If you’re like most people, you’re used to jumping in your car and turning it on, without a thought to how the engine makes everything work. If you want to find out how this actually works, well, that’s what we’re discussing now. In our last post, we talked about how pistons turn energy from gas into movement. This time, we’re talking about how that up-and-down movement from the pistons becomes the circular movement needed for wheels to move.
Time to Get Rolling
The crankshaft is inside of the engine, connected to the pistons. The pistons can rotate on both ends, allowing them to move smoothly up and down despite the crankshaft at the end. As the piston moves around the rotating joint on the far end, it circles the axis formed by the crankshaft, allowing the up-and-down motion of the piston to become a circular motion, as carried by the crankshaft.
The crankshaft is also connected to the camshaft (the part that controls the intake valves), so that the two rotate in synch with each other constantly.
Not to be confused with a crankshaft, the drive shaft runs the length of the car. Once the vertical motion of the cylinders and pistons is converted to rotational movement through the crankshaft, the drive shaft takes this movement along to the wheels. They turn, the car moves forward, and there you have it – locomotion.
The turning drive shaft also runs the length of the car, allowing the wheels to turn.
Next up: How your input controls the car’s output.