Automotive Information Flash Card Set 667469

Cards 10
Topics Alternator, Camshaft, Catalytic Converter, Coolant, Cylinder Arrangement, Ignition Coil, Oil Pan, Purpose, Transmission, Universal Joints

Study Guide


Once the engine is running, the alternator provides electrical current to recharge the battery and power the electrical system. The alternator is driven by the engine's crankshaft and produces alternating current (AC) which is then fed through a rectifier bridge to convert it to the direct current (DC) required by the electrical system. A voltage regulator controls the output of the alternator to maintain a consistent voltage (approx. 14.5 volts) in the electrical system regardless of load.


The camshaft is linked to the crankshaft through a timing belt and regulates the opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves in each cylinder in time with the motion of the piston. An engine designated OverHead Camshaft (OHC) locates the camshaft in the cylinder head. An engine with Double OverHead Camshaft (DOHC) has two camshafts, one to regulate the intake valves and one to regulate the exhaust valves.

Catalytic Converter

The catalytic converter converts pollutants in exhaust gas into less pollutant substances like carbon dioxide and water.


Modern car engines are cooled by liquid which circulates through the engine block and cylinder heads absorbing excess heat. This liquid is made up of half water and half antifreeze (commonly, ethylene glycol) which both keeps the water from freezing at low temperatures and raises its boiling point making heat transfer more efficient.

Cylinder Arrangement

Cylinder number and arrangement depends on the purpose of the engine. Smaller (four and six cylinder) engines in front-wheel drive vehicles often use an inline design which orients cylinders vertically over the crankshaft and aligns them in a row. Other common orientations are a horizontal/opposed design which places cylinders flat facing each other with the crankshaft between them and a V-type design common in six and eight cylinder engines that features one cylinder head per block of cylinders oriented at a 60 to 90 degree angle to each other with the crankshaft at the bottom of the V.

Ignition Coil

The ignition coil is a high-voltage transformer made up of two coils of wire. The primary coil winding is the low-voltage winding and has relatively few turns of heavy wire. The secondary coil winding is the high-voltage winding that surrounds the primary and is made up of thousands of turns of fine wire. Current flows from the battery through the primary coil winding which creates a changing magnetic field inside the secondary coil. This induces a very high-voltage current in the secondary coil which it feeds to the distributor.

Oil Pan

The oil pan contains the engine oil reservoir of from four to six quarts of oil and feeds the oil pump through the oil pickup tube. An oil strainer floats at the top of the oil in the oil pan and screens debris from the oil before feeding it to the oil pump.


The lubrication system lubricates engine components by putting an oil film between them to reduce friction and smooth engine operation, cools by absorbing heat from engine parts, seals the pistons and cylinders to contain combustion, cleans contaminants, and quiets engine noise.


The transmission provides the appropriate power to vehicle wheels to maintain a given speed. The engine and the transmission have to be disconnected to shift gears and a manual transmission requires the driver to manually manage this disconnection (using a clutch) and to manually shift gears. An automatic transmission is essentially an automatic gear shifter and handles this process without driver input.

Universal Joints

Like CV joints, universal joints (U-joints) are located at each end of a drive shaft and allow the shaft to operate at a variable angle with the item it is driving. Universal joints perform the same basic function as CV joints but CV joints have a wider range of operation.