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road today. Both gasoline and diesel automotive engines are classified as four-stroke reciprocating internal-combustion engines. There is a third type of engine, known as a two-stroke engine, which is commonly found in lower-power applications. Some of the devices that might have a two-stroke engine include: Lawn and garden equipment (chain saws, leaf blowers, trimmers), Dirt bikes, Mopeds, Jet skis, Small outboard motors, Radio-controlled model planes In this article, you'll learn all about the two-stroke engine: how it works, why it might be used and what makes it different from regular car and diesel engines. TWO-STROKES BASICS: This is what a two-stroke engine looks like: You find two-stroke engines in such devices as chain saws and jet skis because two-stroke engines have three important advantages over four-stroke engines: • Two-stroke engines do not have valves, which simplifies their construction & lowers their weight. • Two-stroke engines fire once every revolution, while fourstroke engines fire once every other revolution. This gives two-stroke engines a significant power boost. • Two-stroke engines can work in any orientation, which can be important in something like a chainsaw. A standard four-stroke engine may have problems with oil flow unless it is upright, and solving this problem can add complexity to the engine. These advantages make two-stroke engines lighter, simpler and less expensive to manufacture. Two-stroke engines also have the potential to pack about twice the power into the same space because there are twice as many power strokes per revolution. The
Note that as the piston moves downward. Start with the point where the spark plug fires. the piston is shaped so that the incoming fuel mixture doesn't simply flow right over the top of the piston and out the exhaust port. The piston's movement has pressurized the mixture in the crankcase. Fuel and air in the cylinder have been compressed. THE TWO STROKE CYCLE: The following animation shows a two-stroke engine in action. That's because two-stroke engines have a couple of significant disadvantages that will make more sense once we look at how it operates. The pressure in the cylinder drives most of the exhaust gases out of cylinder. however. . the exhaust port is uncovered. You can compare this animation to the animations in the car engine and diesel engine articles to see the differences. The two-stroke engines are ingenious little devices that overlap operations in order to reduce the part count. so it rushes into the cylinder. as shown here: FUEL INTAKE: As the piston finally bottoms out. The biggest difference to notice when comparing figures is that the spark-plug fires once every revolution in a two-stroke engine. as shown here: Note that in many two-stroke engines that use a cross-flow design. and when the spark plug fires the mixture ignites. it is compressing the air/fuel mixture in the crankcase. SPARKS FLY: You can understand a two-stroke engine by watching each part of the cycle. You don't normally see two-stroke engines in cars.combination of light weight and twice the power gives two-stroke engines a great power-to-weight ratio compared to many fourstroke engine designs. displacing the remaining exhaust gases and filling the cylinder with a fresh charge of fuel. The resulting explosion drives the piston downward. As the piston approaches the bottom of its stroke. the intake port is uncovered.
It's called a two-stoke engine because there is a compression stroke and then a combustion stroke. In a two-stroke engine. If you forget to mix in the oil. combustion and exhaust strokes. you mix oil in with the gas to lubricate the crankshaft. where the piston is compressing the air/fuel mixture and capturing the energy released by the ignition of the fuel. This vacuum opens the reed valve and sucks air/fuel/oil in from the carburetor. you know that you have to mix special two-stroke oil in with the gasoline. As the air/fuel mixture in the piston is compressed. Meanwhile. On the other side of the piston is the crankcase. a vacuum is created in the crankcase. so you can fill the crankcase with heavy oil to lubricate the crankshaft bearings. If you have ever used a two-stroke engine. the sides of the piston are acting like valves. the spark plug fires again to repeat the cycle. You can see that the piston is really doing three different things in a two-stroke engine: • • • On one side of the piston is the combustion chamber. where the piston is creating a vacuum to suck in air/fuel from the carburetor through the reed valve and then pressurizing the crankcase so that air/fuel is forced into the combustion chamber. compression. so it can't hold a thick oil. Instead. In a four-stroke engine. Once the piston makes it to the end of the compression stroke. on the other hand. the crankcase is completely separate from the combustion chamber. the crankcase is serving as a pressurization chamber to force air/fuel into the cylinder. In a four-stroke engine. there are separate intake. connecting rod and cylinder walls. the engine isn't going to last very long! . the bearings on either end of the piston's connecting rod and the cylinder wall. It's really pretty neat to see the piston doing so many different things! That's what makes two-stroke engines so simple and lightweight. Now that you understand the two-stroke cycle you can see why. covering and uncovering the intake and exhaust ports drilled into the side of the cylinder wall.THE COMPRESSION STROKE: Now the momentum in the crankshaft starts driving the piston back toward the spark plug for the compression stroke.
