When you turn the key in your car’s ignition, the engine turns, and then cranks. But, actually, getting it to the crank is a lot more involved than you might think. It requires a flow of air into the engine, which can only be achieved by creating a suction (the engine does this when it is switched over). If your engine doesn't turn, there's no air. No air means fuel can't burn. The starter engine is responsible for turning the engine over during ignition and allowing everything else to happen.
To start the engine, it must be turned at some speed so that the fuel and air are pumped into the cylinders and compressed. The powerful electric starter motor is turning. Its shaft carries a small pinion (gear wheel) which has a large ring of gear around the edge of the flywheel of the engine.
The starter is mounted low down near the back of the engine in the front-engine layout. The starter needs a heavy electrical current, which is drawn from the battery by thick wires. No ordinary hand-operated switch could switch it on: it needs a big switch to handle the high current. The switch must be switched on and off very quickly to avoid dangerous, harmful sparks. So a solenoid is used-an arrangement where a small switch turns on an electromagnet to complete the circuit.
Your starter is a real electric motor. It starts when you turn the ignition to turn the engine over to allow it to suck in the air. A flask or a flywheel with a ring gear around the edge of the engine is attached to the end of the crankshaft. On the starter, there is a gear designed to fit into the grooves of the ring gear (the starter gear is called a pinion gear).
When you turn the ignition switch, the starter motor is energized and the electromagnet inside the body is energized. This pushes the rod to which the pinion gear is attached. The gear meets the flywheel, and the starter turns around. This turns the engine over, sucking in the air (as well as the fuel). At the same time, electricity is transmitted through the spark plug wires to the plugs, igniting the fuel in the combustion chamber.
As the engine turns, the starter disengages and the electromagnet stops. The rod retracts into the starter again, taking the pinion gear out of contact with the flywheel and avoiding damage. If the pinion gear remained in contact with the flywheel, it would be possible for the engine to rotate the starter too quickly, causing damage.
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