Can You Ace This Engine Quiz in 7 Minutes?

Robin Tyler

Image: Cravetiger/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Your car’s engine is made up of many parts, large and small. If even a very small part fails, chances are your car might not run. And, sometimes, even small part failures can cost big bucks to fix!

So, how does it all work? Well, the engine burns the fuel to generate the power. This is fed through the transmission, either manual or automatic, to the differential, a set of gears that turn the car’s wheels. Sounds simple enough, but it isn’t, really. How engineers worked this all out in the late 19th century still boggles the mind, don’t you think?

All of an engine’s parts have to work in perfect harmony -- pistons moving, valves opening at the right time, spark plugs firing at the right instance, gasses moved out of the engine. One little problem, and the engine might still run, but not efficiently.

We’re not going to ask you to diagnose engine troubles. No, we just want you to name engine parts based on the descriptions provided. Some of the parts are very large and heavy, while others weigh mere ounces and easily fit in your hand. Every one of them is essential to the car’s operation.

Even if you’re not a car buff, take this quiz. You could learn a lot about your car’s engine and maybe understand a technician when it’s time for a repair. 

Up for the challenge? Go on, get started!


Name the part of the engine that moves up and down within each of the cylinders.

Each piston is attached to a connecting rod, which is joined to the crankshaft to turn it when the combustion cycle pushes the piston down in the cylinder.

The “reciprocating” parts of an engine are found here.

The cylinder block is the lower section of the engine, cast from either iron or aluminum and housing the reciprocating assembly (crankshaft, pistons, and connecting rods).

This small part plays a pivotal role in starting and running the engine.

The spark plugs ignite the air-fuel mixture in the cylinders to start and run the engine.

Identify the part that moves coolant through the engine.

A water pump moves coolant through the engine where the excess heat is transferred to it. The coolant then returns to the radiator, which dissipates the heat.

Gasses that form as a result of the burning of the fuel/air mixture are released into the exhaust system through this. What is it?

The intake and exhaust valves are found in the cylinder head. They’re opened by the camshafts and closed by the action of valve springs. The exhaust valves release the combustion gasses into the exhaust manifold, which empties into the exhaust pipe.

Oil, an engine lubricant, is stored here while the engine is not running.

Found at the bottom of the cylinder block, the oil pan serves as the oil reservoir

What is the name of the protective piece bolted to the cylinder head?

The valve cover is bolted onto the cylinder head, covering the camshafts (in an overhead-cam engine, which is the most common type) and the valves and their attendant hardware.

Unwanted vibrations are stopped by this rotating, counter-weighted part.

In many four-cylinder engines (and some V6 engines), balance shafts with off-center counterweights turn in opposite directions from each other at twice the engine speed, canceling vibrations. The idea was invented by a British engineer, Frederick Lanchester, in 1904 and came into common use in the 1970s.

This small part lets the air/fuel mixture into each cylinder.

Driven by a camshaft, the intake valves are located in the cylinder head. In most modern engines, there are two intake and two exhaust valves per cylinder.

Identify the part that helps keep impurities out of the lubricating oil that moves around the engine.

Oil keeps the moving parts of an engine lubricated, and an oil filter removes impurities in the oil that might damage the engine.

In older engines without fuel injection, this part controls the fuel/air mixture entering the engine.

Carburetors, replaced on modern automobiles by more precise and reliable fuel injection, mixed the air and fuel to the correct ratio needed for combustion.

On older engines, this part of the ignition system ensured the spark plugs fired in the correct order.

You’ll find the distributor in the obsolete parts bin next to the carburetor. The distributor literally distributed electric current to the spark plugs in the correct order and intervals. In modern engines, the job is handled by a computer-managed ignition control module.

This engine part is often abbreviated to SOHC.

“Single overhead camshaft,” or SOHC, refers to an engine with one camshaft that operates both the exhaust and intake valves. Double overhead camshaft uses one camshaft for the intake valves and another for the exhaust valves.

This part connects the piston to the crankshaft.

The connecting rod forms the mechanical link between the piston and crankshaft. It converts the piston’s up and down motion to the crankshaft’s rotary motion.

Also known as a sleeve, it fits in the cylinder bore.

