Can You Name These Engine Parts in 7 Minutes?


269.4K PLAYS

By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Image: Monty Rakusen/Cultura/Getty Images

About This Quiz

So you think you're a real gearhead? We've got a quiz to test your knowledge in a specific area ... the components of the engine!

But first, a little background. After millennia of using strong animals like horses and oxen to pull vehicles, or to power other forms of machinery, humans began dreaming of machines that would power themselves. They didn't, however, agree on what kind of fuel might power the earliest engines. One early effort used hydrogen (an idea we've come back to as fossil fuels lose their appeal). The first winner, however, was steam — with coal being the raw fuel that boiled the water. Later, it was largely German engineer Karl Benz (his last name might be familiar) who was responsible for the ultimate decision to use petroleum fuel (that's gasoline, to us everyday people) to power what became known as the internal combustion engine. 

"Internal combustion" means that the vehicle or machine has no external power source — it's essentially a little power plant all its own. This is especially true of cars, where the engine not only burns gas to turn the wheels but provides electricity for the car's other systems; its interior lights, the radio, the climate control — the stuff that makes driving a pleasure and not just a convenience. 

Are you ready? Good luck!

This part gets its name from the type of electric current it produces.

Alternators produce alternating current, which is converted to direct current by auxiliary parts. Alternators became increasingly important as cars gained a lot of electrical creature comforts, like heated seats.


This minor part is a synonym for a silly person.

The answer. of course, is "dipstick." There's a cruder version of this insult, but we can't say it here.


A turbocharged or supercharged engine would have one of these.

"Turbocharging" takes its name from the use of the turbine to force gases back into the combustion chamber for extra compression. A supercharger works the same way but, to avoid turbo lag, is powered by the car's electrical system.


Which of these is useful in controlling emissions?

It isn't just vehicles that use catalytic converters. Found in fuel-burning stoves and heaters, they use a chemical reaction to convert harmful emissions to less-harmful ones.


These are the key moving parts of the combustion process.

Fun fact: A skull and crossed pistons is the symbol of the Outlaws Motorcycle Club. They are the traditional rivals of the Hell's Angels.


Which of these seals the cylinder head?

In general, a gasket is a seal. A head gasket keeps the cylinder from losing compression, which would make the engine lose power.


One of the larger engine components, the engine ____ is also called the cylinder _____.

The engine block is where the magic happens! Or, at least, where the essentials of combustion occur.


It changes the up-and-down motion of the pistons to rotational motion.

A chief engineering problem in making the earliest cars, trucks, etc, was getting the power generated by the up-and-down motion the cylinders to "change direction," so to speak, and spin the wheels. The crankshaft is an important part of that, transferring the energy generated by the combustion process to the powertrain.


Variations of this part can either be "intake" or "exhaust."

An intake manifold supplies the fuel/air mixture to the combustion cylinders. An exhaust manifold takes the exhaust gases from the combustion process and shunts them all into one pipe.


This keeps things cool under the hood.

The fan, one of the simplest human inventions for keeping cool, is still essential to the functioning of modern cars. Of course, if your serpentine belt includes the fan, it too can be credited with its role in keeping things cool.


Which of these brings an electric current to the spark plugs in the correct order?

The name is apt — this part distributes electricity. The reason the distributor has to do this in a particular order is that the cylinders must fire in a certain side-to-side order for balance. Otherwise, the engine would rock violently enough to shake the car.


If this breaks, your car could quickly overheat.

Belts of various kinds have been essential to the workings of machines since the first days of engineering. The fan belt runs the cooling fan in the engine, hence the name.


This part of the ignition system was largely replaced by the ignition coil.

Magnetos aren't entirely gone; some airplanes still use them in case of an electrical failure. It's also possible that engineers liked the cool, atomic-age name so much they couldn't let them go completely obsolete.


What opens and closes the poppet valves?

The camshaft rotates pear-shaped plates, whose intermittent pressure causes the valves to open and close. This part of the engine is the source of all those commercials gloating over an engine's "double overhead cam."


This is the first thing you check if your car won't start.

A car's battery looks sizable and impressive, but it often has only 12.6 volts, as we mention elsewhere in this quiz. The rest of the electricity that makes the engine work and provides all those enjoyable extras — like the radio — are amplified within the engine.


You should have this changed out when you change the oil.

If you don't change the filter, the new, clean oil will get dirtier much more quickly. Keeping the engine oil free of gunk is critical to keeping the engine running well for years.


In an overhead valve engine, the poppet valves are located here.

This is a change from older flathead engines. In those, the valves were in the cylinder block beside the piston.


If you drive a stick shift, you interact with this regularly.

