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Combustion Engine Works

The entire process only takes four strokes of the piston.

  • Intake Stroke
  • Compression Stroke
  • Power Stroke (Combustion Stroke)
  • Exhaust Stroke

Intake Stroke

As the piston moves down on its first stroke, the intake valve opens and allows the combustion chamber to fill with air and fuel. This creates a space ready to explode even without compression. But add compression and you create a lot of potential energy. It’s possible to add more fuel and more air during the intake stroke to create a more powerful mixture to increase horsepower but be sure to check your tuning if you do add performance parts.

Compression Stroke

When the intake stroke ends at the bottom of the cylinder, the compression stroke begins. The piston moves up and forces the air and gas into a tiny space. A 10:1 compression ratio will compress the air-gas mixture down to 1/10 the size of the compression chamber. The higher the compression ratio the more potential energy which means more power for your pedal. Compress for power. Note that higher compression ratios require higher octane fuels.

Power Stroke (Combustion Stroke)

The power stroke starts when the compression stroke hits top dead center (TDC) (or before top dead center, BTDC) and a perfectly timed spark ignites the gases. This moment is what the engine is all about. Getting the right gases (air-fuel ratio) ignited at the right time with as much energy as possible. The size of the chamber, the compression ratio, the spark, the timing—everything is to maximize the energy of the explosion and then transfer it to mechanical motion. The power stroke thrusts the piston downward propelled by the explosion leading to the fourth stroke.

Exhaust Stroke

On the piston’s second upward stroke, the exhaust valve opens and the piston pushes the burnt gases up and out of the exhaust valves. When your exhaust system is maximized, the pressure the piston encounters on its way up is minimal and the valve moves with less restriction which can give you power gains. Also, with a high performing exhaust system, the exhaust stroke is more likely to push all the burnt gases out of the chamber clearing the way for a clean intake stroke and a stronger power stroke. The cycle is complete and the piston and chamber are ready to begin again.