ASVAB Automotive Information Practice Test 382638

Questions 5
Topics Cylinder Arrangement, Cylinders, Distributor, Firing Order, Ignition Timing

Study Guide

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.


Cylinders act as a guide for the pistons that translate the heat energy of combustion into the mechanical energy necessary to move a vehicle. Piston rings seal the piston to the cylinder to contain combustion gases and also regulate the oil distribution between the piston and cylinder wall. A cylinder head closes in the top of the cylinder forming the combustion chamber which is sealed by a head gasket (head). The head provides space for air and fuel intake valves, exhaust valves, and mounts for spark plugs and fuel injectors.


The distributor is driven by the engine's camshaft and is responsible for timing the spark and distributing it to the correct cylinder. The distributor cap contains a rotor that connects the ignition coil (and its high voltage) to the proper cylinder at the proper point in the stroke cycle.

Firing Order

The stroke cycle of an engine is governed by the crankshaft which serves to regulate the firing order of the cylinders. All cylinders are not on the same stroke at the same time and correct firing order is important to balance engine operation and minimize vibrations. A common firing order for four-cylinder engines is 1-3-4-2 which indicates that cylinders 1 and 3 fire (power stroke)together and cylinders 4 and 2 fire together.

Ignition Timing

Ignition timing defines the point in time at the end of the compression stroke that the spark plug fires. Measured in number of degrees before top dead center (BTDC), the exact point that the spark plugs initiate combustion varies depending on the speed of the engine. The timing is advanced (the spark plugs fire a few more degrees BTDC) when the engine is running faster and retarded when it's running slower.