How Much Do You Know About Internal Combustion Engines?


By: Robin Tyler

6 Min Quiz

Image: P_Wei/E+/gettyimages

About This Quiz

The internal combustion engine is certainly a very fascinating piece of machinery. But what is it? Well, to the layman, an internal combustion engine is simply the engine they have that powers their car.

And the name basically explains what happens within the engine while it is running. Yes, while the engine is firing, a combustion process is taking place. Though mechanical wizardry the energy produced by this is used to propel a car forward or backward (it depends on what gear you are in). Incredible isn't it?

Now, most people think that internal combustion engines are only those that are found in cars. But that's not true. There are many different kinds of engines in which a combustion process produces energy which is transformed into power and movement. Some even belong in the sky! Yes, the first jet aircraft was powered by a form of internal combustion engine. In fact, these engines are found all over our the world, providing power for many things other than a vehicle. And did you know, they don't just run on gasoline either!

But just how much do you know about these marvels? Well, this quiz will test your knowledge to the full. Good luck!

Who is credited as the man who invented the compressed charge, four-cycle internal combustion engine?

Although many had made their own form of internal combustion engine before him, it was the compressed charge, four-cycle internal combustion engine patented in 1876 that is considered the first that could be used in a motor vehicle.


True or false? Karl Benz created his own internal combustion engine in 1879.

In 1879, German engineer Karl Benz perfected his own design of a two-stroke internal combustion engine. This became the powerplant for the first ever car in 1885, the Benz Patent Motorwagen.


Which of these auto engineers devised the first compressed charge, compression ignition engine that used diesel as a propellant?

It was Rudolf Diesel who invented the diesel powered compressed charge, compression ignition engine. His first engine ran in 1892. It was large, however, and Diesel spent the next years perfecting his creation.


Other than gasoline, which of these fuels ran early internal combustion engines?

Early engines ran on a variety of fuels. From 1892, diesel became an option but early diesel engines wouldn't fit in a car. Gasoline was the most common propellant but others included ethanol and even kerosene.


In what year was the first rotary internal combustion engine introduced?

The first rotary internal combustion engine was produced in 1899. It differs from a regular internal combustion engine in the fact that the intake, compression, combustion and exhaust are all performed in their own section of the engine. In a regular engine, this takes place within each cylinder.


Who is credited with inventing the first rotary internal combustion engine?

Félix Millet is considered to have invented the rotary engine. He first patented it in 1888 and used early engines to propel bicycles. In 1895, a vehicle using his design entered the Paris-Bordeaux-Paris motor race, while the engine was used in vehicles produced by Darracq and Company London from 1900.


True or false? Is the gas-turbine engine an internal combustion engine?

Yes, the gas turbine is an internal combustion engine. Why? Well, the combustion process takes place within the engine and that generates power to move the vehicle. Gas turbine engines include turbojets, turboprops and turbofans.


Which English engineer is credited with running the first turbojet internal combustion engine in 1937?

Frank Whittle, an English engineer, together with his team ran the first turbojet on April 12, 1937. Interestingly, at the time, the British government had no interest in the new powerplant, but Whittle persisted.


Which of these is not a part you will find in the internal combustion engine?

An internal combustion engine will have a crankshaft, a camshaft and anything from 1 to 8 spark plugs (in most cases). It won't have a boiler. This is part of a steam engine and is where water is boiled and turned to steam which helps power the engine.


In a gasoline internal combustion engine, which of these provides the spark to ignite the air/fuel mixture?

There is one spark plug for each cylinder in the engine. It is tasked to provide the spark that will ignite the air/fuel mixture after it has been compressed. This combustion produces the power stroke, which again moves the piston which will power your car, well with a few parts linked in between.


How does the spark plug spark in an internal combustion engine?

Although the spark plug sparks to ignite the air/fuel mixture, it receives that spark from the coil. The spark is transmitted as electricity down high tension wires from the coil to each plug.


In an internal combustion engine, what connects the spark plugs to the distributor cap and ignition coil?

The high tension leads conduct the electrical current from the ignition coil to the spark plugs, which create the spark to start combustion in the engine.


Turbochargers are a way to increase the power generated by an internal combustion engine. Who invented them?

Swiss engineer and inventor Alfred Buchi was the man behind the turbocharger. Interestingly, the materials and fuels he needed at the time to implement his idea were not available at that time in motoring history.


In what year did Alfred Buchi patent his turbocharger idea?

The idea for the turbocharger was patented by Alfred Buchi in 1905. A later patent followed in 1925, which gave us the modern turbocharger.


Which of these was the first aircraft to fly using a turbojet engine?

On Aug. 27, 1939, the Heinkel He 178 became the first aircraft to fly using a turbojet engine, a form of the internal combustion engine. Within four years, Germany had employed turbojet aircraft in their air force in an attempt to win World War II. It was a case of too little, too late, however.


In modern motor vehicles, what prevents an internal combustion engine from running too hot?

