Educational use only.

Not for sale or publication

Mechanical Knowledge

2007 Edition


Educational use only. Not for sale or publication

Mechanical Knowledge

The Under-17 Car Club is not just about learning to drive cars, lorries, fire engines, and
anything else we are able to safely arrange to get our hands on! It is also about a greater
understanding of all aspects of safer motoring and how to avert problems caused by avoidable
mechanical failure.
It is assumed that as a Grade 1 going for Grade X, you know where the basics are under the
bonnet – dipstick; battery; various filler caps; etc, and you have the cockpit check down to a
fine art. With this in mind we have attempted to produce a simple guide to some of the main
mechanical workings of the motor car, and how to look after it in its natural habitat.

Component layout of
Front Wheel Drive Vehicle


3 . Sump The Cylinder Head The engine’s cylinder block is usually made of cast iron on to which an aluminium cylinder head is bolted. is arguably the heart of any vehicle so we will start with diagrams of the basic components of a petrol engine. Not for sale or publication The Petrol Engine The engine. These can be moved by pushrods from a block-located crankshaftdriven camshaft. Some parts are common to the three main types of car engine. however it functions.Educational use only. The head more engine block gudgeon pin usually uses Piston rings The Engine Block single or twin piston “overhead” camshaft camshafts driven Connecting rod by a toothed rubber belt or a chain which runs main bearings rod bearings inside the engine rod cap and is lubricated Vibration damper by engine oil as it crankshaft returns to the main bearing caps sump from the cylinder head. and the exhaust valves that let gases leave it. This contains the inlet valves that let the petrol-air mixture enter the combustion chamber. All the main parts are labelled and this page is designed to refer back to as various functions are explained.

Compression Big End 4. As the piston goes up it compresses the mixture of petrol and air. This creates great pressure which acts on the piston crown (top of the piston) pushing the piston down the cylinder. Induction Connecting Rod Crankshaft 3. Spark-plug Exhaust valve Inlet valve Cylinder Piston 1. See diagram below. Power 2.B. Not for sale or publication The Petrol Engine – How Does it Work? The majority of car engines employ the four-stroke cycle which was invented by Nicholas Otto way back in 1876. has four processes. 2. The Four-Stroke Cycle A typical four stroke petrol engine. Exhaust N. INDUCTION: On the induction stroke the piston is going down and the exhaust valve is closed. COMPRESSION: On the compression stroke the inlet valve closes. “SUCK – SQUEEZE – BANG . One way to remember this is. EXHAUST: On the exhaust stroke the piston goes back up the cylinder. The inlet valve opens and a mixture of petrol and air is sucked in.Educational use only. the outlet valve opens and the burnt gasses are pushed out into the exhaust system. as the name suggests. POWER: On the power stroke the spark plug creates a spark which ignites the fuel/air mixture causing a rapid burn.BLOW” ! 4 . 4. 1. 3.

Because diesel engines use higher pressures than petrol engines they must be made stronger and are therefore heavier. and Piston odour compared to spark-ignition engines. more modern cars are using diesel power. On the second or compression stroke the air is compressed to a small fraction of its former volume (as little as 4% of its original volume) which causes it to heat to approximately 440° C. So the cycle starts again.) This combustion drives the piston back on the third or power stroke of the cycle. there are no spark plugs. Inlet Valve The first or induction stroke draws air. is counterbalanced by their greater efficiency. (Some smaller diesels have an auxiliary electrical glow plug system to assist ignition of the fuel when the engine first starts up and until it warms up. (See diagram left).rod 5 .Educational use only. before adding the fuel. Now however. reactive nitrogen compounds (commonly designated NO). the use of diesel engines in cars has traditionally been low. This disadvantage however. which causes it to get very hot. Although patented by German engineer Rudolph Diesel in 1892. as in the Otto-cycle petrol engine. Camshaft Diesel Engine Parts Cam Cam Follower Inlet Valve Timing Belt Tensioner Crankshaft Big End Connecting. These engines can Fuel Injectors typically discharge high levels of Exhaust Valve soot. At the end of the compression stroke fuel is injected into the combustion chamber vaporising and burning instantly because of the high temperature of the compressed air in the chamber. Hence the name 'Compression Ignition Engine' is sometimes used to distinguish it from the spark-ignition petrol engine. Most diesels are four-stroke engines. The addition of a turbocharger (a form of supercharger) and intercooler can enhance the performance of a diesel engine both in terms of power and efficiency. rather than petrol. but operate quite differently from the four-stroke Otto-cycle petrol engines. Most notably. The glow plugs then turn off automatically and play no further part. Not for sale or publication The Diesel Engine A Diesel Engine is a type of internal-combustion engine in which ignition of the mixture of fuel and air is achieved by compressing the air first. Diesel engines are in general slow-speed engines and run on diesel fuel oil for road use known as DERV (diesel engine road vehicle). Consequently. with Flywheel developments producing quieter more environmentally friendly engines. engines working on essentially the same principle were produced by the Priestman brothers in the UK in 1885 and improved by the British engineer Herbert Ackroyd Stuart. but no fuel. They were also in the Starter Ring Gear past considerably noisier than their petrol counterparts. (see page 11) The principal drawback of diesel engines is their emission of air pollutants. Direction of Movement The fourth stroke. into the combustion chamber through an inlet valve. is an exhaust stroke where the gases are blown out.

