Automotive Systems

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Gasoline Combustion

GASOLINE COMBUSTION

For gasoline or any other fuel to burn properly, it must be mixed with the right amount of air. The mixture must then be compressed and ignited. The resulting combustion produces heat, expansion of the gases, and pressure.

Normal Combustion
Normal gasoline combustion occurs when the spark plug ignites the fuel and burning progresses smoothly through the fuel mixture. Maximum cylinder pressure should be produced after a few degrees of crank rotation after the piston passes TDC on the power stroke.

Normal combustion only takes about 3/1,000 of a second. This is much slower than an explosion. Dynamite explodes in about 1/50,000 of a second.Under some undesirable conditions, however, gasoline can be made to bum quickly, making part of the combustion like an explosion.

Abnormal Combustion
Abnormal combustion occurs when the flame does not spread evenly and smoothly through the combustion chamber. The lean air-fuel mixture, high-operating temperatures, low octane, and unleaded fuels used today make abnormal combustion a major problem that creates unfavorable conditions, such as the following:

  • DETONATION results when part of the unburned fuel mixture explodes violently. This is the most severe engine damaging type of abnormal combustion. Engine knock is a symptom of detonation because pressure rises so quickly that parts of the engine vibrate. Detonation sounds like a hammer hitting the side of the engine. It can crack cylinder heads, blow head gaskets, burn pistons, and shatter spark plugs.
  • PRE-IGNITION results when an overheated surface in the combustion chamber ignites the fuel mixture. Termed surface ignition, a hot spot (overheated bit or carbon, sharp edge, hot exhaust valve) causes the mixture to burn prematurely. A ping or mild knock is a light tapping noise that can be heard during pre-ignition. Pre-ignition is similar to detonation, but the action is reversed. Detonation begins after the start of normal combustion, and pre-ignition occurs before the start of normal combustion. Pre-ignition is common to modern vehicles. Some manufacturers say that some pre-ignition is normal when accelerating under a load.
  • DIESELING, also called after-running or run-on, is a problem when the engine keeps running after the key is turned off. A knocking, coughing, or fluttering noise may be heard, as the fuel ignites and the crankshaft spins. When dieseling, the engine ignites the fuel from heat and pressure, somewhat like a diesel engine. With the key off, the engine runs without voltage to the spark plugs. The most common causes of dieseling are high idle speed, carbon deposits in the combustion chambers, low octane fuel, overheated engine, or spark plugs with too high of a heat range.
  • SPARK KNOCK is another combustion problem caused by the spark plug firing too soon in relation to the position of the piston. The spark timing is advanced too far, causing combustion to slam into the upward moving piston. This causes maximum cylinder pressures to form before TDC, not after TDC as it should. Spark knock and pre-ignition both produce about the same symptoms—pinging under load. To find its cause, first check ignition timing. If ignition timing is correct, check other possible causes.
Published by SweetHaven Publishing Services
Based upon a text provided by the U.S. Navy

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