For those who are more unfamiliar with the inner workings of a vehicle engine, understanding the difference between the camshaft and crankshaft can be difficult at first. While close in name, the two devices play separate roles in the functionality of the engine itself. Additionally, both parts are very important for smooth operations, as the failure of one or the other will surely lead to a maintenance visit. As there is always a chance that equipment pieces may fail and require maintenance through continued use, having a basic understanding of the camshaft and crankshaft can be useful when procuring parts or choosing services.
The camshaft of an engine is located near the top-end of the apparatus, and it serves the valve train assembly in order to govern the flow of fuel and air mixtures to the combustion chamber. As a rotating metallic object with pointed caps, the camshaft is driven by the crankshaft and transforms rotational motion into reciprocal motion. Connected to various valvetrain parts, the cams transfer motion through the valve lifter, pushrod, valve spring, and other components in order to open and close valves. Depending on the shape and size of the cam lobes, the degree and duration of vale openings can be governed as well. Many modern internal combustion engines will often utilize four camshafts for their operations, though dual and single-cam setups are possible as well. For the timing of the assembly, camshaft and gear, belt, or chain components work together for optimal precision. In more modern engine types, a variable valve timing solenoid may be present to provide further timing control in regard to camshaft lift and duration.
The crankshaft on the other hand is located near what is considered the bottom of the engine, and it undertakes the forces of engine combustion and transforms it into energy that can be used by the transmission for movement. With an assembly consisting of connecting rods and pins, pistons are attached to the crankshaft so that the component may be driven during combustion for energy transfer. The assembly also relies on a bearing crankshaft component in order for the crankshaft to be held in place and rotate. With the use of belts, gears, or chains, the timing of the crankshaft is maintained so that rotational momentum is held.
While the camshaft and crankshaft both serve their respective roles, they are connected together by a timing belt, timing chain, or a mesh gear set. With alignment following manufacturer specifications, valve timing can be established in order to maintain optimal combustion. During a standard cycle of combustion, the crankshaft will revolve twice, causing pistons to actuate twice and the crankshaft to turn once. With this pattern, valves may be opened once for every two turns of the crankshaft. This timing is very important, as it forces the intake valves to open during the intake stroke specifically, as well as maintains their closed position for the compression and combustion stages.
With both equipment pieces, it is important to remember that regular maintenance is needed for the longevity of parts. Generally speaking, oil changes and more standard maintenance procedures are often enough to ensure continued health and use of the system for upwards of thousands of miles depending on the age of the assembly. Regular maintenance is very crucial, however, as a major problem stemming from the crankshaft or camshaft can easily lead to an engine that cannot run. As one of the more common issues found in such assemblies, squealing noises coming from under an automobile hood may be indicative of a faulty timing component that is obstructing proper cycles.
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