"Gentlemen start your engines." The automobile is one of the most important forms of transportation today. This page will tell you how the automobile came to be and where it's at right now.
A person well known for creating the first automobile company in the United States is Henry Ford. He was born on July 30, 1863. As a boy, he had an interest in mechanical things. He took things, like clocks and watches, apart to see how they worked. When Henry got older, he was hired to sell steam-road engines. After he married, Ford got a job at a Detroit power plant. He and some fellow workers from the plant built a two-cylinder engine and car. After he built it, Ford realized that it could not fit through the door of his work shed! Ford began to widen his door. When the door was wide enough, he cranked up the car's engine. It began to sputter then slowly started to move. After that, he began to improve his car. He added things like a radiator to cool the engine. After he improved it, Ford decided to start his own business which he called The Ford Motor Company. Today it is known as Ford. Henry Ford also invented the mass production line or the assembly line.
So now I bet you're wondering how a car works. Well,
let's start from the beginning. A car needs fuel to run. Do you know what that fuel is?
Now that we know what the fuel is, let's see where it goes. When you step on the accelerator, the fuel pump pumps the fuel to the fuel injector. The fuel injector, one for each cylinder, mixes air with the fuel and creates a mist of fuel. A small value then opens, letting the mixture into the cylinder. A cylinder is a hollow tube that houses the piston. The pistons, which drive the car, descend, sucking the mixture into the cylinder. The valve closes and the piston rises, compressing the mixture. When the piston is almost to the top of the cylinder, the sparkplug, a device that sends 14,000 volts of electricity into the cylinder, fires causing the fuel-air mixture to burst into flame. The piston slams downward. Then the exhaust valve opens. When the piston rises, it forces the fumes out of the cylinder. The piston is connected to the crankshaft. During the cycle the piston's up and down movement causes the crankshaft to turn very fast, since the cycle takes about a billionth of a second. When the crankshaft turns, it turns a complicated system of gears called the transmission. The transmission allows the car to run at different speeds. Without the transmission, a car would only go one speed. The transmission is connected to the wheels by a gear box.
A car has many ways it can run. If you look at the dashboard, you see gauges that tell how fast the car is going, the temperature of the engine, and many other things. There also is a line of numbers and letters lined up towards the bottom of the dashboard. The letters are usually in the order of P R N D 1 2. The P stands for park, and this is used when you park in a parking space. When you engage this gear, the brakes are locked. R stands for reverse, and this is used when going backwards. N stands for neutral, and this means the engine is not connected to the wheels but still is running. This gear is useful when your car is being towed, because the brakes are not on. D stands for drive, and this gear is engaged when you are doing normal driving. Most times there is a gear called overdrive, which is usually represented by a D inside an oval. This is useful when you are pulling a trailer or boat. These are the main gears a car uses to operate. There are other gears, but they vary from car to car.
Soon after the car became practical, it began to get popular. Along with popularity came accidents. After more and more accidents started to occur, authorities started to come out with laws like speed limits.
Quakenbush, Robert. Along Came the Model T. New York: Parent's Magazine Press, 1978.
Sutton, Richard. Car. London: Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1990.
Copyrighted images of race car, clock, coal truck, sparking car, stop sign, car on highway and book from "Microsoft Office Online" <http://office.microsoft.com/clipart/default.aspx?lc=en-us&cag=1> (October-March, 2004-2005). Clip art only available to licensed users for non-commercial purposes.
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