How and Why Vehicles Run

Have you ever had one of those moments (probably in a traffic jam) where you just stare down in amazement at the vehicle around you and wonder how it runs and why? Most likely not, but it is essential to know how your vehicle runs and what components are the most important, such as the engine and transmission. Knowing the way your car functions is an amazing thing and can help you appreciate the workmanship that went into making it.

Car Engine

The most significant part of the vehicle is the engine. Most cars use an internal combustion engine style, which means the combustion takes place inside the machine. However, there are many internal combustion engine types, including diesel engines, gas turbines, rotary engines, HEMI engines, and two-stroke engines. Most cars run on gasoline, so that’s the focus here today.

The goal of the engine is to create energy, which happens when gasoline is put into a small space (enclosed) and ignited. The ignition created causes a high amount of energy to produce expanding gas, powering the vehicle.

The engine uses a four-stroke combustion cycle, which converts gasoline into energy and then motion. The four strokes include a compression stroke, intake stroke, exhaust stroke, and combustion stroke.

Engine components are also worth mentioning and include rod bearings, the crankshaft, pistons, connecting rods, exhaust valves, exhaust port, spark plugs, oil pump, oil sump, engine block, head, coolant, intake port, valve covers, intake valve, and camshaft.

The pistons move to the top when you start the vehicle, which forces the intake valve open. The piston goes back down, allowing your engine to absorb some of the air and gasoline. The intake stroke mixes the gas and air to combust, and the piston moves upward once more to compress the mixture of gas/air.

When your piston goes to the top again, the spark plug produces a spark to ignite the gas, which charges and causes the cylinder to release its energy, which drives the piston down. Once the piston reaches bottom, exhaust valves open, allowing whatever heat out from the tailpipe.


The engine isn’t the only component to consider, and the transmission plays a key role, too.

You can find six different transmission systems, including CVT, Semi-automatic, DSG, automatic, manual, and TipTronic Gearbox transmissions.

It doesn’t matter which transmission system is used, as they all do the same thing. They transmit mechanical power from the engine to the wheels to allow the car to move. The transmission also helps the crankshaft by reducing how many revolutions it needs. With the reduced revolution, the torque can be efficiently used to maintain your current speed. In first gear, the wheels run slower than the engine, but in higher gears, the engine just sits there for the most part, having to do little.

The transmission also uses a neutral position, which disconnects the wheels from the engine, preventing movement.


The drivetrain usually includes J-joints, the differential, axle shafts, driveshaft, and CV joints. It transfers engine energy to the transmission, and to drive wheels.

The axle shafts deliver the power to the drive wheels while the differential takes power from the engine, making it stop before the power is transferred to the wheels. The CV joints help the drive wheels go in any direction when turning and the driveshaft connects the transmission and wheels. However, it should be noted that the components can change slightly depending on your transmission style.


How and Why Vehicles Run

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