Understanding Vehicle Mechanics and Safety Features
Aside from the obvious safety features, such as seatbelts and airbags, there are other important safety features to pay close attention to while operating a vehicle. Knowing how to use them to your advantage will give you an advantage when it comes to driving defensively and knowing how to avoid making a mistake that could lead to a car accident.
Although this isn’t technically a safety feature, it’s first on our list because this is what gives life to your vehicle. Think of the engine as the heart of your car. It is highly complex, but the main objective is to convert heat from burning gas into the force that moves your vehicle and propels it forward. Without an engine, your car simply cannot run. Modern cars feature a variety of power plants for propulsion. Cars now run on unleaded gasoline, diesel fuel, battery power, or use hybrid technology, which blends both a battery power plant and a combustion engine for propulsion. There are many positives and negatives for each of these types of motors.
The most common type of power plant is an unleaded engine. An unleaded engine relies on combustion to move the drivetrain. The four basic requirements for a combustion engine is fuel, spark, air, and pressure. These four elements all must be present for a combustion engine to function. It all starts with a spark, generated by an electrical system. Then a throttle body or carburetor must combine the air with the fuel to cause a controlled explosion within one or more cylinders, which is a sealed environment, creating pressure. The pressure within the cylinder causes the pistons to move up and down, causing the crankshaft to rotate and starting the fuel, spark, air, pressure cycle, again and again, thousands of times per minute. When the crankshaft engages the drivetrain, the power is then disbursed to the wheels, causing the car to move either forward or reverse, depending on the operation of the transmission by the driver.
The second most common type of propulsion is a diesel engine. Diesel engines are very similar to a gasoline engine as both use internal combustion. However, the ignition order is slightly different for diesel engines. Diesel engines do not have spark plugs. They use extreme compression to generate heat for combustion. Diesel engines are typically more reliable and last longer than gas engines, with less maintenance. This is because diesel engines have fewer moving parts. Diesel engines also cost less to operate per mile due to superior fuel economy. The major drawback to diesel engines is the cost. Diesel tends to cost substantially more than their gasoline-based counterparts. Sometimes tens of thousands more than the gasoline version, especially when it comes to large pickup trucks.
The third type of engine is found in electric vehicles. Electric vehicles do not rely on fossil fuels for propulsion. They combine massive lithium batteries with electric motors to move down the road. Electric vehicles are typically much more expensive than their gasoline and diesel counterparts. However, people tend to believe that they are good for the environment because they do not release gases when they are operating. However, many people do not consider the environmental impact that goes into producing the lithium batteries necessary to drive electric vehicles. However, recent studies suggest that over the lifetime of a vehicle, internal combustion engines tend to catch up and supersede the carbon footprint of electric vehicles. This is new technology and will likely continue to improve over
the decades to come. The one drawback of an electric vehicle is that they need to be charged by a power source, which can take hours before the vehicle is ready to drive. Long-distance trips are therefore problematic in electric vehicles.
The fourth type of vehicle is known as a hybrid. Hybrid cars combine both electric motors with internal combustion engines. Hybrid cars are powered by the electric motor and the batteries that power the electric motor are recharged through regenerative braking and by the internal combustion engine, which drives an alternator for power. Hybrids are extremely advanced in technology. They do not require charging like electric vehicles. However, they tend to be very costly, as they have both internal combustion engines, motors, and large batteries. They are somewhat complicated and can cost a lot to fix when they break down.
THE BRAKING SYSTEM
The most important pieces of safety equipment are often overlooked. Brakes are one of the most important safety mechanisms of a motor vehicle. They allow you to stop quickly when coming to an obstacle. Modern brake systems typically use disc or drum brakes. Disc brakes utilize a brake rotor, attached to the wheels, that are grabbed by a caliper. Drum brakes utilize a drum that rotates alongside the wheel. A brake shoe would then be used to rub against the drum until the vehicle slowed or stopped. In recent years, this type of braking technology has become abandoned and deemed archaic. Disc brakes are better than drum brakes in every way, save for the fact that disc brakes cost more.
Brakes can be used to help a driver turn better. Many race car drivers utilize brakes while turning to disburse weight to the desired portion of the vehicle and maximize traction while making turns at high speed. Similarly, it is important to understand that when you apply your brakes in your motor vehicle, the weight of your vehicle will move toward the front of the car. Alternatively, when you are accelerating, the weight will be shifted to the rear portion of the vehicle. This is all based on physics. Having a good understanding of how your car performs will improve your safe driving habits.
Traction control is an electronic control system that limits how many times the wheels can rotate while accelerating, providing maximum traction to your vehicle. Most modern cars allow you to employ traction control with the simple press of a button. Traction control systems work closely with the antilock brake system to apply the brakes to a wheel if it starts rotating too quickly, and re-routing the force to the opposite wheel to prevent skidding. Traction control is a wonderful feature and should be used while driving in unsafe road conditions due to weather.