The modern vehicle is made up of a variety of parts and components all working together to achieve a final product: “The Car”. These parts and components are assembled in groups to perform various tasks. These groups are referred to as systems.
There are many systems that make up the modern vehicle, some working with others to perform a larger, sometimes more complex, task and others working individually in order to accomplish an individual job. The following is a list of the major systems that make up the modern vehicle.
- The Engine – including lubrication and cooling.
- The Fuel System – including evaporative emission.
- The Ignition System
- The Electrical System – including starting and charging.
- The Exhaust System –including emission control.
- The Drive Train – including the transmission.
- The Suspension and Steering Systems
- The Brake System
- The Frame and Body
There are many other systems that contribute to the modern vehicle such as the Supplementary Restraint System (seat belts and airbags), Climate Control System (designed to provide passengers with a comfortable environment in which to ride), and everybody’s favorite the Sound System.
There have been many changes and advancements over the past one hundred years, however, these nine (9) systems have been incorporated in the vehicle’s evolution and operation for most of the time.
The engine is the vehicle’s main source of power. This is where chemical energy is converted into mechanical energy. The most popular type of engine is referred to as the Internal Combustion Engine.
This engine burns an air/fuel mixture inside itself in order to drive a series of pistons and connecting rods that in turn rotate a crankshaft providing us with a continuous rotating motion with which to drive the vehicle and other components.
The engine also incorporates other systems, including the lubrication system and the cooling system, all working efficiently together. The cooling system maintains the engine at an ideal operating temperature while the lubrication system ensures that all the moving parts are kept well oiled in order to provide a long serviceable life.
The Fuel System
The fuel system’s job is to store and supply fuel to the engine. Early vehicle fuel systems were completely mechanical systems delivering fuel through the use of a mechanical fuel pump and using a carburetor to atomize and mix the fuel with air. Most of the system today is either electronically controlled and/or monitored.
The fuel system may also include the Evaporative Emission System whereby raw fuel vapors that would otherwise be vented to the atmosphere are stored and then drawn in and burned in the engine under normal operating conditions.
The Ignition System
The ignition system provides the spark necessary to ignite the air/fuel mixture inside the engine in order for it to burn. The spark must be provided at the correct time and sequence to the various cylinders in order to produce maximum horsepower with the least amount of fuel thus emitting the lowest amount of harmful emissions.
The Electrical System
The electrical system provides the voltage necessary to operate the many electrical components on the vehicle such as the vehicle’s lighting system. The main source of power for the electrical system is the battery. The electrical system also includes the starting system and the charging system.
The starting system uses a high output electric motor to start the engine turning fast enough for the fuel and ignition system to take over. The charging system consists of a large battery charger called an alternator which is powered by the engine through the use of a drive belt.
The Exhaust System
The exhaust system moves the burnt exhaust fumes safely and quietly away from the passenger compartment. The exhaust system consists of a series of pipes that interconnect and direct the burned gases to the tailpipe at the rear of the vehicle. This system also provides some emission control by means of the catalytic converter where any unburned gases leaving the engine are burned before leaving the exhaust system.
The Drive Train
The drive train transmits the power of the engine to the drive wheels. The drive train includes the transmission, driveshafts, and other various parts. A clutch (manual transmission) or torque converter (automatic transmission) allows the drive train to be disconnected from the engine so that the vehicle may be brought to a standstill without having to stop the engine.
The Suspension and Steering Systems
The suspension and steering system provided a means of safely controlling the vehicle. The suspension system is designed to isolate most of the vehicle from any road shock and keep the vehicle stable when driving straight or turning. The steering system is intended to allow the operating to control the direction of the vehicle with the least amount of effort.
The Braking System
The braking system allows the vehicle to be brought to a stop safely. The braking system includes both a mechanical and hydraulic system. The hydraulic brake system is the primary braking system while the mechanical brake system is used mostly as a supplementary system as well as for emergencies. Most modern brake systems include some form of a brake assist often referred to as “power brakes.”
The Frame and Body
The frame and body provide a foundation on which to build the vehicle. Traditionally the body and frame were built separately then brought together only in the later stages of assembly. Today’s vehicles incorporate a unitized body, where the body and frame are built together in order to reduce weight and increase passenger safety and comfort.