As the fuel burns. Once the chamber reaches its minimum size. called the bore. 13 – 18 Exhaust. the exhaust is expelled directly through the exhaust port. The fuel-air mixture is drawn (sucked by the rotation of the rotor) into the chamber through the intake port. 1 – 4 Induction. cylinders.Power – Exhaust. driving the cycle (the power stroke). valves. 6 . igniting the fuel. forming three sealed volumes of gas. in which the piston and cylinder were replaced by a three-cornered rotor turning in a roughly oval (it's actually an epitrochoid) chamber. and reduce the time the combustion takes to spread throughout the fuel.Educational use only. Each part of the housing is dedicated to one part of the (now familiar) combustion process:Induction – Compression . The rotor has three convex faces. each of which acts like a piston. because the turning of the rotor seals and unseals the ports. In newer engine designs. The cycle takes place alternately at each face of the rotor. the expanding gases push the rotor around. 5 – 9 Compression. The turning of the rotor changes the size of the chamber compressing the mixture and bringing it nearer the spark plugs. Just as with the intake. The shape of the combustion chamber is designed so that the three tips of the rotor will always stay in contact with the wall of the chamber. there are two spark plugs. increasing the power of the expansion. As the rotor turns. giving three power strokes for each turn of the rotor. The rotor and housing of a rotary engine from a Mazda RX-7: These parts replace the pistons. Not for sale or publication The Rotary Petrol Engine In 1954 the German engineer Felix Wankel developed his concept of an internal-combustion petrol engine of a radically new design. A A A The letter A tracks the rotor through one third of its rotation A A A 10 – 12 Power. and trapped between one face of the turning rotor and the wall of the oval chamber. the spark plug fires. connecting rods and camshafts found in piston engines. there is no valve. placed symmetrically on either side of the centre line of the epitrochoid. The two plugs fire simultaneously.

Educational use only. though for the most part those engines are no longer made. which is mounted inside the rotor. The naturally aspirated two-rotor engine will produce about 250 horsepower. One solution that has been advanced for this problem is to use two spark plugs. the limited demand for the engines has meant that not as much research has gone into solving these problems. due to the shape of the combustion chamber (long instead of small and concentrated). buses. it rotates around the small fixed inner gear as shown. and also as a consequence dirtier than traditional engines. Not for sale or publication Exhaust Intake Induction Cycle As the rotor turns. a high performance car with truly revolutionary technology. However. However. placed symmetrically. fuel consumption however is still fairly high. As the rotor turns. 7 . so that the combustion does not have to travel as far. The turning of the drive shaft is accomplished using an output shaft (above) with an off-centre lobe. lawnmowers. trucks. Coolant Exhaust Cycle Small Inner Gear Since 1967 there has been a series of rotary-engine cars. and even motorbikes. the main manufacturer of Wankel engines is Mazda. it pushes against the lobe of the shaft. At the moment. The Mazda RX8 is the most recent development. This gear is stationary. causing it to turn. Rotor Compression & Ignition Cycle Wankel engines are less fuel-efficient than piston engines. The rotary engine was also manufactured for use in chainsaws. production of Spark Plug the engine was discontinued in any great number because of poor fuel economy and high pollutant emissions. which produces the RX8 sports car. snowmobiles and other lighter-duty applications.

turning it a bit each time. The flywheel adds both momentum and balance to the rotation of the crankshaft. The geared teeth on the outside of the flywheel is where the starter motor (see Starter Motor) connects to turn the engine over as the ignition key is turned. and we have motion in the car. When the piston is pushed down by the power stroke of the petrol or diesel engine. Do this fast enough and the crankshaft rotates rapidly. it causes the crankshaft to turn by pushing down on it. Connect the crankshaft to the driveshaft via a gearbox. Each piston takes its turn to push down on the crankshaft. Flywheel Assembly Flywheel Ring gear Cylinder Liner Piston Rings Gudgeon pin Piston Small end bush Big End Bearings Connecting rod Main Bearing Crank Pin Crankshaft Assembly Connecting rod Cap 8 . the crankshaft is not a straight piece of metal.Educational use only. Not for sale or publication Crankshaft and Flywheel As you can see from the picture.

by injectors. Fuel Injection A carburettor had been used from the earliest days of motoring as a component in petrol engines which the fuel-air mixture was created. is one of many components to make demands on the vehicle’s battery. and back firing could cause a fire in the engine bay. heated windows. excessive engine wear could result. Current is supplied from a high tension coil. cigarette lighter.U. Never run the engine without the air filter fitted. air conditioning. under constant pressure. As a result.). Ignition Control Whether a carburettor (in older vehicles) or a fuel injection system is employed. and more recently. to each cylinder. The Air Filter The Air Filter on an engine has two main functions: The first is to remove dust and dirt from the air being drawn into the engine. This is usually undertaken by a pre-engaged motor (see Starter Motor) in which a solenoid moves a bevel gear into mesh with the teeth on the engine’s flywheel. 9 .) which receives information from sensors in the engine inlet and the exhaust systems.C. A key function of the electrical system is to start the car’s engine. The air/fuel mixture is constantly being adjusted by the engine management Electronic Control Unit (E. Fuel is pumped. Electronic Control Unit (E. modern electrical systems have to service a radio/CD player. satellite navigation and mobile phones. central locking. This charges the battery and in turn provides electrical power for the vehicle’s ancillaries.C. Starter Motor Alternator In addition to providing current for the car’s lights and windscreen wipers.C.Educational use only. from the tank through a filter to the injectors. The limitation of such an arrangement was that the mixture was unevenly distributed which resulted in incomplete combustion and an undesirable amount of unburnt fuel reaching the atmosphere (pollution).U. (Electronic Control Unit) controls the timing of the spark from information supplied by sensors detecting the position of the petrol engine’s crankshaft. the carburettor has now been replaced by an electronic fuel injection system enabling a precise amount of fuel to be delivered. The system is charged by the alternator which is driven by the engine (see Alternator). the petrol/air mixture has to be ignited by a spark-plug.U. Not for sale or publication Electrical System The car’s engine management system. The engine management E. electric windows. secondly it acts to silence the noise of the air entering the intake. seat adjustment.

