The Engine Quiz

By: Staff

About This Quiz

Is your brain smart enough to handle the workings of an internal combustion engine? Most modern cars use internal combustion engines, or the reciprocating piston engine, as some call it. But engines have a long and fascinating history and have been engineered in many different shapes, sizes, and styles. Do you even know how many cylinders are in your engine? If you don’t, then taking this quiz is more vital than ever.

What do cylinders look like in an inline engine? How about a flat engine? What’s your knowledge of the V configuration? Your brain is perhaps already reeling, or you’re foaming at the mouth with excitement for what’s about to take place. After all, not everyone spins with glee when they learn that a 3.8L V6 engine has a total displacement of 3.8 liters and six cylinders arranged in two rows of three cylinders each.

How many strokes are in a typical engine cycle? You should know this because you’re about to have your brain experience its own intake, compression, combustion, exhaust, and so much more. When you’re done, you’re going to be so spent that you’ll want to collapse on the couch with a beer. 

So grab your tools and gets your hands greasy, it's time to take the quiz!

Why don’t we use steam engines for cars anymore?

Internal combustion engines are a lot more efficient than external combustion engines, which is why steam engines fell out of favor for cars.

What is an engine’s redline?

An engine’s redline, which is shown on the tachometer, determines its maximum revolutions per minute, or rpms.

What does ECM stand for, and what does it do?

ECM is the engine control module, and it’s the computer that manages the engine’s functions.

What are two of the main advantages to a 4-cylinder engine?

The 4-cylinder engine did not become popular in the United States until the 1980s, when Japanese manufacturers demonstrated how small and efficient it could be.

What happens if your car leaks or burns off all of its oil?

Oil lubricates the pistons so they can move smoothly inside the engine, and without oil, the engine will seize.

What are the three functions of engine oil?

Most people know that engine oil lubricates to help with metal-on-metal contact, but it also helps cool and clean the engine as it circulates.

What is an octane rating?

The octane rating relates to how much the fuel can be compressed before it spontaneously ignites. A rating that’s too low can cause the engine to run poorly.

In a car engine's cylinder, valves let fuel in and exhaust out. The ______ moves these valves.

A <a href='http://auto.howstuffworks.com/camshaft.htm' style="font-weight: bold;">camshaft</a> is a rotating rod that uses a series of lobes to open and close the valves. Most modern engines have overhead cams -- the camshaft is directly above the valves.

A turbocharger is:

<a href='http://auto.howstuffworks.com/turbo.htm' style="font-weight: bold;">Turbochargers</a> and <a href='http://auto.howstuffworks.com/supercharger.htm' style="font-weight: bold;">superchargers</a> are both air compression systems. They pressurize the air moving into the engine, increasing the engine's power.

A car engine's job is to:

There's a lot of heat in a car's engine -- and a lot of exhaust coming out of it -- but these are byproducts of the engine's true purpose. An engine has to use fuel to create motion to move the <a href='http://auto.howstuffworks.com/tire.htm' style="font-weight: bold;">tires</a>.

Why does engine oil need to be changed?

Because engine oil cleans the engine, it picks up dirt and debris as it circulates, which gradually reduces its efficiency.

There are three basic failures that can happen in an engine: bad fuel mix, lack of compression and:

Lots of things can go wrong under the hood, but the big three in the engine involve fuel, compression and <a href='http://science.howstuffworks.com/fire.htm' style="font-weight: bold;">fire</a> .

A car uses a four-stroke engine. The four strokes are:

In the intake step, a cylinder gets some fuel and air to burn. Then, it compresses the fuel to make the combustion step (the explosion) more powerful. In the last step, the cylinder releases its exhaust.

Modern cars use internal combustion engines, but some early models used external combustion engines. What is one example of an external combustion engine?

Steam engines were most commonly used in trains and boats, but did power some types of cars.

What might happen if water gets into your gas tank?

Water will prevent the gasoline in the system from burning properly, which will cause combustion problems in the engine, which will prevent the car from starting or cause it to run poorly.

What are the two main components of the engine cooling system in most cars?

With a water-cooled engine, which is the most common type of cooling system, the radiator and water pump circulate water to absorb heat and move it away from the engine.

Which of the following commonly uses air-cooled engines?

Many motorcycles are powered by air-cooled engines.

What are the three common ways to deliver fuel to an engine?

Carburetion, port fuel injection and direct fuel injection all get the fuel where it needs to go.

When you turn the key to a car, the starter motor:

The starter motor has a big job -- it has to overcome friction, cold weather and other factors to get your engine started. If it fails, nothing happens in the engine when you turn the key.

A crankshaft's job in an engine is to:

When <a href='http://science.howstuffworks.com/gasoline.htm' style="font-weight: bold;">gasoline</a> ignites in a cylinder, the piston moves in a straight line. Your wheels, on the other hand, need to turn. The piston moves a connecting rod, which turns the crankshaft, producing the rotational motion.

A timing belt or timing chain links these two components together so that the valves are in sync with the pistons:

A timing belt or timing chain links the crankshaft to the <a href='http://auto.howstuffworks.com/camshaft.htm' style="font-weight: bold;">camshaft</a> so that the valves are in sync with the pistons.

What are the three common ways to arrange an engine’s cylinders?

An engine’s cylinders are most often arranged in a line (inline), in two rows set at an angle (V) or in two opposite banks (flat).

Which of these cars features a popular example of an air-cooled engine?

The Volkswagen Beetle was designed with an air-cooled engine specifically for its simplicity.

Why does a diesel engine get better mileage than a gasoline engine?

Diesel has a higher energy density than gasoline, meaning that each gallon burned makes more power.

When a car's engine is running, power to operate the radio, CD player, headlights and windshield wipers comes from the:

A large battery is used to start the engine when you turn the key; however, once the engine is running, power for the car's accessories comes from the <a href='http://auto.howstuffworks.com/alternator.htm' style="font-weight: bold;">alternator</a>. The alternator is connected to the engine by a belt and generates electricity to recharge the battery, too.

What are two other terms for engine knock?

Pinging is another way to describe the sound, and detonation describes what’s causing it.

What is the steam engine’s main advantage?

A steam engine just needs to create steam, so it can burn anything as fuel. That's why in those old silent movies, when the hero runs out of coal to power the train, he starts burning his coat and hat.

A device that works on the same principle as a car engine is:

In a both <a href='http://science.howstuffworks.com/spud-gun.htm' style="font-weight: bold;">spud gun</a> and a car engine, you ignite a small amount of fuel, releasing a large amount of energy. (And it's equally unwise to get in front of a moving car or a loaded spud gun.)

Name one of the causes of engine knock.

There are several causes of engine knock, and experts say that installing the wrong spark plugs is a common problem.

What’s another name for the four-stroke engine cycle?

The Otto cycle is named after its inventor, Nikolaus Otto.

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