How Cars Work?

Cars are extremely popular with millions upon millions driving on our roads each and every day.  Although most people use and drive a car each day, many still don’t know how they work.  If you have always wondered how a car works, here is some information.

All Cars have Similar Components

There are plenty of cars on the road and it seems like each one is unique.  Each one is a different size, color, shape, etc.  Although all cars look slightly different, most have very similar components including the engine, transmission, tires and steering, fuel system, exhaust system, cabin and electronics.

The Engine

The engine is the power plant of a car.  If you want a car to move you need an engine.  There are a variety of different types of engines; however the most common type of engine is the internal combustion gas engine.  The internal combustion gas engine burns gas as its fuel and converts the energy into movement.  Besides an internal combustion gas engine other popular types of engines are Diesel and Hybrid power.

Diesel engines use a fuel that is similar to gas called Diesel.  Diesel engines are usually used in big sedans, trucks and construction vehicles due to the fact that the power output is a little more efficient.

The other popular type of engine is the hybrid.  The hybrid vehicle is only a few years old, but quickly becoming popular on the roads.  A hybrid vehicle uses both a gas engine and an electric motor.  Hybrid engines are computer controlled and can switch from one type of power to another when need be.  For instance, if you are accelerating quickly in order to get on a highway, your vehicle will switch to the gas engine, where you will need more power and acceleration.  However, once you are on the highway and driving at a steady pace of 65 mph your hybrid vehicle will switch to the electric motor where it will get far better fuel efficiency.


A car’s transmission transfers the energy from the engine to the wheels of your vehicle.  While it sounds pretty simple, it can be complicated when you take into consideration gear ratios, torque, horsepower and so on.  There are two types of transmissions in vehicles, they are manual stick shift and automatic.

Manual Stick Shift

In a manual stick shift transmission, the driver changes the gears of the transmission manually.  Gears are what helps power your wheels.  Similar in some ways to a 10 speed bike, a car has gears that are better at some speeds than others.  For instance, first gear provides the vehicle with the most power.  You need lots of power to start your car to acceleration.  The higher gears such as third or fourth generally are less powerful, but allow the wheels to move much quicker.  Where a car’s first gear might top out at 15 or 20 miles per hour, the third or fourth gear might top out over 100 mph.

Automatic Transmission

An automatic transmission is where the driver does not have to manually change the gears of the transmission, this is done on its own with the help of bands.  Where a manual transmission has a clutch and stick to change the gears, an automatic transmission only has an accelerator.  By keeping your foot on the accelerator your vehicle will move through the gears automatically.  When you slow your vehicle down or stop your vehicle completely, your vehicle will automatically lower the gear.

Tires and Steering

Tires and steering are another group of components that help make your car drivable.  Tires are inflatable rubber wheels.  They are filled with air and have treads on them so that they grab the road firmly.  Believe it or not, the tire is one of the simplest components, but it has been designed very carefully.  The only thing that makes contact with the road from your vehicle is a few inches of rubber from each of your tire.  Your life depends on good tires.

Besides tires, your vehicle also includes rims axels, and steering components.  Usually many vehicles also include power steering.  Large cars are very heavy and it would take a lot of brute force to turn your wheels.  To help, most cars have power steering systems that use hydraulics to help turn the wheels of your vehicle.  Although you can turn your vehicle with two fingers, without power steering, you would probably need to use both hands at full force.

Fuel System

Since all cars on the road require fuel, your car comes with a fuel system.  While fuel systems might differ between older cars, new cars and the different types of engines in each of them, there are a few components that are usually found in all types of vehicles.  They are the fuel tank, fuel pump, fuel filter and fuel injection components.

The fuel tank is where the fuel is stored.  Most tanks are from about 10 gallons to about 30 gallons.  The average vehicle can travel close to 300 miles on a full tank of gas or diesel.  In order to get the fuel from the fuel tank to the engine you need a fuel pump.  Fuel pumps have hoses and lines that transport the fuel from the tank to the engine.  Fuel filters work with the fuel system to clean out any impurities that might have found their way into the fuel tank.

In addition to the fuel pump, many newer vehicles (1990 and above) have fuel injection systems.  Your car can achieve better efficiency and power with fuel injectors.  Since your engine works best with the right mixture of fuel to air and the right amount of fuel at each moment, a fuel injector helps with this process.  The fuel injector is a significant improvement over the carburetor which to a certain extent helped with this task in the past.

Exhaust System

Every vehicle has an exhaust system.  Unfortunately, your vehicle gives off exhaust.  Exhaust is the by products of burning fuel.  It can consist of gas along with new chemicals caused by the reaction of the engine.  For the most part, these by products are considered to be toxic and dangerous to both humans and the environment.  To lessen the threat of exhaust, the exhaust system is used to clean and filter these by products.  An exhaust system usually consists of a catalytic converter and a muffler.  A catalytic converter lessens the severity of the chemical compounds coming from the engine.  The muffler helps with this process, but also makes the vehicle less noisy.  Some sport cars have mufflers specifically tuned to special frequencies so their cars sound boisterous and throaty.  Motorcycles also have special mufflers that create that loud rumble that most riders seem to love.

The Interior Cabin

The cabin of your vehicle is the interior of your vehicle where the occupants sit.  It includes the seat, dashboard, gauges, radio, windows, etc.  The cabin varies from car to car, however most cars try to make their cabins as comfortable as possible.  This means adding elements such as high quality materials, nice sounding radio’s and speakers and even a DVD and TV for the kids to watch in the back seat.  The cabin has definitely changed over the years and for many, their cars are as comfortable as their living room.


The electronics of a vehicle are extremely important and sometimes overlooked.  The electronics include the battery to help start the vehicle and the alternator to recharge the battery.  The battery provides power for the headlights, turn signals, brake lights and interior lights.  Besides the lighting of the vehicle, the electronics of a vehicle are also responsible for all power accessories, such as the digital dashboard, radio, power seats, power moon roof, power door locks, power windows, power mirrors, etc.

How a car works might seem like a basic question to ask, but as you can see most cars are very complicated and have hundreds if not thousands of individual parts that all fit together to make it go.

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