5 and 14. When the ignition key is released a one-way clutch in the pinion lets it freewheel until the return spring retracts the pinion out of Starter Motor mesh with the gear teeth on the flywheel. An alternator produces an alternating current (AC) which needs to be converted to a direct current (DC) by a rectifier. Starter Motor Ring Gear Flywheel The starter motor is designed for high current consumption and delivers considerable power for its size for a limited time. causing the armature to turn the pinion and from there – the engine. Regulator voltage is normally between 13. (pre-engaged) At this point the engine should be running. a current is applied to the solenoid which pulls on the actuating arm. The Alternator Alternators generate electrical power for motor vehicles. All vehicles require a direct-voltage supply for ignition. A regulator is used to control the field current so that the output voltage of the alternator-rectifier is properly matched to the battery voltage as the speed of the engine varies. etc. Not for sale or publication The Starter Motor Wire to Battery Solenoid Wire to Ignition switch Return Spring Commutator Actuating Arm Brushes Pinion Armature Field Windings When the ignition key is turned to start. This moves the pinion into mesh with the gear teeth on the outer edge of the flywheel (see Crankshaft and Flywheel). lights. When the solenoid is fully retracted an internal connection in the solenoid supplies current to the starter body from the battery. fans.5 volts.Educational use only. In modern vehicles the electric power is generated by an alternator that is mechanically coupled to the engine usually by a drive belt. Charging control is necessary because excessive voltage can damage electrical components and cause the battery to overheat producing hydrogen and oxygen gas with potentially explosive results! OXYGEN + HYDROGEN +SPARK = BANG ! 10 . which explains why a battery soon dies if a car is not firing for some reason.

They can take a 5mile (8 km) drive to work efficiently and require the vehicle to use unleaded petrol. halfway between Min and Max.Educational use only. An intercooler is a radiator to cool air between the turbo and the engine to make it denser further increasing engine power. Oil reaches the bores by splash although it is pumped to the camshaft and valve gear. The oil level in the engine should be regularly checked via the dipstick (see the Checklist). Hydraulic transmissions require a special grade of light hydraulic fluid. The turbocharger is driven by otherwise wasted exhaust gases. Emission standards mean catalytic converters are fitted as standard to all new petrolengine cars sold in the United States since 1983 and in the EU since 1993. these metals act as catalysts. It enables more fuel to be burnt. Superchargers are mechanically driven from the crankshaft by gears or a drive belt. and certain hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide and water. It enables the engine to give more power for a given weight and cubic capacity. In practice catalytic converters reduce emissions less on the road than in test conditions. The combination of a directly coupled turbine and compressor is termed a turbo-charger (see diagram). it is a small. can lead to catastrophic failure of the engine! Wheel bearings and universal joints require a fairly stiff grease. and maintains power at the higher altitudes encountered in mountainous country. It is filtered and delivered under pressure to the main crankshaft bearings from a gallery located in the side of the engine block. a noise-reducing cushion. and to the appropriately named big-ends of the connecting rods (see bottom diagram . a device incorporated in the exhaust system of motor vehicles that reduces emissions of certain pollutants. unless they are the newer ‘sealed for life’ ones which only require checking for wear during servicing. and a sealant between engine piston rings and cylinder walls. Gears and bearings in lightly loaded components. Not keeping the oil level at the correct level. friction would increase power consumption and damage the parts. The lubricant also serves as a coolant. Not for sale or publication Superchargers & Turbochargers A Supercharger. Other chassis joints require a soft grease that can be injected by pressure guns. High-performance petrol engined cars commonly use turbochargers and/or superchargers. 11 . Another form of forced induction is the use of a turbine utilizing the power of the engine exhaust gases. is a compressor used to increase the amount of air admitted to an internal-combustion engine cylinder during the inlet stroke. Lubrication All moving parts of a vehicle require lubrication. Catalytic converters for diesel engines have also been developed. Exhaust gases are passed through chambers coated in such rare metals as palladium and platinum. encouraging chemical reactions that change pollutants such as carbon monoxide. It then drains back down into the sump. such as generators and window regulators. Leaded petrol causes them to stop functioning. Without it. so increasing the power output. Oil is circulated under pressure from a pump that draws the lubricant from a reservoir contained within the sump at the bottom of the engine (see top diagram . Catalytic Converter Catalytic Converter. high-revolution pump that forces air into the cylinders at pressure and is invariably used in conjunction with an intercooler. and is widely used in both petrol and diesel engines.Page 3) via holes drilled in the shaft. are generally fabricated from self-lubricating plastic materials. nitrogen oxides. and manually shifted transmissions use a heavier gear oil similar to that for rear axles to resist heavy loads on the gear teeth. reduces noise.Page 3).

This is particularly important when different metals are present in the engine. As the engine temperature rises and the coolant heats up. the faster the water pump operates increasing the flow of coolant through the system.Educational use only. i. The Radiator Pressure Cap seals the cooling system but allows access for topping up the water/anti-freeze (See “Automatic Gearbox) mixture.e. as well as preventing the coolant from freezing in cold weather. also prevents corrosion of the cooling system components. The Fan can be operated either by the same belt that drives the water pump. Also. which is connected to the crankshaft. 12 . too much heat will cause damage. and although the engine needs a certain amount of heat to run efficiently. The engine temperature and therefore the flow of coolant to the radiator is controlled by a thermostat. to prevent a vacuum forming in the system when the engine cools and the pressure drops. the thermostat opens allowing coolant to flow through the radiator to maintain a constant temperature. Anti-freeze. The Water Pump is driven by a belt. aluminium and cast iron. a fan is placed just behind the radiator to draw air through the fins. Not for sale or publication Cooling System Once any engine starts running the moving parts create a lot of friction which results in heat. Valves Valve Pushrods Piston Water Pump and Fan Flywheel Camshaft Connecting Rod Crankshaft Sump (Oil Reservoir) Petrol Engine Engine Coolant is a mixture of water and anti-freeze. The Radiator consists of two tanks (top and bottom) joined by a large number of tubes which carry the coolant between them. usually 50% of each. The cylinders and the head of the engine have channels containing a water/anti-freeze mixture which is circulated by a pump. the combustion temperature of petrol is 25000c. The faster the crankshaft goes. To assist cooling particularly at low speeds. The cap also contains a vacuum valve. which loops around a pulley. allowing air in again. The pump forces the coolant from the bottom of the radiator around the engine and then back to the top of the radiator. pressure builds up within the system raising the point at which it the fluid boils. When the correct operating temperature for the engine is reached. The tubes have a large number of cooling fins covering them to increase their surface area and maximise the transfer of heat to the air flowing through the radiator. When the engine is cold the thermostat remains closed to speed up the engine warm-up time. It must therefore be cooled down. or by means of an electric motor which is switched on to cool the water in the radiator when a thermostatic switch detects the engine temperature has reached its maximum safe level. As the engine heats up the water mixture (coolant) gets hot. The cap prevents pressure build-up beyond a safe operating level allowing excess pressure to escape.