In the movie, "Road to Perdition," a boy is asked what the clutch does, and says, "it clutches." Well, not exactly. The clutch is several discs that connect and disconnect shafts, meaning it is the key connection between the engine and drive train. When you take your foot off the clutch pedal, you are actually "letting out" the clutch, not engaging it. Many people get this backward.


This is an essential go-between for the cam lobe and the poppet valve.

Unsurprisingly, the rocker arm is named for its characteristic motion. We would have liked for it to have been invented by Alice Cooper on his day off, but sadly, that's not so.


This gets things going before the first spark plug ever fires.

The starter motor is what comes to life when you crank the ignition. It powers the first two strokes of the four-stroke cycle, after which the process becomes self-perpetuating.


Which of these increases the electric charge coming from the battery?

Your car battery doesn't actually have much more voltage than the one you'd put in a smoke alarm. The ignition coil, sometimes called the spark coil, increases it until it's capable of firing the spark plugs, which is essential to the combustion process.


A cardinal rule of roadside auto maintenance: What do you never touch until you know the engine is cool?

Of course, many engine parts are hot to the touch when the ignition's first shut off. But trying to take the cap off the radiator in an overheat situation is a great way to give yourself a nasty steam burn.


Which of these controls the amount of gas sprayed into the cylinder?

A "poppet valve" was sometimes called a "puppet valve" in earlier days. Both terms come from the idea of the valve being controlled from above and making an up-and-down motion, like a puppet.


A jet engine, not a car, would have one of these.

A propelling nozzle is a part of a gas turbine. These are used in jet engines, which have turbofan engines.


Where does the ignition of the fuel-air mixture take place?

A cylinder, in geometry, is a three-dimensional figure defined by two circles, one at each end (or you could just visualize a can). In the engine, it's where the fuel-air mixture is compressed by the piston and ignited by a spark from the spark plug.


Found in starter motors, this is a close cousin to the ignition coil.

You might remember the solenoid from its use in the "War of the Worlds" remake. Tom Cruise's mechanically-inclined character suggests that replacing the solenoid in a car will correct the ignition failure caused by an electromagnetic pulse.


This small part links the piston to the connecting rod.

The wrist pin doesn't just connect the piston and connecting rod. It also allows greater flexibility, letting the rod adapt to the motion of the piston without breaking.


Which of these devices evens out the rotational energy of the pistons?

The full definition of a flywheel is a bit complex (it involves inertia), but put simply, it "resists" and smooths out the intermittent energy produced by the constantly moving pistons.


This part houses and protects the crankshaft.

This is a protective housing for the crankshaft and its connecting rods. It's also oddly fun to say aloud.


Removing this part of the combustion system was a quick way to keep an intoxicated person from driving.

The advent of distributorless ignition systems might have been progress in terms of engine design. However, it ruined a good theft-protection and drunk-driving prevention strategy.


This is a key part of the lubrication system.

Sorry, dipstick, you're part of the lubrication system, but somewhat less than essential. It's the oil pump that gets engine oil where it needs to be, keeping everything running well.


This part of the combustion system can be wickedly hard to get out of the cylinder head.

Many veteran mechanics have a story about breaking off a spark plug in the block. The best ones will also tell you the first step in dealing with it: Go have a cup of coffee or take a walk until you're not upset any more and can approach the problem with a cool head.


This runs some of the engine's peripherals, and is sometimes described as "serpentine."

A multi-accessory belt, as the name implies, replaced a system that used several belts to run engine parts, such as the water pump and the alternator which is nice. The downside? If this belt breaks, a lot goes wrong at once.


This auto part gave Tom and Ray Magliozzi a nickname.

Strictly speaking, only overhead cam engines contain a part that could be called a tappet. In fact, a tappet is a fairly general term, meaning "an outcropping part that causes linear motion," However, it's associated enough with engines that car experts Tom and Ray Magliozzi called themselves, "Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers" on their long-running radio show.


If you enjoy the fact that your engine isn't overheating, thank this item.

The coolant reservoir works with the radiator, storing excess coolant until it's needed. If this part leaks, you could be in for a long walk.


Explore More Quizzes

About HowStuffWorks Play

How much do you know about dinosaurs? What is an octane rating? And how do you use a proper noun? Lucky for you, HowStuffWorks Play is here to help. Our award-winning website offers reliable, easy-to-understand explanations about how the world works. From fun quizzes that bring joy to your day, to compelling photography and fascinating lists, HowStuffWorks Play offers something for everyone. Sometimes we explain how stuff works, other times, we ask you, but we’re always exploring in the name of fun! Because learning is fun, so stick with us!