in fact. That's why you see a sheen of oil around any two-stroke boat motor. Two-stroke engines produce a lot of pollution -. So why do cars and trucks use four-stroke engines? There are four main reasons: • • • • Two-stroke engines don't last nearly as long as four-stroke engines. and they produce about twice as much power. Two-stroke engines do not use fuel efficiently. The article How Twostroke Engines Work describes the small two-stroke engines found in . and you can see that research coming to market in a variety of new marine and lawn-care products. Two-stroke oil is expensive.DISADVANTAGES OF TWO-STROKE: You can now see that two-stroke engines have two important advantages over four-stroke engines: They are simpler and lighter. HOW DIESEL TWO-STROKE ENGINES WORK: The article How Diesel Engines Work describes the four-stroke diesel engines commonly found in cars and trucks. You would burn about a gallon of oil every 1. so you would get fewer miles per gallon. The first is the combustion of the oil.000 miles if you used a two-stroke engine in a car. and a badly worn two-stroke engine can emit huge clouds of oily smoke. part of it leaks out through the exhaust port. The oil makes all two-stroke engines smoky to some extent. The leaking hydrocarbons from the fresh fuel combined with the leaking oil is a real mess for the environment. The pollution comes from two sources. and you need about 4 ounces of it per gallon of gas. These disadvantages mean that two-stroke engines are used only in applications where the motor is not used very often and a fantastic power-to-weight ratio is important.so much. manufacturers have been working to shrink and lighten four-stroke engines. In the meantime. that it is likely that you won't see them around too much longer. The lack of a dedicated lubrication system means that the parts of a two-stroke engine wear a lot faster. The second reason is less obvious but can be seen in the following figure: Each time a new charge of air/fuel is loaded into the combustion chamber.
is not really a perfect match for the two-stroke approach. It turns out that the diesel approach. mopeds and jet skis. The spark plug fires twice as often in a two-stroke engine -. versus once for every two revolutions in a four-stroke engine.things like chain saws. Many manufacturers of large diesel engines therefore use this approach to create high-power engines.once per every revolution of the crankshaft. which compresses only air and then injects the fuel directly into the compressed air. The crankcase is sealed and contains oil as in a four-stroke engine. as in a gasoline two-stroke engine. large ships and generating facilities. UDERSTANDING THE CYCLE: One big difference between two-stroke and four-stroke engines is the amount of power the engine can produce. The gasoline engine cycle. The piston is elongated. The two-stroke diesel cycle goes like this: 1. is a much better match with the two-stroke cycle. There is also the diesel fuel injector (shown above in yellow). the cylinder contains . the piston uncovers the ports for air intake. When the piston is at the top of its travel. where gas and air are mixed and compressed together. This means that a two-stroke engine has the potential to produce twice as much power as a four-stroke engine of the same size. It turns out that diesel engine technology is often combined with a two-stroke cycle in the huge diesel engines found in locomotives. so that it can act as the intake valve. The problem is that some unburned fuel leaks out each time the cylinder is recharged with the air-fuel mixture. The intake air is pressurized by a turbocharger or a supercharger (light blue). The figure below shows the layout of a typical two-stroke diesel engine: At the top of the cylinder are typically two or four exhaust valves that all open at the same time. At the bottom of the piston's travel.
This means that a diesel two-stroke engine suffers from none of the environmental problems that plague a gasoline twostroke engine. re-covering the intake ports and compressing the fresh charge of air. As the piston nears the top of the cylinder. This is the compression stroke. The pressure created by the combustion of the fuel drives the piston downward. As the piston bottoms out. only air fills the cylinder. a charge of highly compressed air. The exhaust valves close and the piston starts traveling back upward. all of the exhaust valves open.10 inches Displacement per cylinder . 3. a diesel two-stroke engine must have a turbocharger or a supercharger. relieving the pressure. There have been three successive series in the EMD line: the 567 series. 6. the 645 series. On the other hand. The numbers refer to the number of cubic inches per cylinder. As the piston nears the bottom of its stroke. Pressurized air fills the cylinder. and this means that you will never find a diesel two-stroke on a chain saw -.9-1/16 inches Piston stroke . These engines were introduced in the 1930s and power a large number of the diesel locomotives found in the United States. When you consider that a 5-liter (305-cubic-inch) engine is considered to be very large in an automobile. rather than gas and air mixed together. with a typical engine having 16 cylinders (for a total displacement on the order of 10. Diesel fuel is sprayed into the cylinder by the injector and immediately ignites because of the heat and pressure inside the cylinder. Exhaust gases rush out of the cylinder.2. forcing out the remainder of the exhaust gases. you can see the big difference between a diesel two-stroke engine and a gasoline two-stroke engine: In the diesel version. and the 710 series. 4.654 cubic inches .it would simply be too expensive. GENERAL MOTORS EMD ENGINES: The General Motors EMD engine line is typical of the two-stroke diesel breed. This is the power stroke. the cycle repeats with step 1. 5.000 cubic inches!). From this description. you can see that one of these EMD engines is massive! Here are some of the specifications for the EMD 645E3 engine: • • • Cylinder diameter . it uncovers the air intake ports.
526 pounds / 15.16 or 20 Compression ratio .14.209 kg (The oil pan alone weighs over a ton!) Idle speed .900 rpm A typical horsepower rating for one of these engines is 4.315 rotations per minute (rpm) Full speed .4 Engine weight • 16 cylinders: 34.661 kg • 20 cylinders: 40.144 pounds / 18.300 hp! .• • • • • • Number of cylinders .5:1 Exhaust valves per cylinder .
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