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Tim Hammer
May 23, 2015
Technical Definitions and Descriptions

This memo contains document specifications for a technical definition and description of a four
stroke engine. Understanding the basics of how these engines work is valuable for everyone who
drives a car or rides a motorcycle, as nearly all of these machines utilize this technology. The
following sections describe how the technical definition and description will be structured, and
will include choice of audience, purpose, content placement and visual organization.
The technical definition and description will be tailored toward college level engineering
students. It is also assumed that the reader has some exposure to engines, but not to the extent of
knowing the intricacy of engine cycles. Individuals who have a general understanding of four
stroke engines are more capable of maintaining and limiting abuse of their vehicles.
Without engine operation knowledge, many individuals abuse or neglect their vehicles because
they lack understanding of the basic mechanics within a four stroke engine. The technical
description and definition will enable readers to understand basic four stroke engine principles.
In turn, readers will have a fundamental knowledge of engine operation that may be applied to
troubleshooting and maintenance of their vehicle.
Content Placement
A technical definition of a four stroke engine will be presented first, followed by the technical
description. This will enable readers to get a firm grasp on what four stoke engines are before
reading the technical description. The definition includes what a four cycle engine is, advantages
and disadvantages of the engine type, and a brief analogy. The description includes a figure
showing the basic cycle and the positioning of critical components at each stroke, as well as
written explanations about each stroke.
Visual Organization
The drawing presented in the technical description illustrates to the reader the stages of four
stroke engine operation. This will develop intuition regarding how the engine produces
mechanical power and provide the reader with a sense of how engines work.

Technical Definition
A four stroke engine is a mechanical assembly that converts rapid expansion of a fuel and air
mixture into mechanical power using a four stroke process. The term stroke is understood as
the full distance a piston travels in a cylinder, and the expansion process may be presumed to be
due to combustion. Four stroke engines vary in size depending on the application, from single
cylinder engines weighing 60-90 pounds up to massive truck engines that sport 8 cylinders or
more and weigh several hundred pounds.
1.0 Primary Four Stroke Engine Components
Four stroke engines possess specific components that differ from those found in other engines,
yet most of the parts are very similar to those found in other engines. A timing assembly to
manage each engine cycle is what sets this engine apart. It contains a timing chain and cam
shaft(s) that mechanically determine the sequence of engine operations, which are intake,
compression, combustion and exhaust. A cam is an oblong part that transforms rotational motion
into linear motion. The common components found in every other internal combustion engine
are the piston, connecting rod and crankshaft.
2.0 Four Stroke Engines: Advantages and Disadvantages
Four stroke engines are used in most automobiles and motorcycles due to distinct advantages
over other engine types.
2.1 Advantages
High torque output and longer lifetime translate to significant power at lower engine
speeds and increased longevity. These engines also run quieter and cleaner than their two
stroke engine relations, which means less road noise and cleaner combustion emissions.
2.2 Disadvantages
The downside to four stroke engines is that they are complex to maintain and cost more
to purchase. They are also less powerful overall than a comparable two stroke engine
since power strokes occur every two revolutions of the crankshaft.
3.0 Analogy
The way that engines convert combustion energy to mechanical power is analogous to how the
drive mechanism on a bicycle converts physical human energy to mechanical motion. The main
components of the bicycle drive unit are the pedals, crank arm and drive gear. The analogous
parts in an engine are the piston, connecting rod and crankshaft.

Technical Description
Four stroke engines convert combustion energy to mechanical energy via a four stroke process.
This process may be separated into four steps: intake, compression, combustion and exhaust.

Figure 1. 4 stroke engine process showing intake, compression, combustion and exhaust strokes.
Basic Operation
In figure 1, the process shows the sequence of four cycle engine operation. The camshaft determines
which valves are open or closed depending on where the engine is in the process. For the intake stroke,
only the inlet valve is open, meaning the fuel/air mixture may enter the cylinder, but not leave it. Both
valves are closed during the compression and combustion processes, ensuring the maximum possible
amount of energy is applied to the piston assembly. The exhaust stroke allows the byproducts of
combustion to leave without letting any other air into the cylinder.
Stroke 1: Intake
The piston travels downward, drawing in an air/fuel mixture into the cylinder until the piston reaches the
bottom of the stroke.
Stroke 2: Compression
The piston ascends in the cylinder, compressing the air and making the fuel/air mixture into a small
volume. This makes the density of the mixture much higher.
Stroke 3: Combustion
The sparkplug creates a spark, igniting the high density mixture and forcing the piston downward as the
mixture expands, creating the power stroke.
Stroke 4: Exhaust
The piston travels up in the cylinder, expelling the exhaust gases generated by the combustion step and
setting up for the next intake step.
Figure 1.

Petrol Engine. Digital image. N.p., 18 Oct. 2006. Web. 30 May 2015.