Basics of Internal Combustion Engines PD730944

Topics: Powertrain & Propulsion

In your profession, an educated understanding of internal combustion engines is required, not optional. This course covers the most relevant topics for maximum comprehension, from the chemistry of combustion to the kinematics of internal components of the modern internal combustion engine. You will gain a practical, thorough approach to the basics of the most common designs of internal combustion engines as they apply to the gaseous cycles, thermodynamics, and heat transfer to the major components. The course also includes the design theories that embody these concepts.


This 11-hour course is comprised of twelve modules that include the instructor's insights and industry experience working with internal combustion engine design and application. The modules cover various topics including (but not limited to), two- and four-stroke cycles, principle operational differences of various fuels, timing and working relationships among internal components, limitations to current designs, and the evaluation of new designs..


By participating in this on-demand course, you'll be able to:

  • Discuss in detail the basic functioning and component interaction in a modern internal combustion engine, specifically; two and four-stroke cycles as they relate to reciprocating and rotary engine designs
  • Describe the general thermodynamic concepts governing the operation of an internal combustion engine and its various cycles
  • Compare the principle operational differences of the various fuels used in internal combustion engines, their availability, and summarize the applicability of each
  • Discuss the function and operation of all major components and systems within a modern internal combustion engine
  • Identify the operational principles behind the timing and working relationships among all internal components, and articulate the importance of this inter-relationship
  • Recognize the limitations of the current designs and implementations of the modern internal combustion engine
  • Perform a basic assessment and evaluation of new, cutting-edge designs and new powertrain initiatives as they apply to the mobility industry

Materials Provided

  • 90 days of online single-user access (from date of purchase) to the approximately 10 hour presentation
  • 12 video modules (see Topics/Outline tab)
  • Integrated knowledge checks to reinforce key concepts
  • Online learning assessment (submit to SAE)
  • Course handbook (downloadable, .pdf's)
  • Follow up to your content questions
  • 1.1 CEUs*/Certificate of Achievement (upon completion of all course content and a score of 70% or higher on the learning assessment)

*SAE International is authorized by IACET to offer CEUs for this course.

Is this On Demand Course for You?

If you are a powertrain engineer, component supplier, vehicle platform powertrain development specialist, or involved in the application, design, or discussion of engines this course is for you. It is recommended that course participants have an undergraduate engineering degree.

This course is equivalent to the classroom seminar, The Basics of Internal Combustion Engines.

Have colleagues who need this course? See Special Offers to the right.

Click on the Requirements tab to make sure you are properly equipped to interact with this course.


"The course is well-designed and expertly taught. It far exceeded my expectations and is a great introduction to internal combustion engines."
Matt Jackson
Southwest Research Institute

"I was challenged to learn more. It was a great introduction to Internal Combustion Engines."
Paul Slater
Wescast Industries, Inc.

"Highly recommend to new hires."
Brian Gross
Senior Project Engineer
Polaris Industries, Inc.

For More Details

Email, or call 1-877-606-7323 (U.S. and Canada) or 724-776-4970 (outside US and Canada).

Module 0: Course Overview and Materials
 [Total Run Time: 11 minutes]

Module I: General Concepts [Total Run Time: 43 minutes]

  • Correctly describe why all engines are considered “heat” engines and discuss how heat is utilized in combustion engines
  • Describe how elements of air interact with heat and fuel within an engine
  • Describe characteristics of gasoline that enable it to ignite and combust
  • Define the terms ignition and combustion and be able to discuss what occurs during each phase

 Module II: Engine Types
 [Total Run Time: 10 minutes]

  • Identify three major engine types used in motive applications
  • Describe differences between the three major engine types

Module III: Fundamental Operating Procedures
 [Total Run Time: 13 minutes]

  • Discuss and effectively differentiate between the basic differences and similarities of the two most common combustion cycle circuits
  • Correctly apply the various combustion/ignition technologies

Module IV: Engine Technology
[Total Run Time: 90 minutes]

  • Describe the function, purpose and design issues regarding the hardware and components that support the energy conversion scheme from fast burn combustion, to linear motion, and finally to rotating power source
  • Apply the various operating cycles (i.e. 4- Stroke, 2-Stroke, etc.) correctly through selection of an engine technology appropriate for the intended application
  • Explain the concept of 'fast burn' versus 'explosion' and define the difference between ignition and combustion
  • Discuss the basic differences between spark ignition versus compression ignition technologies and correctly apply them to a given application
  • Describe the limitation of each of the operating cycle technologies and/or the combustion ignition systems
  • Explain in terms of specifications and appropriateness the fundamental differences and benefits between the stroked engine technology and the rotary eccentric cycle

Module V: Thermodynamics
 [Total Run Time: 26 minutes]

  • Articulate the thermodynamic principles and definitions of some of the more practical commonly employed cycles:
    • Otto Cycle
    • Diesel Cycle
    • Mixed Cycle
    • Atkinson Cycle
  • Appreciate the applicability of the fundamentals of thermal management, as well as the use of these concepts as a means to predict performance

Module VI: Air/Fuel Delivery Systems
 [Total Run Time: 3 hours]

