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What is a Car?

    This marvel of engineering has been around for well over a century. Getting back to basics we discuss what it is and how it has evolved.

Before I can advise you on how to repair your car, you first need to have a basic understanding of what a car is. That may sound strange and I know you must be saying, "I know what a car is", but do you really? A car is more than an engine and a body, it is a complex machine that has undergone over a century of evolution. I'm sure if Henry Ford could see a 2002 Ford Crown Victoria, he would be amazed how far it has come from his 1909 Model T.

Over the years we have seen a constant stream of innovations and improvements in engine design. We have seen the advent of 4 wheel brakes, the carburetor, fuel injection, and the automatic transmission. What I will do over the next few articles is to explain how each system works and how they interrelate with each other. Once we understand how the system works, we can get into how to repair that system when it fails.

There are many repairs that can be performed by the do-it-yourselfer, and many that are best performed by a trained professional. I'll guide you through which is which. I'll give you advice on the best techniques, terminology, the tools you will need and the replacement parts you will use. And most importantly, I'll teach you how to perform those repairs safely. After a short time, you will be doing most of your own repairs as well as a professional and save a lot of money as well.

Okay, let's start with that thing under the hood. Why did I say "that thing under the hood?" Some people call it a motor and some call it an engine. Which is it? The two terms are often used to describe the power plant under the hood, but which is correct? By definition, a motor is any device powered by electricity. According to Webster:

motor (noun)
First appeared 1925
An electric device that can be used on either an alternating or a direct current supply.

That's why we have a blower motor in our heating and A/C system, we have power window motors in the doors and a windshield wiper motor to keep our windshields clean. They all run on electricity.

What is an engine? Again, according to Webster:

en*gine (noun)
First appeared 13th Century
A machine for converting any of various forms of energy into mechanical force and motion.

What an automobile engine does is converts the energy contained in the fuel into motion that propels it. Some of the early cars were powered by an external combustion engine which means the fuel was burned outside of the engine proper. A steam locomotive is a classic example of an external combustion engine. The fuel is used to turn water into steam which supplies the motive power. All cars today have an internal combustion engine which means the fuel is burned inside the engine proper. So now that we know what it's called, next time we will discuss how an engine converts energy into motion.

Additional Information provided courtesy of and Warranty Direct
© 2000-2007 Vincent T. Ciulla

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