Automotives 101 

Automotives for Dummies

Back by popular demand. Our last Automotives 101 saw us tackling super, turbochargers and NOS – things that make you go fast but are likely to cause a crash if you go reckless. 

So yeah, just because you got the knowledge behind the mechanics, doesn’t mean you can go racing in your dad’s grandfather’s Maruti 800.

Check yourself before you wreck yourself, that’s the motto here.

Anyway, we’re back with more automotive stuff for you, and you can use this newfound knowledge to flex in front of your friends and be crowned – ‘the car guy’. This however, comes with its downfalls and you’re probably going to be the designated driver everytime you go partying and you’ll probably have to deal with your friends puking everywhere. There’ll also be the occasional police chases so brushing up on your automobile terms will come in handy.

  1. Catalytic converter

In an ideal world, combustion in an engine would be perfect and release only carbon dioxide and water into the atmosphere.

In an ideal world, my crush would now be my girlfriend.

In an ideal world, my parents would be proud of me.

But we don’t live in an ideal world, do we? The combustion in engines is not perfect, with some incomplete reactions and the exhaust containing carbon monoxide. This is pretty harmful to the environment, contributing to ozone layer depletion. The gas is very poisonous and makes our rains acidic.  

If the engine doesn’t function properly, other harmful gases are released and while they are in small amounts, when we take in all the running cars in count collectively, this danger can be quite significant.

Need a solution for that?

That’s where Catalytic converters come into play. They are designed to reduce such harmful emissions. 

Invented by a French chemical engineer, ( yes, I’m a chemical engineer too), Eugene Houdry back in 1950.

Before we understand what the converter does, we first need to know what a catalyst is.

Sometimes we all need a push for us to go and do something. We refer to it as inspiration. Like that teacher who encourages us to push ourselves and participate in the debate, or sometimes alcohol which helps us talk to our crush.

And that’s too many references about my crush.

Anyway, a catalyst works on the same principle. Sometimes reactions can’t take place on their own and they need something which will provide that extra push for the reaction to complete. That something is the catalyst.

Now how do they really work? A catalytic converter houses a catalyst that helps convert these harmful exhausts into something safer.

There’s this debate that catalytic converters reduce horsepower which is total horseshit. See what I did there?

Anyway, while this was true years ago, most converters are efficiently designed and work without affecting performance. Some converters improve performance.

These converters have vastly improved my pollution scenario, and without them we probably wouldn’t have been able to enjoy the covid pandemic as we are doing now. 

  1. Carburettor

I bet you have a lot of questions in your mind.

What are carburettors? What am I doing with my life? Why doesn’t anyone like me? Where did I get this gun from?

I don’t know the answers to the other three but I can surely tell you what a carburettor does.

Carbs get a lot of flak these days. “ Oh no I’m on a carb cleanse and carbs are bad for you”, “ I’m on a diet and carbs just make it difficult to lose weight”.

Wait, that’s the wrong carb. My bad.

Moving onto the correct carb…

For an engine to function smoothly, it requires not only fuel but oxygen to burn that fuel. With oxygen there is no ignition or combustion and this is where the Carburetor comes in. 

It makes sure that the fuel-air mixture is right to facilitate proper combustion.

The right amount of air is needed to burn all the fuel efficiently and if the air is too or too little, the fuel won’t burn right.

What actually is a carburettor?

The carburettor is essentially an air pipe above the cylinder with a horizontal fuel pipe joined across it. It works based on pressure difference to get the optimum air-fuel ratio.

These days however most cars do not come with a carburettor. Most modern vehicles use fuel injection which we will be covered later.

The reason fuel injection is preferred is that it is a much more efficient mechanism and is effective in higher performance systems.

  1. Wings and Spoilers.

Firstly we gotta talk about aerodynamics, this is the study of how gases interact with moving objects. Two main forces are coming into play when we talk about aerodynamics.

What are Drag and lift?

Drag is the force of air acting against the car when it’s moving, in the horizontal direction.

Drag not only makes your car go slower but makes it work harder, thus reducing fuel economy. That’s the reason more modern cars aim for designs that encounter less drag.

Lift is the perpendicular force acting on the car due to the air moving underneath it.

There’s a positive lift that makes your car fly and there’s a negative lift AKA downforce. Downforce is necessary to keep your car on the ground and provide it with more grip. This allows for a better cornering speed and that’s why most F1 cars(check out our blog on F1) have a lot of downforce.

Now a wing mounted on the back of the car creates a pressure difference. It splits the air and the air moving below the wing is faster than the air moving at the top. This pressure difference creates the necessary downforce.


Now the reason these are called spoilers is because, in smaller cars, wings like the ones above can’t be used since they don’t go at fast speeds. Spoilers however can be installed and this ‘spoils’ the airflow thus reducing lift.

So yeah, the spoiler your friend put on his 2005  Zen might look ridiculous but it does its job. So if he manages to get the car to around 80km/hr you can see that the car does get more grip due to the spoiler.

Anyway, that’s it for this edition of Automotives 101, you can check out the other part right here.

Until then keep driving recklessly, because life is too short to worry about going to prison. However, don’t blame us when you crash into Mr.Ramamurthy’s car.

No, just kidding, drive safe.