  • Apply combustion theory and the use of the stoichiometric ratio as it applies to internal combustion, hydrocarbon based engines
  • Demonstrate a working knowledge of the fundamental principles of fluid dynamics as they apply to liquid/air flow regimes within a closed channel
  • Discuss the economics of emissions as this concept applies to the concept of 'Air/Fuel Ratio'
  • Discuss the principles, properties and value of fluid flow through a venturi and how it provides the motive force to pull liquids into a flow stream, and then to cause mixing within that flow stream
  • Correctly identify components within a carbureted fuel/air management system, and define their function and/or contribution to fuel management functions
  • Provide the same knowledge discourse on fuel injection systems and components
  • Realize the causes of emission production, due to the effects of design, operation, and components of an engine

Module VII: Valve Train
 [Total Run Time: 30 minutes]

  • Describe all components associated with and adjacent to the valve systems within the modern internal combustion engine
  • Detail all of the relevant operational characteristics of the camshaft, which includes a technical description of its:
    • Function
    • Design
    • Benefits of various configurations
    • Use as an emission control device

Module VIII: Component and Event Timing
 [Total Run Time: 51 minutes]

  • Define the relationship between camshaft and crankshaft positionsExplain the relative position of camshaft lobes
    • Theoretically
    • Volumetrically
    • Practical
  • Describe Valve Actuation Timing and its design compromise
    • Low engine rotational speed
    • High engine rotational speed

 Module IX: Fuels and Combustion [Total Run Time: 5 minutes]

  • Knowledgeably discuss the chemical composition of hydrocarbon based fuels, specifically the:
    • Chemical constituents, chemical formula, the formulation process, the heat value and the expected potential energy of gasoline and diesel
    • Meaning and method of derivation of the 'Pump Number' rating for gasoline, and the difference between 'Pump Number' and 'Octane' as it is typically incorrectly applied
    • Value and use of 'Research Octane Number' and 'Motor Octane Number' as they apply to gasoline
    • Meaning and method of derivation of the 'Cetane' rating for diesel, its use as a measure of fuel heating value, and its application when selecting fuel grades as a function of environmental conditions (i.e. primarily temperature
    • Main by-products of combustion of gasoline and diesel with standard air
  • Give a general description of the expected by- products of hydrocarbon based combustion
  • Describe the beneficial properties associated with the fluid dynamics of laminar flow regime and its effect on flame propagation rates
  • Define the concept of compression ratio and its effect on combustion efficiency and potential energy release from the fuel
  • Discuss the relationship between compression ratio and typical combustion head configurations, design guidelines, and interrelated effects

 Module X: Ignition
 [Total Run Time: 42 minutes]

  • Provide a comparison of spark ignition versus compression ignition
  • Give a general description of the spark ignition systems and components
  • Review the developmental history of ignition systems, their relative improvements and beneficial effect on emission reductions
  • Discuss authoritatively ignition theory, with specificity regarding the concepts of:
    • Normal ignition
    • Pre-ignition
    • Pre-detonation
  • Compare and contrast the benefits and detractors of the various heat ranges of spark plugs
  • Explain the need for and effect of ignition timing

 Module XI: Emissions and Controls
 [Total Run Time: 51 minutes]

  • Provide a brief narrative of the formation and levels of emissions produced within an internal combustion engine
  • Explain the functional aspect of all components related to the control of the amount of emissions produced, specifically the control systems used:
    • Passive
    • Active
    • Prior to formation
    • After treatment
  • Contribute to a discussion of the developmental examinations of:
    • Valve timing as an emission control system
    • Variable camshaft actuation
    • Variable valve actuation
  • Describe the functional meaning of thermodynamics as a means to quantify efficiency measures

 [Total Run Time: 51 minutes]

  • Explain the various components of hardware of the bottom half of a motor
  • Define the movable parts of the cylinder:
    • Pistons
    • Connecting Rod
    • Crankshaft
    • Balancer
  • Define balancing theory

  • Windows or macOS
  • Microsoft Edge, Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome, Safari (Other OSs and browsers including mobile devices are not supported by may work)
  • Broadband-3Mbps minimum

William Mark McVea
William Mark McVea

Dr. William Mark McVea, P.E., is currently President and Principal Engineer of KBE+, Inc. where he and his team design and develop complete powertrains for automotive and off-highway vehicles. Dr. McVea has held many positions within the mechanical drive and powertrain industry; most recently as Chief Technology Officer for Torvec, Inc., an industry leader in the design and development of patented powertrain engineering technology used primarily in the automotive industry. His prior positions include Professor of Vehicle Dynamics and Powertrain Sciences in the Mechanical Engineering Department at the Rochester Institute of Technology and adjunct professor at Purdue University in their Automotive Sciences Department. He was also formerly a manager of the CAE group within a tier-one powertrain supplier to global automotive markets, a consulting engineer in vehicle dynamics with Gear Consultants, Inc., and a project manager of traction systems for off-highway vehicles with Clark-Hurth International. Dr. McVea has published extensively on the topics of transmission systems, automated design assistant systems, knowledge systems and knowledge based engineering in general. He also holds or is listed as co-inventor on numerous patents related to mechanical power transmissions. Dr. McVea holds a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from the Rochester Institute of Technology, a Ph.D. in Design Engineering from Purdue University and is a licensed Professional Engineer.

Access Period: 90 Days      CEUs: 1.1

Duration: 11 Hours
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