The changes are effected by sliding dog clutches positioned on the combined first-motion/output shaft. This is high friction. Clutch Master Cylinder Clutch Pedal Slave Cylinder Clutch Cover Manual Transmission On most front and rear wheel drive cars the gearbox is attached directly to the engine. (see page 14) 13 . The gearbox usually has four or five forward speeds and a reverse. which allow silent gear changes. In a clutch system a flywheel is bolted to the rear of the crankshaft. The inner splined portion of the plate is connected to the outer friction part by “buffer” springs which absorb the initial take-up shock. This allows the clutch plate to remain stationary between the revolving flywheel and the clutch cover. Not for sale or publication The Clutch The function of the Clutch in a motor vehicle is to disconnect the engine from the road wheels whilst changing gear and then allow the engine to pick up speed smoothly. To change gear. A slow release of the clutch pedal by the driver gradually clamps the clutch plate to the flywheel allowing direct drive from the crankshaft to the transmission. The clutch plate is a two piece disc about 20cms (8 inches) in diameter. the drive passes through a clutch that must be briefly disengaged by the driver using the clutch pedal.Educational use only. This also incorporates synchromesh cones. In the centre of the plate is a hole with splines (similar to gear teeth) in it. Gears can now be selected. low wearing. The face of the flywheel which touches the clutch plate is very smooth to prevent wear. heat resistant material. When the clutch pedal is pressed down a release bearing presses down on the centre of the clutch cover and forces the pressure plate away from the clutch plate. Both sides of the plate are covered with friction material on the outer part of the diameter. which correspond to splines on the input shaft of the transmission.

A synchromesh system on all gears aids smooth changing from gear to gear. transmits it to the differential then on to the road wheels. Pairs of gears on the layshaft and the main shaft convert this motion to a suitable speed. They are actually free to spin on bearings. The teeth then slip into holes in the gear wheels. Not for sale or publication Manual Transmission . and then progressively re-engaged. speed up to that of the main shaft. is moved by a selector rod to engage with a cone (cone not shown) on Toothed collars called dogs spin freely inside the claws of the front of the gear wheel to be engaged. that is fixed to the main shaft rotates with it. This means they are rotating all the time. That is why a gearbox has four or five gear ratios or “speeds”. The red dog is the one doing the locking. The gearbox matches the speed of the engine to the speed of the wheels for a range of practical conditions: pulling away. and. First motion shaft (from engine) Main output shaft takes motion to the cars differential and then on to the wheels. they aren’t actually driving anything.continued from page 13. dog teeth on the gear engage with an outer toothed ring on the collar locking the two together. Until they are selected and locked into place. they all stay in position on their shafts. The main shaft then takes this motion out of the gearbox. To Change Gear Follow the arrows for each gear. the engine is disengaged from the drive during gear changing. In a synchromesh system the collar. left and right showing the principle) are rotating together. Third (not shown) works by the same principle as first and second. and slide along the splines on the main between the collar and the cone acts on the freely shaft. second or third) the driver moves the gear lever which. Fourth gear locks the main shaft directly to the clutch shaft. this then permanently drives the layshaft. overtaking other vehicles. How It Works The rotating clutch shaft brings power into the gearbox from the engine. Why have a Gearbox? A car moves at various speeds and so do its wheels. with the exception of reverse (which works slightly differently) they all mesh continuously with one another. To select a gear (first.Educational use only. crawling up steep hills and cruising at top speed. The clever bit is that the gears for first. 14 . Friction the selector forks. by means of the clutch. To engage the correct gear. but a car engine always spins much faster. slides a collar along the main shaft. by an arrangement of selector rods. Reverse slides a little idler gear into place. second and third aren’t fixed to the main shaft. called a dog. rotating gearwheel to smoothly bring its rotational locking them onto the shaft. This doesn’t move the gear wheels around as you may think. the driver depresses the clutch and moves the gear lever. Gear Selection With a manual gearbox. When both gear and collar (see diagrams.