The cylinder liner is also known as a sleeve. It’s a replaceable, hollow tube made from iron that fits into the cylinder bore.

These fasteners secure the cylinder head to the engine block.

Cylinder head bolts – or just “head bolts” – secure a cylinder head and gasket to the engine block.

Moving pistons rotate this part, which ultimately leads​ to the vehicle moving.

As the combustion cycles push the pistons downward, their respective connecting rods rotate %0Dthe crankshaft. That rotation, going through the transmission as torque, ultimately causes the vehicle to move.

The 'brain' of the engine, this monitors and controls several systems to see that everything is performing properly.

In modern engines, the electronic control unit (ECU) is a computer runs the show, ensuring optimal engine performance at all times.

This ensures lubricant flows through the engine so that all moving parts move easily. What is it?

The oil pump circulates oil within the engine.

Without this part, the engine won't turn over when you turn the key.

When you turn the key of your car (or push the ignition start button), the starter motor rotates the crankshaft to begin the combustion process.

This engine part, not found in all cars, boosts power and performance.

Driven by exhaust gases running through it, a turbocharger essentially pushes more air into the engine, which, in turn, creates more power as more fuel is burned.

This part makes sure that the air entering the engine for the combustion process is screened of dust and debris.

An air filter ensures the air entering the engine for mixing with fuel for combustion is kept clean of any particles that may damage the engine.

By opening and closing in a certain sequence, these parts allow the air/fuel mixture into the cylinders and the gasses out once combustion has taken place.

You should know this after earlier questions. The camshafts open intake valves to send the air/fuel mixture into the cylinders, and the exhaust valves let the combustion gases leave the cylinders.

These connect the spark plugs to the distributor. What are they?

High tension leads, a.k.a. sparkplug wires, connect the spark plugs to the distributor. Well, that’s in an old engine. In a modern engine, individual ignition coils are usually placed right near or over the cylinders, with much shorter and usually hidden wires carrying current to them.

Name the part that evenly distributes the air/fuel mixture to the cylinders.

The intake manifold ensures even distribution of the air/fuel mixture, although with modern direct fuel-injection systems, the intake manifold’s job is to direct, measure and throttle the air alone.

This engine part moves the gas or diesel fuel from a vehicle’s fuel tank to the fuel injection system.

The fuel pump is self-explanatory: it moves the fuel from where it’s stored (the tank) to the engine.

Identify the reservoir that stores coolant and that keeps the engine operating at the optimal temperature.

Coolant circulates through the radiator when the engine is running, and most of it is stored there when the engine is off. In modern cars, you check the level of coolant in the overflow tank, not the radiator.

Fuel entering the engine must be clean. This ensures it is.

A fuel filter will help to remove impurities that might be in the fuel which, if they get into the engine, can cause complications.

In a nutshell, this part cools the air entering a turbocharged engine.

Found in turbocharged (and supercharged) engines, an intercooler is a small radiator that reduces the temperature of the air compressed by the turbocharger. This makes it denser when it is pushed through the engine and helps it to produce more power.

This part helps to reduce friction between various components and comes in different sizes.

A bearing is a curved metal piece that reduces friction between components. It comes in many different shapes and sizes.

This part includes a set of teeth.

A sprocket is a wheel with a set of teeth on its outer circumference. It drives items like the timing chain or belt.

What is a DOHC?

We generously gave you this answer in an earlier question about SOHC. “DOHC” means dual (or double) overhead camshaft, as opposed to SOHC, which is single overhead camshaft.

Name the small part that controls the rate of oil consumption within the engine's cylinders.

The oil control ring prevents oil from sneaking past the piston and reaching the combustion chamber. It comes under the umbrella of piston rings.

Identify a belt with teeth that ensures the engine runs correctly .

The timing belt is run off the engine’s crankshaft to turn the camshaft (or multiple camshafts) to operate the intake and exhaust valves in a precisely timed sequence – hence, it’s called a timing belt.

What’s the small lever that operates an intake or exhaust valve when the pushrod pushes on it?

In a pushrod-type engine (such as the current Chevrolet/GM V8 family), a single camshaft operates pushrods, which then transfer that motion to the rocker arms to open the intake and exhaust valves.

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