Keeping with our comparison, the Smart Car has 41 horsepower, while the Veyron has 1001.

Foot Pounds Torque Or ft-lbs Torque – This concept can be a little bit more tricky to understand, but is perhaps one of the most important. Torque refers to a twisting force, or in our case, the twisting that is done to rotate a wheel forward. One foot-pound of torque is the effort given off to move a wheel one foot in diameter, weighing one pound, a distance of one foot. Think of a very small exercise weight. If it weighed one pound and was a foot across, in order to roll it one foot, you would exert 1 foot-pound of torque on the weight. This measurement is important because it determines how much force the wheels are putting on the ground to go forward. Looking at a Smart Car, about 82 foot-pounds of torque is produced. With the Veyron, 922 foot-pounds of torque is produced.

Power To Weight Ratio –  This isn’t a number you’ll hear very often, but it can be an impressive fact to know. The goal with any racing or performance vehicle is be as light as possible while producing the most power. This is why materials like carbon fiber and aluminum have been replacing traditional steel. Two cars can have the same engine , but the lighter car will be faster. This is why this ratio is important. A lower power to weight ratio means that the car can better handle its weight. A higher power to weight ratio means the car will accelerate slower. With our two vehicles, the Smart Car features a power to weight ratio of 25.8 pounds per horsepower, while the Veyron has 4.16 pounds per horsepower.

Learning Car Engines As You Drive

Now that you know the basics of what drives a car, learning car engines is easy. A good point of reference is to know the basics about your own vehicle, and how it relates to others on the road. With the current info you’ve gained in learning car engines, you can break down a 4.5L V8, 562HP engine producing 400 ft-lb torque to mean:

learning car engines with the 458

– The vehicles total displacement is 4.5 litres

– The pistons creating that displacement are arranged in a V shape with 8 cylinders

– That displacement created from those 8 cylinders produces 562 horsepower

– That 562 horsepower produces 400 foot-pounds of torque

Those are the engine specs from one of Ferrari’s most iconic cars, the Ferrari 458. The 458’s engine is pictured to the left. As you go about your daily drive, stop and think about how you’ve been learning car engines and appreciate the ride. It’s important to know that over time, a vehicles power and performance can fade, so book a tune up with the experts at Gary’s Automotive today!




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