which are selected mechanically. A simpler system that makes fewer demands on the engine. power is transmitted from the gearbox to the rear-located differential via a propeller (prop) shaft. R (reverse). The engine can only be started with the gear lever in P (park) or N (neutral) to prevent the car from moving when starting. an accelerator and a brake. Drive is transferred to each wheel by a constant velocity joint that can also absorb steering forces. Most also show 1 and 2. however. It is then conveyed to the wheels by half-shafts (in the case of a live rear axle) or universally jointed drive shafts (if independent rear suspension is employed). Drive Lines In a front-wheel drive vehicle (see diagram on Page 2 ). Changes are effected automatically by a complex sequence of hydraulically controlled commands. This works in conjunction with a torque converter or fluid flywheel. Automatics have a normal hand brake but also use an additional lock provided by placing the gear lever in the P (park) position (see Brakes). this function is undertaken by a steel belt contained within the transmission casing. and is therefore more economical. is continual variable transmission. On the newer versions. Not for sale or publication Automatic Transmission Cars with automatic transmissions have a ‘gear lever’ of a kind although instead of numbers they show letters. Prop shaft Component layout of rear wheel drive vehicle On a rear-wheel drive vehicle. The differential’s function is to permit cornering so that the outer-driven wheel turns faster and further than the inner one. N (neutral).Educational use only. The main brake pedal must be applied to permit shifting the transmission out of P (park). P (park). It therefore does not require a clutch pedal meaning there are only two pedals in the cockpit. which transmits the engine’s power using hydraulic fluid to an automatic gearbox. power is conveyed by gearing to a differential that is inside the engine/gearbox unit. selecting one of these will hold the car in the selected gear preventing it from changing. D (drive). This initially used rubber belts in conjunction with pulleys that expanded and contracted to alter the engine’s power ratios. very useful on steep hills. 15 . An automatic unit is much more complicated than a manual one and has at its heart a series of epicyclic gears.

Suspension Top Bearing Coil Spring Steering Rack Gaiter Details of a steering rack when turned. Details of a steering rack when stationary. A pinion gear connected to the steering wheel by the steering column moves the rack left or right when the steering wheel is turned. A tube attached to the vehicle body contains a rod with teeth machined into it. A rubber gaiter seals the rack to prevent dirt from entering. this allows for the suspension movement. (see diagrams below ) At the end of the rack a track rod is attached by a ball joint. known as a rack.Educational use only. McPherson Strut Track Rod Brake Disc At the end of the track rods are the track rod ends connecting the steering to the steering arms. As the steering wheel is turned the movement is transmitted down the steering column to the pinion. which is hydraulically activated by an engine-driven pump and previously the preserve of expensive cars. Track Rod End Suspension Arm Steering Arm (Attached to the Hub) 16 . Steering on cars is achieved by means of a steering rack. Not for sale or publication Steering MacPherson Strut Assembly Coil Spring Sway Bar Mount Bushing CV Driveshaft CV Boot Outer Constant Velocity (CV) Joint Ball Joint Rack & Pinion Steering Gear Gaiter Control Arm Bushing Inner Socket Assembly Lower Control Arm & Ball Joint Assembly Outer Tie Rod End Strut Rod Bushing The most popular steering system is rack and pinion. Power-assisted steering. As the pinion turns it moves the rack. This movement is transmitted through the steering arms to the wheels which move accordingly. is becoming increasingly popular. These are attached to the wheel hubs and move the wheels to left and to the right as the steering wheel is turned.

Rotation of the steering wheel activates a valve that directs oil. Wheels with the front distance between them less than the rear are said to “toe in”. Wheels with the front distance between them greater than the rear are said to “toe out”. to act on a piston. This controls the motors direction and amount of assistance applied to the steering column through the gears linking the motor to the shaft when the driver applied force to the steering wheel. applied to the steering wheel by the driver.continued The track rods are adjustable. pressurized by a pump driven by the engine.C. 17 . The hydraulic boost acts only while the steering wheel is moving. Front Front Front Toe-Out Toe-In Parallel WHEELS WHEELS WHEELS Power Assisted Steering Power assisted steering is a system that aids the steering of a vehicle by use of a hydraulic assisted steering rack or by an electric motor driven pump. that amplifies the turning force (torque).U (Electronic Control Unit) which receives information from sensors in the steering linkage. Vehicles with incorrect tracking will suffer excessive tyre wear. Most modern power-steering systems consist of hydraulic boosts applied to the steering rack.Educational use only. Recently some vehicles use an electro-mechanical power steering system where an electric motor is geared to the steering column shaft. Not for sale or publication Steering . The motor is controlled by an E. Correct tracking will extend tyre life and improve vehicle handling. these allow the tracking of the front wheels to be adjusted.

'damper' being the correct term for a shock absorber. Not for sale or publication Suspension Independent suspension is a system in which each wheel is able to act in isolation to the others. and seriously compromising its ability to stop in a straight line. the vehicle will continue to bounce after hitting a bump. with coil springs and a separate shock absorber providing the suspension medium. which consist of a piston sliding inside a cylinder filled with oil. One of its most important advantages is that it keeps the wheels vertical and the tyres on the roadway regardless of body roll. Suspension Top Bearing Steering Rack Gaiter Coil Spring McPherson Strut Track Rod Brake Disc Track Rod End The spring is the means of absorbing Steering Arm Suspension Arm shocks due to the wheel passing over (Attached to the Hub) holes and bumps in the road. which gave poor dynamic control and wore badly. of a friction type. difficult to steer. In this way a resistance to motion in either direction is provided. One version employs two unequal length “wishbones”. One end of the shock absorber tube connects to the suspension.Educational use only. 18 . This seriously affects the handling of the vehicle. Hydraulic dampers are now used. but without dampers the result would be uncomfortable. making it unstable. and therefore improves the car’s road-holding ability (the car sticks to the road better). the other end of the rod is connected to the vehicle’s body. the flow of which is controlled by valves. the shock absorber dampens the spring’s natural bounce. When the suspension spring is affected by an uneven road its nature is to bounce up and down. The function of the shock absorber in the suspension system of a vehicle is to damp out oscillation. swaying and bouncing. Originally dampers were solid. In the alternative more common MacPherson strut system (see diagram) there are no wishbones and the coil spring fits over the shock absorber in one assembly. If a shock absorber fails or the oil leaks out.

