Car Maintenance 101: Prepping for Troubleshooting Your Engine—Parts and Function

October 22, 2008

Note to Reader 1: Your engine is probably one of the hardest parts to troubleshoot. Although it’s easy to spot engine-related problems, the problem comes with diagnosis. When it comes to engine troubles, you usually have four explanations behind them. Either: (a) your engine has a problem and is itself exhibiting symptoms; (b) your engine is exhibiting symptoms and may have incurred damage due to another malfunctioning auto system; (c) the problem isn’t with your engine but another auto system; and (d) your engine is damaged but is exhibiting symptoms elsewhere (like your exhaust).

Spotting engine problems is one thing, but actually troubleshooting your engine and determining the root of your problems is another. If you’re not familiar with how your engine works, then it may be more difficult for you to pinpoint which part of your car is malfunctioning and how you can address it. The good thing is that we’ll turn this post into a multi-part post that discusses everything step-by-step.

That being said, let’s begin with a simple part definition.

Engine Definition:

There are many different types of engines out there, but in this post, we’ll be discussing the most common engine used in automobiles these days—the internal combustion engine. As you can already understand from its name, the internal combustion engine burns fuel or gasoline and turns it into the raw power needed in operating your vehicle.

Some of the Basic Parts of An Internal Combustion Engine:

Camshaft: The camshaft is a component that’s designed to help operate your engine valves. It usually works in a synchronized manner with your car’s crankshaft, which is powered by your vehicle’s timing belt.

Crankshaft: The crankshaft is the auto unit that converts a piston’s up and down movement into circular motion.

Connecting Rod: The connecting rod is the part of your engine system that attaches your crankshaft to your piston. This rod is capable of rotating at both ends. It also changes angles as your piston oscillates up-and-down and your crankshaft moves around and around.

Piston: The piston is basically a cylindrical, metal component that moves inside your engine cylinder. As aforementioned, in up and down motion.

Piston Rings: These rings are a type of seal that you’ll find between the inner edge of your engine cylinder and the outer edge of your piston. It’s designed to help keep the oil from your oil sump into leaking into your engine’s combustion chamber. Conversely, it also prevents exhaust and even fuel/air mixture from leaking into your oil sump during the process of combustion and compression.

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