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The ultimate guide
to how cars work

Your complete & free guide to automotive engineering.

The engine

The simplest and most common type of engine comprises four vertical cylinders close together in a row. This is known as an in-line engine. Cars with capacities exceeding 2,000cc often have six cylinders in line. Read more

How the braking system works

Modern cars have brakes on all four wheels, operated by a hydraulic system. The brakes may be disc type or drum type. Read more

How manual gearboxes work

Internal-combustion engines run at high speeds, so a reduction in gearing is necessary to transmit power to the drive wheels, which turn much more slowly. Read more

How a car clutch works

The first stage in the transmission of a car with a manual gearbox is the clutch. Read more

How a diesel engine works

Traditionally, diesel engines have always been seen as noisy, smelly and underpowered engines of little use other than in trucks, taxis and vans. But as diesel engines and their injection system controls have become more refined, the 1980s have seen that situation change. In the UK in 1985 there were almost 65,000 diesel cars sold (about 3.5 per cent of the total number of cars sold), compared with only 5380 in 1980. Read more

How car suspension works

There are various ways of attaching the wheels of the car so that they can move up and down on their springs and dampers, and do so with as little change as possible in the distance between adjacent wheels or in the near-vertical angle of the tyres to the road. Read more

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