Powertrain Overview: The Internal Combustion Engine

Since the creation of the first modern automobile nearly a century and a half ago, there has been one dominant engine option on the market, the gasoline internal combustion engine. Now the gasoline internal combustion engine has some challengers trying to steal the crown. There have been many different types of engines in the past but many of them relied solely on fossil fuels to operate.

Recently because of increasing fuel economy standards and emission awareness, a new breed of engines is emerging. Many are relying on electricity to aid in powering the vehicle. With these new power plants comes a new set of rules and warnings on how to repair them. A lot of collision technicians have an idea about how some of the new powertrains work, but not a full understanding of what is going on under the hood. It is important to understand the inner workings of the engine in order to safely and properly diagnose and repair them after a collision. In this series, we’ll walk you through many of the current engine options and how they convert the fuel they’re consuming into usable power. Let’s explore the gasoline internal combustion powertrain.

Internal combustion engines use fuel to create an explosion (power) to move a piston down. Although there are many different designs to an internal combustion engine, there are three crucial components needed to make one run, a fuel to burn, oxygen to support combustion, and an ignition source to start combustion. These powertrains use a 12 V battery system to start the vehicle and power the accessories. The battery is charged by an alternator powered by the engine.

The piston is attached to a crankshaft via a connecting rod, which converts the piston’s up and down movement into a rotational force. This rotation is then used to turn transmission causing the vehicle to move. As the engine runs it also recharges the vehicle accessories and recharges the battery. For collision repair this is the standard engine that have been seen for decades.

Modern internal combustion engines have a significant amount of sensitive electrical components on them. Due to this, it is crucial to disconnect and isolate the battery and electrical system when making repairs and welding on the vehicle. The added electrical current from welding can damage important electrical components for the engine. Finally, engine cooling and lubrication is a major part of an internal combustion engine. Heat created from combustion needs to be removed and oil may need to be cooled also. This makes the front radiator critical to engine performance and proper procedures should be followed when replacing them.

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