Centre Wear Over Inflation. The grip will be seriously reduced. Check they have the right amount of tread depth THE LEGAL MINIMUM REQUIREMENT ON ALL CARS IS 1. Shoulder Wear Wear on Both Sides. Balance tyres.g. cuts and bulges are a potential blow-out. Wheel balancing should be done as soon as possible by a tyre dealer or a garage because. typically 50mph. Look for signs of damage. may be Unbalanced wheel. Check and adjust pressures. You may sometimes have to inflate your car’s tyres to higher pressures specified in you handbook for maximum load or sustained high speed. Uneven Wear Wheel Misalignment. if left unchecked.6mm. Most tyre dealers and garages can check and adjust the wheel alignment (“tracking”) for a small fee. Hard cornering – reduce speed. Under-inflation will cause overheating of the tyre because the tyre will flex too much. Incorrect wheel camber (wear on one side) – repair or renew suspension parts. and there is a greater danger of shock damage in the tyre casing. 19 . Occasionally the weights can fall off causing Wheel Imbalance. forget to reduce pressures to normal afterwards. particularly in areas where the tread looks shallower (check the reason for that . measure if you are unsure. This can be felt as vibration either through the steering. moving house or going on holiday with a lot of luggage) look in the handbook to se if you need to temporarily increase the air pressure in the tyres. pressures. Look at the tyre tread to ensure they are wearing evenly (see Motoring Checklist . Check and adjust Front tyres may wear unevenly as a result of wheel misalignment.‘Tyres’). Don’t Repair or renew suspension parts. Incorrect inflation will damage the tyres and seriously shorten their lifespan. Not for sale or publication Tyres Tyres are your only point of contact with the road so it should go without saying that they need to be regularly inspected. If you are going to transport heavy loads in your car (e. Know the correct air pressure for your car. An over inflated tyre will wear rapidly in the centre part of the tread. Incorrect toe setting. The suspension malfunctioning. and possible sudden tyre failure because of a build-up of heat. the ride harsher. there is potential for damage to steering and suspension. Adjust front wheel alignment.there may be a problem with steering or suspension). therefore the tread will not sit correctly on the road. excessive wear. This will cause loss of grip. (front imbalance) or throughout the car (rear imbalance) at a certain speed. Tracking – (see ‘Steering’) Wheel Balance Tyres should be balanced when fitted to the wheel. This involves spinning the wheel and tyre on a special machine and fitting small weights to the wheel to make them spin ‘true’.Educational use only. A tyre with bald patches is not only illegal – it’s unsafe.

Not for sale or publication Brakes Most cars use Disc Brakes on their front wheels although these are fitted on front and back wheels on the more expensive models. one on each side of the disc. the hydraulic pressure drops. However. 20 . Disc Brakes A frictional brake is one where a fixed part is brought into contact with a moving part which has to be slowed or stopped. each wheel has a hub-mounted disc and a brake unit or calliper rigidly attached to the suspension. However. * (Hydraulics – the transmission of braking force from the brake pedal to the brakes by the use of liquid pressure and a piston. Vented Discs High Performance Car (Diagram 1) Disc Disc Off On Cross section through disc brakes showing the hydraulic operation.) Disc Calliper Diagram 1: When the brake pedal is pressed. to convert the relatively small amount of force applied when the brake pedal is pressed into the larger force needed to operate the braking system. and the ability of the discs to dissipate heat rapidly in the open air stream makes them practically immune to fading. They grip the metal disc even when wet and will wear away rather than the disc. The disc is gripped by the two pads in a similar way that the wheel rim of a bicycle is gripped by its brake blocks. so the driver/pedal action is therefore usually assisted by a Servo-mechanism. All cars feature a hand or Parking Brake that operates on the vehicle’s rear brake shoes or discs. When the brakes are released.Educational use only. are often fitted at the rear. The seal twists and deforms when the brakes are applied and it is the recovery from this deformed state which causes the piston and pads to release. When the brake is applied. (See Diagram 2) The servo uses the vacuum from the inlet manifold of a petrol engine. The calliper has two friction-pad assemblies. This arrangement is self-adjusting. Drum Brakes. With disc brakes a larger brake force is needed to operate the system. high pressure brake fluid (red) forces the piston out and at the same time forces the whole calliper back to cause both pads to clamp onto the disc. that use internally actuated shoes. Most systems allow a minimal pad drag even when the brakes are released. In a car the liquid is brake fluid. The calliper “floats” on the calliper pin. In a car. note that the piston can also slide through the seal providing a self adjusting action to compensate for pad wear. hydraulic pressure is applied to callipers that grip the disc slowing and stopping the car. the disc is open to the atmosphere except where it passes through the caliper. or a vacuum pump from a diesel engine. It is cheaper and easier to replace two disc pads rather than the disc itself. When the brake pedal is applied. The low residual pressure (blue) allows the seal to draw the piston back freeing the disc from the pads and releasing the brakes. The brake pads themselves are made of a material that withstands the great temperatures generated when braking. so cooling is very effective. hydraulic pressure* forces the friction pads against the disc.

Drum brakes are mainly used on the rear of some small cars. 14. For this reason most cars and some motor cycles use disc brakes. Not for sale or publication Tandem brake master cylinder (Diagram 2) Servo vacuum pipe Rear drum brake Brake servo Brake Pedal Front disc brake Brake shoe This vehicle brake system operates as two independent ones. (see also diagram on next page) Rear Wheel Drum Brake 1. Front wheel Brake circuit Rear wheel Brake circuit Vacuum Drum brakes. 3a. two pivoted brake shoes (Diagram 3 . 12. 21 . at least on the front wheels. 6. 13. rear (trailing) Brake shoe. 10. 2. Should there be a failure in either circuit. 5. The pivot at the fixed end of the brake shoes contains an adjuster to compensate for the wear on the brake shoes. Brake back (cover) plate Brake shoe adjuster Brake shoe. 4. As these pistons move outward. the drum itself being mounted on the wheel hub and rotating with the wheel. or the suspension arm. they push the brake shoes against the inner surface of the brake drum which is attached and rotates with the wheel. 7. fixed to the axle. When the brake pedal is depressed. The brake components are either mounted on a back plate. 8. and each is fitted with two pistons that are forced outward toward the ends of the cylinder by the pressure of the fluid between them.) are located between the movable ends of the brake shoes. 11.Educational use only. Wheel cylinders ( 9. 3b. some braking is still available to stop the vehicle.3a & 3b) are forced apart at their free ends to press against the inside of a brake drum. front (leading) Bottom return spring Spring plate Tensioning pin Brake shoe return spring Thrust rod Brake wheel cylinder Compression spring Spring plate Thrust pin Brake shoe locating plate Hand brake operating lever (shown as a dashed outline) Direction of rotation 14 (Diagram 3) Much heat is created during braking and may cause drum brakes to fade and lose their effectiveness through reduced friction between brake drum and the shoes because of the high temperatures. 9.

