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CONSTRUCTION OF AN AUTOMOBILE
The primary components of a car are the power plant, the power transmission, the running gear, and the control system. These constitute the chassis, on which the body is mounted.
The power plant includes the engine and its fuel, the carburettor, ignition, lubrication, and cooling systems, and the starter motor.
The greatest number of cars use piston engines. The four-cycle piston engine requires four strokes of the piston per cycle. The first downstroke draws in the petrol mixture. The first upstroke compresses it. The second downstroke—the power stroke—following the combustion of the fuel, supplies the power, and the second upstroke evacuates the burned gases. Intake and exhaust valves in the cylinder control the intake of fuel and the release of burned gases. At the end of the power stroke the pressure of the burned gases in the cylinder is 2.8 to 3.5 kg/sq cm. These gases escape with the sudden opening of the exhaust valve. They rush to a silencer (muf-fler), an enlarged section of piping containing expanding ducts and perforated plates through which the gases expand and are released into the atmosphere.
Greater smoothness of operation of the four-cycle engine were provided by the development of the four-cylinder engine, which supplies power from one or another of the cylinders on each stroke of the cycle. A further increase in power and smoothness is obtained in engines of 6,8,12, and 16 cylinders, which are arranged in either a straight line or two banks assembled in the form of a V.
Air is mixed with the vapour of the petrol in the carburettor. To prevent the air and the carburettor from becoming too cold for successful evaporation of the fuel, the air for the carburettor is usually taken from a point close to a heated part of the engine. Modern carburettors are fitted with a so-called float-feed chamber and a mixing or spraying chamber. The first is a small chamber in which a small supply of petrol is maintained at a constant level. The petrol is pumped from the main tank to this chamber, the float rising as the petrol flows in until the desired level is reached, when the inlet closes. The carburettor is equipped with such devices as accelerating pumps and economizer valves, which automatically control the mixture ratio for efficient operation under varying conditions. Level-road driving at constant speed requires a lower ratio of petrol to air than that needed for climbing hills, for acceleration, or for starting the engine in cold weather. When a mixture extremely rich in petrol is necessary, a valve known as the choke cuts down the air intake, permitting large quantities of unvaporized fuel to enter the cylinder.
The mixture of air and petrol vapour delivered to the cylinder from the carburettor is compressed by the first upstroke of the piston. This heats the gas, and the higher temperature and pressure facilitate ignition and quick combustion. The next operation is that of igniting the charge by a spark plug. One electrode is insulated by porcelain or mica; the other is grounded through the metal of the plug, and both form part of the secondary circuit of an induction system.
The principal type of ignition now commonly used is the battery-and-coil system. The current from the battery flows through the coil and magnetizes the iron core. When this circuit is interrupted at the distributor points by the interrupter cam, a current is produced in the primary coil with the assistance of the condenser. This induces a high-voltage current in the secondary winding. This secondary high voltage is needed to cause the spark to jump the gap in the spark plug. The spark is directed to the proper cylinder by the distributor, which connects the secondary coil to the spark plugs in the several cylinders in their proper firing sequence. The interrupter cam and distributor are driven from the same shaft, the number of breaking points on the interrupter cam being the same as the number of cylinders.
The electrical equipment controls the starting of the engine, its ignition system, and the lighting of the car. It consists of the battery, a generator for charging it when the engine is running, a starter and the necessary wiring. Electricity also operates various automatic devices and accessories, including windscreen wipers, directional signals, heating and air conditioning, cigarette lighters, powered windows and audio equipment.
In the force-feed system, a pump forces the oil to the main crankshaft bearings and then through drilled holes in the crankpins. In the full-force system, oil is also forced to the connecting rod and then out to the walls of the cylinder at the piston pin.
At the moment of explosion, the temperature within the cylinder is much higher than the melting point of cast iron. Since the explosions take place as often as 2,000 times per minute in each cylinder, the cylinder would soon become so hot that the piston, through expansion, would «freeze» in the cylinder. The cylinders are therefore provided with jackets, through which water is rapidly circulated by a small pump driven by a gear on the crankshaft or camshaft. During cold weather, the water is generally mixed with a suitable antifreeze, such as alcohol, wood alcohol, or ethylene glycol.
To keep the water from boiling away, a radiator forms part of the engine-cooling system. Radiators vary in shape and style. They all have the same function, however, of allowing the water to pass through tubing with a large area, the outer surface of which can be cooled by the atmosphere. In air cooling of engine cylinders, various means are used to give the heat an outlet and carry it off by a forced draught of air.
The petrol engine must usually be set in motion before an explosion can take place and power can be developed; moreover, it cannot develop much power at low speeds. These difficulties have been overcome by the use of gears and clutches, which permit the engine to work at a speed higher than that of the wheels, and to work when the vehicle is at rest. An electric starter receiving its current from the storage battery, turns the crankshaft, thus starting the petrol engine. The starter motor is of a special type that operates under a heavy overload, producing high power for very short periods. In modern cars, the starter motor is automatically actuated when the ignition switch is turned on.
The Power Transmission
The engine power is delivered first to the flywheel and then to the clutch. From the clutch, which is the means of coupling the engine with the power-transmission units, the power flows through the transmission and is delivered into the rear-axle drive gears, or differential, by means of the drive shaft and universal joints. The differential delivers the power to each of the rear wheels through the rear-axle drive shafts.
Some type of clutch is found in every car. The clutch may be operated by means of a foot pedal, or it may be automatic or semi-automatic. The friction clutch and the fluid coupling are the two basic varieties. The friction clutch, which depends on solid contact between engine and transmission, consists of: the rear face of the flywheel; the driving plate, mounted to rotate with the flywheel; and the driven plate, between the other two. When the clutch is engaged, the driving plate presses the driven plate against the rear face of the flywheel. Engine power is then delivered through the contacting surfaces to the transmission.
Fluid coupling may be used either with or without the friction clutch. When it is the sole means of engaging the engine to the transmission, power is delivered exclusively through an oil medium without any contact of solid parts. In this type, known as a fluid drive, an engine-driven, fan-bladed disc, known as the fluid flywheel, agitates the oil with sufficient force to rotate a second disc that is connected to the transmission. As the rotation of the second disc directly depends on the amount of engine power delivered, the prime result of fluid coupling is an automatic clutch action, which greatly simplifies the requirements for gear shifting.