The Basics of Your Chevy Engine

If you’re living in Eden Prairie, Plymouth, Chanhassen, Minnetonka, Shakopee, Hopkins or Edina, MN, or any other rainy city for that matter, you have probably experienced torrential rains and flooding. Be aware of the needs that can arise after driving your vehicle through flood water or if your car has sat in water for an extended length of time. Need GM Parts is located in Eden Prairie, MN. Specialists are available to share information about parts or professional info on any problems that you may be experiencing. 

Symptoms of a Failing Engine

• Check engine light

• Stalling engine

• Misfiring engine

• Issues with performance issues

• Vehicle not starting

Reasons for a Failing Engine

• Neglecting to change the oil

• Leaking oil going unnoticed

• Ignoring a check engine light, caused by the catalytic converter or oxygen sensor

• Overheating engine, failure to flush coolant every 30.000 miles or a coolant blockage

• Flooding, heavy rainstorms or driving through standing water 

The Heart Of Your Chevy

Your Chevy’s engine is the heart of your automobile. The engine converts gasoline into energy to empower your car, van, truck, SUV or crossover. The motor system requires:

• Clean air for the fuel 

• Water to control heat 

• Electricity to ignite the fuel (which is generated by the engine) 

• Oil for lubrication

• A battery 

• An electric starter

The Chevy is powered by an internal combustion engine that burns fuel within cylinders and converts the explosive force of the gasses into the rotary force that propels the vehicle. There are different types of internal combustion engines, including the:

• Two cycle reciprocating piston engine

The two cycle or two stroke engine has a simpler mechanical design than a four-stroke engine. The engine produces one power stroke for every two strokes instead of one for every four. This engine is lighter and is used in chainsaws, motorcycles, small automobiles, mowers, chain saws and marine engines. The two cycle engine heats up more, has oil that is mixed with fuel and the engine has a shorter life.

• Four cycle reciprocating piston engine

Four-stroke engines are lubricated with oil from an oil reservoir, either in the crankcase or an external tank. In the automobile engine, a gear pump brings low-pressure oil to the bearings. Some bearings may rely on oil from the bottom of the crankcase as the crankshaft is turning. This type of engine continues to dominate the automotive industry. 

• Gas turbine engine or Combustion Turbine

Turbine engines power trains, aircraft, trains, tanks and electrical generators.

• Diesel

There are two and for stroke diesel engines. Generators, irrigation pumps, tractors, irrigation and other agricultural equipment, use diesel engines, as well as data center power backups, yachts, trucks, buses, cars, compressors and pumps. 

• Free piston engine

The free piston engine is linear and operates without a crankshaft, and is a possible energy source for electric vehicles.

• Rotary combustion engines

Used in World War I aircraft and deemed obsolete in the 1920s. 

• Reaction engine

Reaction engines are used for rocket and jet propulsion.

Each cylinder in your Chevy car engine has a reciprocating piston which moves back and forth in the cylinder. Each piston is connected by a connecting rod to the crankshaft. You can visit How Stuff Works to learn more.

What is Horsepower?

Horsepower (hp) is a measurement of the engine’s power to perform mechanically. One horsepower refers to the ability to lift and transport 33,000-pounds one foot per minute.

What is Viscosity?

Your engine requires oil that is thin enough to start a cold engine and thick enough for when the engine is hot. Viscosity is the oil weight, and this refers to the thickness of the oil. Oils meeting low-temperature requirements have a viscosity rating marked with a W; an example is SAE 10W. Oils with a high viscosity rating are not marked with a letter; an example is SAE 30. Quickly flowing oil has a low rating, while slow flowing oil has a higher rating. Choose oil according to the Chevy manufacturer recommendations. Multi-grade or multi-viscosity oils are all season oils and meet the Society of Automotive Engineer (SAE) specifications for low and high-temperature oil. 


Gaskets and seals hold the joints together to prevent fluids and gasses from leaking, including gasoline, oil, and coolant, exhaust and fuel vapor. The cylinder head holds the water in the cooling system as it simultaneously contains combustion pressure. 

Gaskets are composed of steel, copper and asbestos and seal the space between the cylinder head and engine block. As the temperature of the engine alters between cool and hot, it expands and contracts. The gaskets also constrict and expand creating a secure seal. The gaskets make up for irregularities between connecting parts.

Four-stroke Piston Cycle

Four-stroke refers to the number of piston strokes need to complete a cycle or two revolutions of the crankshaft. The cycle is consistently repeated.

1. Intake Stroke

The piston creates a partial vacuum as it moves down the cylinder, and a mixture of air and fuel is pressed by the inlet valve into the cylinder utilizing atmospheric pressure, which is higher than the pressure within the cylinder. The exhaust valve remains closed.

2. Compression Stroke

The piston now moves upwards within the cylinder with both the inlet and exhaust valves closed. The air and fuel are compressed as the pressure rises.

3. Power Stroke

The air and fuel mixture are now ignited by an electrical spark produced by the spark plug, which provides a combustion that stimulates a rise in the temperature and produces enough pressure to force the piston downward again.

4. Exhaust Stroke

The piston moves upward again, which forces burned gasses out of the cylinder and into the exhaust. This cycle repeats itself continuously throughout the entire time that the engine is running. 

Multivalve Engines

Your engine has more than one valve (exhaust or intake) per cylinder.


The delivery of the ignition's spark and the opening and closing of the engine's valves is the engine's timing. The engine's timing chain is powered by a sprocket on the crankshaft and drives the camshaft's sprocket.

Vacuum System

A vacuum system powers engines. As the piston travels down within the cylinder, the atmospheric pressure in the cylinder is lowered, and a vacuum is created, which draws in air and fuel for combustion. The vacuum in your Chevy's engine pulls fuel into the combustion chamber, and the running engine then causes the carburetor to act as a vacuum or suction. 

Vacuum power is also used in other areas of the engine. The carburetor uses suction power as an ignition distributor vacuum-advanced mechanism, and when the engine is at part throttle, vacuum energy causes the spark to provide more time for thinner mixtures to burn. Vacuuming power is also used by the positive crankcase ventilating system (PCV) to remove exhaust and vapor from the crankcase. The engine's vapor recovery system uses vacuuming to collect fuel from the carburetor fuel tank and float bowl in a canister, and as the engine is started, the vacuum port within the canister pulls fresh air into the canister, which clears out the trapped fuel vapor. The vacuum from the intake manifold creates a heated air system, which warms the carburetor when it's cold.

The exhaust-gas recirculation system (ERG) uses a vacuum to reduce pollutants that the engine produces. Air conditioning systems often use the intake manifold vacuum to open and close air-conditioner doors. The intake manifold vacuum is used for the power brakes. When you push the pedal is pressed down, a valve produces a vacuum in a section of the power-brake, and the atmospheric pressure moves the piston and provides braking power.

Combustion Chamber

The air-fuel mixture is burned within the combustion chamber, which is located between the top dead center (TDC) of the piston and the cylinder head. TDC refers to the piston's position when it reaches the top of the cylinder when the connecting rod's centerline is parallel with the cylinder walls.

As long as you know the basic needs of maintaining your Chevrolet vehicle’s engine and the warning signs to look for if there’s a problem, you could save yourself hundreds of dollars on any future repairs.