The Ultimate Automotive Physics Quiz

Staff

Almost all cars convert gasoline into motion with a _____-stroke combustion cycle.

An internal combustion engine uses four strokes: intake, compression, combustion, exhaust.

In a multi-cylinder car engine, what are the three ways in which the cylinders can be arranged?

It's inline, V and flat

The "big three" engine problems are: lack of spark, lack of compression and ________.

The third common problem is bad fuel mix, which can be caused by a number of factors, including water in the gas tank and the age-old "you're out of gas."

Why do you need to keep proper oil levels in your car?

The pistons need oil to keep moving smoothly. If they don't, everything else grinds to a halt, too.

What's one component a gasoline engine has that a diesel engine doesn't?

In a gas engine, the spark from the spark plugs ignites the fuel. In a diesel engine, the fuel is ignited by the heat and pressure of the compression stroke in the cylinder.

What's the system that opens and closes a car's valves?

The camshaft operates the valves. You might have heard of "overhead cams," which means the camshaft is above the valves.

What are the two components of a car's cooling system?

The radiator and water pump comprise the cooling system in most cars -- in the Volkswagen Beetle, however, the engine is air-cooled.

What engine component is absent in a fuel-injected car?

Carburetors were basically rendered obsolete by fuel injection.

The catalytic converter is part of which engine system?

The catalytic converter basically is the emission control system -- it monitors unused fuel and other chemicals in the exhaust.

The three most important factors in car aerodynamics are drag, lift and __________.

Downforce is the opposite of lift -- the force that presses an object in the direction of the ground.

As an object accelerates, its velocity and drag …

As an object accelerates, it's velocity and drag increase.

What happens when a car's drag is equal to its weight?

Drag increases and becomes equal to weight as a car's speed increases. More and more air pushes against it and eventually restricts its speed.

Car designers use this information to figure out a car's drag coefficient. The lower the drag coefficient, the ___________ a car is.

Low drag coefficient = more aerodynamic

What's the drag coefficient of most cars today?

The equation is too complicated to go into here, but it comes out to around .3 for most cars.

What's the drag coefficient of most SUVs and pickup trucks?

SUVs and pickup trucks are bigger and boxier -- and therefore less aerodynamic -- than cars, so they have a slightly higher drag coefficient, usually about .4.

Decreasing a car's drag coefficient by .01 can result in how much of an increase in fuel economy?

Reducing a car's drag coefficient by .01 can result in a 0.2 miles per gallon (.09 kilometers per liter) increase in fuel economy.

What's the drag coefficient of the Toyota Prius?

The Prius has a drag coefficient of .26, which is part of why it gets such good gas mileage.

In the 1930s, Chrysler introduced a car that made major improvements in aerodynamics. What was it called?

The Chrysler Airflow had a drag coefficient of only .27, but it flopped because consumers didn't like the way it looked.

Car designers used to use wind tunnels to test aerodynamics, but now they generally utilize _________.

Wind tunnels are now increasingly used just to test the accuracy of computer simulations.

A typical Formula One racecar has a drag coefficient of .7 -- so how does it go so fast?

F1 racecars are so lightweight and hit such high speeds that they can begin to experience lift. So downforce is maximized with wings and spoilers that channel airflow toward the ground.

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About This Quiz

Don't be intimidated by this quiz if you don't can't tell a carburetor from an alternator. Take it and learn a little something about what's going on under the hood of your car.

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