In engines, coolant is stored in the radiator. As the engine heat increases, a thermostat regulates the release of coolant from the engine. Flowing through the engine, the coolant will reduce the overall temperature.


What burns within the engine to keep the combustion process going and the engine running?

The air/gasoline mixture is ignited by the spark from the spark plug, prompting the combustion necessary to keep the engine running. Gases created from this are expelled from the engine through the exhaust system.


From the options below, pick the engine which is now found in most car models around the world?

Most modern cars today are four-stroke engines, especially in sedans. Off course, vehicles such as pickups and large SUVs can have larger engines that power them, for example, V8's while the W16 (two V8's next to each other) is found in the Bugatti Veyron and Chiron hypercars.


Which stroke of an internal combustion engine sees the gases formed after combustion leave the engine?

The exhaust stroke, the final in the stroke cycle within the cylinder, sees the exhaust gases produced from the combustion of the air/fuel mixture leave the engine. This is achieved as it exits through the exhaust manifold, down the exhaust system, and out the tailpipe.


Who invented another form of the internal combustion engine, the Wankel engine?

We have German engineer Felix Wankel to thank for the engine that bears his name. This engine has a rotary design, making it very different from a regular internal combustion engine. Rotary motion within the engine is started and maintain through pressure.


What is a major difference in modern internal combustion engines over their older predecessors?

That's right. Modern internal combustion engines use compression to squeeze the air/fuel mixture which in turn leads to more intense combustion when a spark is added. In older engines, the air/fuel mixture was blown or sucked into the cylinder.


Can you tell us which of these IS part of an internal combustion engine?

A crankshaft is a crucial part in any engine. It helps to transfer the up and down motion - a linear motion - into a rotational one. This, in turn, will eventually be transferred through the driveshaft to the wheels and the car will move forward, depending on the gear selected.


Which part listed below is only found in a diesel engine?

You will only find a glow plug in a diesel-powered engine. These help to aid the starting process by heating the engine to ensure all the fuel is burnt during combustion. Why? Well, during a very cold start, the engine often cannot burn all the fuel off. Glow plugs stop this problem.


What is the purpose of the oil in a car engine?

There are many metal parts within the engine. These need lubrication, which motor oil provides, ensuring that they do not wear out quickly.


In regular internal combustion engines, what motion do pistons make?

Pistons are found within the cylinder in the engine. Each cylinder will have its own piston. For example, a four-cylinder car has four pistons. These pistons move up and down within the cylinder, depending on what stroke of the running cycle of the engine they are on.


In what stroke of an internal combustion engine does the air/fuel mixture ignite?

The combustion stroke, the third of four strokes an internal combustion engine takes, is the one in which the air/fuel mixture ignites. This combustion is caused by the spark provided by a spark plug in gasoline-powered engines.


By what other name is a horizontally opposed engine, another form of an internal combustion engine, known?

A boxer engine, or horizontally opposed engine, sees cylinders arranged on either side of a crankshaft. They are found in vehicles from both Porsche and Subaru, among others.


Which of these parts open or close to either let gas in or gases out of the cylinder?

The valves within an internal combustion engine play two important roles. First, they open to let gas into the cylinder where it will be ignited and then they open again to let the gases formed from the combustion process out.


True or false? A cannon is essentially a very basic example of an internal combustion engine.

Yes! Cannons are simple internal combustion engines. Why? Well, the cannonball is compressed into the barrel, a propellant is added in the form of gunpowder. It is combusted by fire (much like a spark from a spark plug) and the gases from that expand, pushing the cannonball out the barrel.


Which engine is actually more efficient, the gasoline-powered engine or a diesel-powered engine?

Diesel engines are more efficient than the gasoline counterparts. In fact, a gasoline engine is only around 20% effective. That means of the fuel used to run it, only around 20% is actually consumed effectively. In a diesel engine, this figure is around 40%.


Which stroke of an internal combustion engine sees the air/fuel mixture brought into the engine?

The first stroke within a cylinder of an internal combustion engine is the intake stroke. This sees the valves open to introduce the air/fuel mixture into the cylinder.


Can you name the engine part that allows the gas/air mixture to come into the cylinder?

The air intake manifold allows the gas/air mixture into the cylinders. It then distributes it to the intake ports equally.


Which stroke of an internal combustion engine compresses the air/fuel mixture before it is ignited?

Once within the cylinder, the air/fuel mixture is compressed. This means more energy is released when the air/fuel mixture is ignited during the combustion stroke.


Are gasoline-powered internal combustion engines as powerful at higher altitudes as lower altitudes?

At higher altitudes, gasoline-powered internal combustion engines are less powerful than at sea-level, for example. Why? Well, at higher altitude, air is thinner, that means fewer air molecules are used in the engine, which then requires less gas in the air/fuel mix. And that means a drop in power.


Which internal combustion engine fuel is less flammable?

Diesel is far less flammable than gasoline. In fact, you could throw a match into a puddle of diesel and it would go out. Try that with gasoline and it will ignite before it even hits the puddle thanks the gases rising above the puddle.


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