Although your Chevy S-10 is likely more than capable of handling New York winters, it’s important to understand how severe weather conditions, driving habits and normal wear-and-tear can affect your engine. Here, we’ll take a look at how an engine works, some of the most critical components of your engine as well as signs to look for that could indicate your engine is in trouble.
What is an Engine? At its basic level, your S-10 engine converts gasoline into motion so that your truck can move. The easiest way to get motion from gasoline is to burn the gasoline inside the engine--a process known as “internal combustion” because it takes place internally inside the engine. Internal combustion engines use controlled, small explosions to generate the power required to move your truck. If you create an explosion in an enclosed, small space like your engine’s piston, you release a significant amount of energy in the form of expanding gas. When your truck engine creates hundreds of these explosions per minute, it harnesses the energy and uses it to propel your car.
Car engines use a four-stroke combustion cycle: intake, compression, combustion and exhaust. Your truck engine repeats these strokes over and over to generate motion for the vehicle. During intake, the intake valve opens and piston lowers, bringing gas and air into the engine. Next, in the compression cycle, the piston moves up and pushes the gas and air into a small space for a more powerful explosion. Then, the spark plug ignites a spark that explodes the gas, forcing the piston to lower once more. Finally, the exhaust valve opens to release the extra gas that the explosion created. The gas travels to the catalytic converter for cleaning and then through the muffler before leaving the truck through the tailpipe.
Common Problems with Engine Parts So, your engine will turn over but it won’t start. What is going on? Now that you understand how an engine works, it’s important to also know what can prevent your engine from running as it should. A few common issues that could interfere with your engine’s function include a lack of spark, lack of compression or a bad fuel mix. Although thousands of smaller issues could create problems, these are the “big three.”
1. Lack of spark.
A spark may be weak or nonexistent if the plug itself or the wire leading to it is worn out. Also, if the wire is missing or cut or if the system that actually sends the spark is damaged, the spark plug won’t be able to ignite. Also, if the ignition timing is off and the spark occurs either too late or too early in the cycle, the fuel won’t ignite at the appropriate time.
2. Lack of compression.
If the fuel and air charge can’t properly compress, the combustion process simply won’t work. This lack of compression can happen if there’s a hole in the cylinder, if the piston rings are damaged or worn and allowing fuel or air to leak past the piston during compression or if the exhaust or intake valves aren’t sealing right, again resulting in leaks during the process.
3. Bad fuel mix.
A bad fuel mix could be caused by a number of things. First, if you’re out of gas, then the engine is getting air but no fuel. The fuel system could be supplying too little or too much fuel to the mix, meaning that combustion can’t happen the right way. If your air intake is clogged, your engine is getting plenty of fuel but not enough air, or there may be impurity in the fuel such as water in your gas tank that prevents the fuel from burning.
How Can You Tell if Your Engine is Dying? When your Chevy S-10 starts to give you signs of failure, it can be hard to figure out exactly where the issue is. However, your engine will exhibit unique warning signs to let you know when there’s a problem, so it’s important to know what to listen and look for so that you can resolve the issue as quickly as possible. Here are some warning signs to pay attention to:
1. Odors: When the exhaust stroke is starting to fail, you’ll notice a noxious odor coming from the exhaust.
2. Engine stalling: While engine stalls could be caused by a number of factors, it is usually because the intake stroke isn’t receiving the right air/fuel mixture or spark.
3. Engine runs after you turn off the ignition. Also known as “dieseling” and “run-on,” this is a common occurrence in high-performance vehicles. This is generally caused when the solenoid is failing, if the carburetor is over-active or when the octane in the gas is wrong.
4. Loss of power. Since your internal combustion engine uses a four-stroke combustion cycle, a loss of power could stem from a hiccup in any one of these four strokes, or steps, during the combustion process.
5. Check engine light is on. The “check engine” light is designed to inform you of any problems with your engine, typically when there is a loss of power. These problems can range in severity, type and implications to your truck, so it’s important to check out your engine as soon as possible.
6. Gas mileage decreases. If you notice that your gas mileage isn’t what it used to be, it could mean there’s a problem in the compression stroke of the cycle. Performing a fuel system service or using a fuel cleaner could clear up the issue, or if it’s been happening for a while, a tune-up may be your best bet.
7. Noises. Popping, spitting, hissing, backfiring and knocking are not sounds you want to hear when you start your truck. If you do, it likely means there’s a problem with the combustion flow, and you should have your S-10 serviced right away.
Conclusion When your body needs fuel, you feed yourself food. When your car needs fuel, you “feed” it gasoline. Just like your body converts food into energy, your S-10’s engine converts gasoline into motion. Since the engine is arguably the most important part of your truck, it’s important to know how it runs, the parts that make it work as well as signs that could indicate abnormalities in the combustion process.