Every day, upwards of 1 billion vehicles are out there chugging along on the world’s roads, and almost all of them utilize internal combustion engines (ICEs) to create the force that turns their wheels. And even though fully electric vehicles will hopefully start to outnumber ICE vehicles sometime soon, it’s still downright thrilling to watch a literal explosion do mechanical work. Especially super slow-mo work.
SmarterEveryDay’s Destin Sandlin went to Cinnaminson, New Jersey (mmmmmm Cinnaminson buns) for his most recent video to visit with the team behind the YouTube Channel 805RoadKing. Why? Because they have an internal combustion engine with a see-through cap. And when a see-through internal combustion engine meets a super slow-mo camera, magical things happen.What Sandlin is showing in super slow-mo is how a four-stroke engine works. The strokes of the engine are the four different phases of a mechanical/chemical process that amounts to a continuous up-and-down motion that’s transformed into forward motion by a series of gears so that your car, truck, or SHERP ATV can move forward.
Sandlin provides a super clear diagram of the four strokes, which includes the intake stroke, the compression stroke, the power stroke, and the exhaust stroke:
What’s absolutely mind-blowing is that inside an ICE vehicle, which may have anywhere from 1 to 16 cylinders, this process is going on hundreds of times a second. In the case of something like the Ariel Atom, a full four-stroke cycle can happen something like 5,300 times a minute, which is half of the Atom’s 10,600 rpm redline. (The rpm number is halved because two revolutions of the vehicle’s crankshaft equals one full stroke cycle.)
What do you think about the magical mechanical process that is internal combustion engines? Are you going to think about the cacophony of explosions underneath the hood of your car differently now? Let us know in the comments below!