This stops the possibility of undesired vehicle motion that could be caused by accidental movement of the transmission control. felt by the driver as a pulsing sensation through the brake pedal. retaining the driver's ability to steer the vehicle and stop in a shorter distance. the piston is pushed back which in turn pushes the fluid out of the piston reservoir. back up into the main reservoir. brake fluid is very toxic. A word of caution. as the brake pads wear. Antilock braking systems (ABS) Antilock braking systems (ABS) became available in the late 1980s and have subsequently become standard equipment on a growing number of cars. The brake continues to work as the system alternately releases and applies brake pressure. The engine can only be started with the gear lever in P (park) or N (neutral).C. flammable. oil. because it looked low and was topped up. The wheels meanwhile continue to roll. Automatic Transmission . the excess fluid will overflow. to prevent the drive shaft and rear wheels from turning. applying force only to the rear brakes (with a few rare exceptions) by means of a flexible cable connected to a hand lever or pedal. and will damage paintwork if spilt on the vehicle.Educational use only. (tyres start skidding or a loss of traction) the control unit signals a hydraulic or electric modulator to regulate brake line pressure to stop impending wheel lockup. the brake pistons push outwards which means that small reservoir behind the piston fills up with fluid. (see also ‘Weekly Checks – Brake Fluid Level’) TAKE CARE. by placing the gear lever in the P (park) position. ABS installations consist of wheel-mounted sensors that input wheel rotation speed into a microprocessor.Park On cars with automatic transmissions. This means that the level of fluid may need topping up if it goes near the ‘Minimum’ mark on the reservoir under the bonnet. When the brake pad is replaced. 22 . Not for sale or publication Hydraulic Brake Fluid Hydraulic brake fluid has a reservoir which is found under the bonnet and constitutes one of the checks to be made along with water. Hand (Parking) Brake Hand brakes must be mechanically operated. etc. an additional lock is usually provided in the form of a pawl (a pivoted lever that locks into a toothed ratchet) that can be engaged. If this is already full. When the brakes are applied and the E.U (Electronic Control Unit) senses that the wheels are about to lock-up. The main brake pedal must be applied to permit shifting the transmission out of P (park).

make sure the antifreeze is safely stored. accidental “kerbing” can damage tyres and the wheels. Tyres First a visual check for any foreign objects caught in the tread. Below is just a general guide including warnings where appropriate. the coolant will be too! There is a great risk of scalding. If you spill any fluid always replace the cap on the reservoir before flushing the spill away to avoid contamination. measure if you are not sure particularly in areas where the tread looks shallower (check the reason for that). it can damage eyes and paintwork. Also look for bulges and cuts particularly in the sidewalls. There could be a leak in the system. Coolant (Water/Antifreeze mixture) DO NOT ATTEMPT TO CHECK COOLANT LEVEL WHEN THE ENGINE IS HOT. The vehicle handbook will advise you about the correct pressure for general use and also for when the car is fully laden. it is poisonous. If it needs topping up make sure you use the correct oil for your vehicle and NEVER OVERFILL IT.) Wipers Check the wiper blades for damage or cracks. do not use the car until you’ve had the brakes professionally checked. The fluid level will drop slightly as the brake pads wear but never let it drop below ‘Minimum’. if you have to. NEVER use antifreeze in the washer bottle. or at least 5 minutes after the engine has been switched off to give oil in the upper part of engine a chance to settle. so take the warnings here and in the handbook seriously. and change the wheel for the spare. NEVER TAKE RISKS WITH BRAKES. Finally . If removal reveals that the tyre has been punctured. Check they have the legal amount of tread depth THE LEGAL MINIMUM REQUIREMENT ON ALL CARS IS 1. check the system for leaks. Finally. If topping-up is necessary add a mixture of water and antifreeze to the expansion tank up to the correct level taking care to securely replace the pressure cap. Various fluids used in cars can be quite nasty and so can the battery.6mm. Check the tyre pressures regularly with the tyres cold. p p p p Are the tyres inflated? Can you see through all the windows? Are the lights and number plates clean? Is anything leaking from underneath? Your vehicles’ hand book will tell you how to maintain your car and keep it in good condition. it absorbs moisture from the air which can dangerously affect the braking efficiency. Not for sale or publication Motoring Checklist Visual vehicle checks before you get in ! Weekly checks. Your tyre dealer will advise you as to whether you need a new one or it can be repaired. Adding coolant should not be necessary on a regular basis. Engine Oil Level Before you start make sure your car is on level ground. Check the oil level before you drive. Always buy fresh fluid. Besides that.Educational use only. replace the object to mark the spot. Brake Fluid Level Make sure your car is on level ground. Your handbook should tell you how. appropriate for your vehicle for the job (see the handbook) and handle it with care. look at the tyre tread and check they are wearing evenly (see main section ‘Tyres’). Refer to the handbook for how to check the level. DON’T USE ANY THAT HAS BEEN OPEN for some time. (N. If the glass swept area is smeared change the blades. If you have to repeatedly top it up.B. 23 . The additive not only cleans better than plain water it stops the washer system freezing in cold weather. Screen Washer Keep the washer bottle filled up with water and screenwash additive diluted according to its instructions. the engine will be HOT! Check the oil level using the dipstick in the usual way – it should be about half way between Min and Max.

