How does a car engine work?

The spark ignites the mixture, causing it to basically explode, pushing the piston back with great force. This is called the "power stroke" and it's where all the power driving the engine comes from. The combustion of the gasoline inside the cylinder is what provides the energy that moves the car (hence 'internal combustion engine').  After that, another valve opens, and the piston drops, pushing the hot gasses out to the exhaust pipe. Then the valve to let air in opens and the whole process starts again.
 
Each of the pistons is connected to a shaft, called the "crankshaft". When each one is pushed out, the force of it turns the crankshaft, causing it to rotate. That rotational motion turns gears and shafts which spin the wheels. Since a car engine has multiple cylinders in it (four is most common, but they can have more or less), they're timed so that, while one is firing, the others are in different parts of the cycle. This whole cycle happens many, many times every second, and so can turn the wheels at high speeds.

Answer by Geoffrey Widdison:

Contained explosions.
 
The engine block on a car is just a big chunk of solid metal with big cylindrical holes drilled into it. Each hole (or 'cylinder') has a piston in it, which is just a metal plug which can slide smoothly up and down the cylinder. the inside of the cylinder and the outside of the piston are smooth and oiled so the piston can move with very little friction.
 
First, the piston is drawn back all the way, drawing in air, and making the space in the cylinder as big as possible, then a valve closes, trapping the air inside. Then the fuel injector sprays a little bit of gasoline into the cylinder, which quickly vaporized. The piston pushes down, compressing the mixture of fuel and gas, then the spark plug creates a spark in the cylinder.
 
The spark ignites the mixture, causing it to basically explode, pushing the piston back with great force. This is called the "power stroke" and it's where all the power driving the engine comes from. The combustion of the gasoline inside the cylinder is what provides the energy that moves the car (hence 'internal combustion engine').  After that, another valve opens, and the piston drops, pushing the hot gasses out to the exhaust pipe. Then the valve to let air in opens and the whole process starts again.
 
Each of the pistons is connected to a shaft, called the "crankshaft". When each one is pushed out, the force of it turns the crankshaft, causing it to rotate. That rotational motion turns gears and shafts which spin the wheels. Since a car engine has multiple cylinders in it (four is most common, but they can have more or less), they're timed so that, while one is firing, the others are in different parts of the cycle. This whole cycle happens many, many times every second, and so can turn the wheels at high speeds.
 
The practical design of a working vehicle is, of course, more complex, but that the essence of how every gas powered vehicle operates.

How does a car engine work?

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