Yellow toy car with the hood open.

You probably already know that an engine or motor makes your car go, but what exactly is an engine? Is it the same as a motor? And how do they work? If you have a curious mini car lover in your life, read on to learn more.   

What are engines and motors?

Engines and motors can seem complicated, but their definition is simple: They are machines that turn energy into movement. That’s it! There are many different types of engines and motors, but they all use some form of energy to move things around.   

What's the difference between an engine and a motor?

The words motor and engine can be used interchangeably. Technically, however, there is a difference.   

Engines use heat to power movement. Steam engines and the internal combustion engine are great examples of this. Steam engines can power things like trains and ships. However, now we usually use more modern power sources for these big vehicles. The internal combustion engine is what we use in most cars, trucks, and other vehicles today.   

 Motors use electricity and other sources to create movement. We don’t usually think much about electric motors, but you probably have one right in your home! Electric motors can power washing machines, blenders, and even remote-controlled cars! These days, it’s also common to see electric vehicles on the road, so technically, your car could have an engine or a motor. 

How does an internal combustion engine work?

The internal combustion engine powers many of our day-to-day activities, from the family vehicle that gets you to soccer practice or music lessons to the trucks that bring our food from the farm to supermarket shelves. So, how exactly does it work? As the name suggests, the internal combustion engine creates energy by burning or combusting fuel inside of a cylinder. This process happens in 4 parts or ‘strokes.’    

Before we jump into how this cycle works, we need to know about a couple of engine parts: the piston and the crankshaft. Simply put, the crankshaft revolves to move the engine through the different strokes, and the piston moves up and down to open and close valves.   

  1. The intake stroke: In this first part of the cycle, the crankshaft moves the piston to open the intake valve. This allows a tiny bit of gasoline and lots of air to enter the cylinder.   
  2. The compression stroke: Here, the piston moves again to compress the air and gas.   
  3. The combustion stroke: Once the cylinder’s contents are compressed, the engine sparks, and the gasoline explodes, moving the piston back down.   
  4. The exhaust stroke: Finally, the piston moves again and opens the exhaust valve so the exhaust fumes can travel out of the tailpipe.    

And that’s it! Once the engine finishes the four strokes, it goes back to step one and repeats the cycle again and again, creating the movement that gets us from point A to point B.  

Motors and engines power so much of our lives – check out the Micro Urban Worker Fleet and discover how these machines help us care for our cities and towns!

What does your little one want to know about vehicles? Share your questions with us on social media @driventoys. And remember to subscribe to our newsletter for exciting updates and promotions! Roll into a world of endless possibilities with DRIVEN.