g. not good in the middle of a carriageway. wait for things to cool down before you very carefully open the bonnet. it is flammable and may explode. NEVER TAKE RISKS WITH STEERING ! Lights. “I’m driving along and smoke or steam is coming out from under the bonnet. get the professionals. back up to a wall or garage door and use the reflected light to check if they are working. Set the steering straight ahead and then turn off the engine.Park the vehicle on level ground. The horn will be checked for the MOT test. 2.If you’ve lost the oil the engine could seize. If it’s smoke you will probably have smelt it already. Don’t assume it’s an electrical fault. If in any doubt stay well away and wait for help. electronic fuel pumps need power. spray it in through a gap in the radiator grill. Now they push. Call for help! DON’T EVEN START IT UP.” Modern cars won’t push start on a dead battery. If you have to check the lights unaided. e. any doubts – don’t do it. and fuses The spares should be replaced in your vehicles’ spares box as and when you use them.” STOP as soon as it is safe to do so:- 1. If you get electrolyte on your skin or in your eyes – immediately wash with cold water and consult your doctor. IT IS ESSENTIAL to use the correct power steering fluid for your vehicle depending on the year of manufacture and type of system fitted. “My car’s battery is flat.Educational use only. They give off hydrogen gas. if you do. When you are rolling depress the clutch and put the car in third gear. Do a visual check to make sure all looks ‘normal’ the terminals are clean and that the battery is still firmly secured in its holder. Chances are something has broken to cause the cloud of steam. Again. Not for sale or publication The Battery Under normal operating conditions the battery requires little maintenance. Make sure you check the vehicle lights on a regular basis particularly if there are no warning lights in the cockpit to tell when there is a failure. You might as well call for help whilst you’re waiting. Ease the clutch in gently and 24 . Your handbook will explain how to service it. If its steam. The handbook should guide you. car in neutral.get lots of helpers and a safe runway. Do not turn the steering once the engine is stopped or the reading will be inaccurate.” / petrol into diesel. Some vehicles do not require this as weekly check because the power steering is part of the power hydraulic system. Call for help. Diesel into petrol “I’m on the motorway and the dashboard has suddenly lit up like a Christmas tree can I carry on to the next exit?” NO! STOP as soon as it is safe to do so.. either way serious damage will result if you run the engine which neither the vehicle warranty or the insurance will cover. Sit in the drivers’ seat. handbrake off. Bulbs. If you are tempted to use the extinguisher DON’T OPEN THE BONNET. No power – no fuel ! Neither will automatics – no clutch you can play with. . Do not let battery acid come into contact with skin. better done by you first! HELP! “I’ve put the wrong fuel in my car. See also ‘HELP’ section – ‘My Battery is flat.’ Power Steering (where appropriate) Check your handbook for this one. and you can’t drive very far without coolant. your handbook should tell you how to change bulbs and fuses on your type of car. eyes. Switch off the current before disconnecting battery terminals and always disconnect the earth terminal (negative (-) one first and reconnect it last. The fuel tank will need draining. An older car may . GET OUT. Things to beware of. Generally. fabric or paintwork. Phone the fire brigade.- 1 1 1 Do not use an open flame or cause a spark when checking the battery.

your car should to be of little trouble.U. Before connecting the other battery make sure that the ignition is switched off (both vehicles if you’re using another car as a donor). Something is wrong with the engine. if you are not considering a career as a mechanical engineer. a Ensure the jump leads will not come into contact with the fan.C. Connect the other end of the negative jump lead to a bolt or bracket on the engine block. or even if you are. or get a new one. and these lovely people are paid to crawl out of bed at 3 o’clock in the morning in the middle of the winter to get us out of trouble! Happy Motoring. Only try this couple of times. get help. Keep it running. well away from the battery.Educational use only. or worn out. An interior light left on overnight can flatten the battery. Connect one end of the negative jump lead to the negative (-) terminal of the booster battery. However. wipers. on the vehicle to be started. etc. Properly looked after. Ensure the vehicles are out of gear. With the engine/s running at idle speed. # There is something wrong with the battery.Jump starting your vehicle is a last resort after all else has failed because of the risk of severe damage to modern electronic components. try recharging the battery. or other moving parts of the engine. Not all breakdowns can be fixed at the roadside. if it doesn’t work give up! You must put right whatever it was that made the battery go flat in the first place. Low electrolyte. disconnect the jump leads in REVERSE ORDER OF CONNECTION. then start the engine. drive belts. heater. # The battery has drained because of repeated attempts to start the vehicle. Here are some possibilities. a Start the ‘donor car’. the two vehicles MUST NOT TOUCH each other. 25 .) you will need SPECIAL JUMP LEADS WITH A SURGE PROTECTION DEVICE. you could fry everyone’s electrics.- 1 1 1 1 1 1 If the vehicles have an onboard computer (E. Make sure the booster battery is the same voltage as the discharged one in the vehicle. in an automatic make sure it is in either neutral N or park P. After checking. If the dead battery is being jump-started from the battery in another vehicle. # The charging system is not working properly (alternator – the drive belt – the wiring).. Not for sale or publication hopefully the engine will fire. A jump start could get you out of trouble but… WARNING. # The lights have been left on for a period of time. If you don’t have any don’t attempt it. In Conclusion. Jump Starting a Car (see diagram) 1 2 3 4 Connect one end of the red jump lead to the positive (+) terminal of the flat battery. When jump starting a car using a booster battery or another car you must take some precautions. you may want to join a reliable rescue service. Connect the other end of the red lead to the positive (+) terminal of the booster battery. Make sure all other electrical equipment is switched off – lights.