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What is a piston in the car engine and what does it do?

pistons engine car change

The car engine pistons are essential to ensure the engine is working perfectly. A piston is a rigid, circular mechanical part, and is usually made of an aluminium alloy.

The body of the piston is circular, but the piston head is flat, which makes it possible to compress the air-fuel mix in the engine cylinder of the combustion chamber. This part is one of the moving parts of the car engine and slides inside a cylinder.

On a four-stroke (or four-cycle) engine, which is the most common type of engine on cars, the action of the pistons goes through 4 stages: the intake, the compression, the power and the exhaust.

  • When the pistons are getting out of the cylinder of the combustion chamber, they draw in the air-fuel mixture; this is the intake stage.
  • When the pistons go back up in the cylinders, the air-fuel mixture will be compressed inside the cylinders, provoking an explosion as a result of a combustion generated by a spark.
  • Because of this explosion, the pistons are pushed down, and the burned exhaust gases are pushed out and will be directed towards the exhaust manifold.

Those stages are thus repeated in a loop.

The purpose of this combustion is to transform the air-fuel mixture into thermal energy (heat), then into mechanical energy (power), which will generate the car movement by making the wheels turn.

The driver controls the movement of the pistons by pressing the speeder. Depending on the pressure applied on the pedal, the movement of the pistons will be more or less fast.

How to clean the pistons of a car engine

The combustion generated by the pistons and the cylinders will soot the parts of the internal combustion chamber and carbon will start to accumulate. It will be necessary to descale the different parts with a special product (WD-40 for example) and let it work the pistons and cylinders. Then, scrape and remove the residue.

How do I know if the piston is broken?

Several symptoms can indicate that the pistons of the engine are damaged or worn. If you notice an appearance of blue smoke getting out from the exhaust pipe, there is a sealing problem in the internal combustion chamber, and potentially on the engine pistons.

If your car pistons are damaged, it will be necessary to change them: Compare prices on autobutler.co.uk and book a time at a garage.

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Prices on engine repairs, cleaning and replacement

The average prices and savings for the car brands shown are based on different models and years. You must therefore create a job and compare quotes to see your actual price and savings.
Make Save on average*
Audi
5.0
(6)
£139 / 25%
BMW
3.5
(2)
£139 / 28%
Citroën
5.0
(1)
£172 / 23%
Ford
4.7
(10)
£152 / 24%
Mercedes-Benz
4.8
(4)
£135 / 24%
Mini
3.7
(3)
£173 / 30%
Peugeot
4.5
(8)
£154 / 25%
Renault
5.0
(1)
£183 / 24%
Vauxhall
5.0
(14)
£138 / 25%
Volkswagen
4.8
(8)
£156 / 26%

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