What on earth is that thing under my bonnet?

Among all the world’s uncertainties at least one matter seems settled: Batteries and electric motors will have a major role in powering the cars and trucks of our future. But as automotive technology becomes more diverse, it’s good to reflect on the technology most of us currently rely on.

Most NZ car owners (3.8 million of them in fact) rely on the same four-stroke internal combustion piston engines that have been in use for well over a century. Despite these engines having been around for so long, most people still open their bonnets and have no idea what’s going on under there – but that’s okay!

Whether your engine is powered by petrol, diesel, biofuels, compressed natural gas or something else, they all seem like pretty complex creatures. However, if we break it down, the basic physics are pretty easy to understand (but really not so basic or necessarily easy to understand after all!).

Combustion, also known as burning, is the basic chemical process of releasing energy from a fuel and air mixture.  In an internal combustion engine, the ignition and combustion of the fuel occurs within the engine itself. The engine then partially converts the energy from the combustion to work. The engine consists of a fixed cylinder (tube) and a moving piston inside it. The expanding combustion gases push the piston up and down, which in turn rotates the crankshaft. Ultimately, through a system of gears in the powertrain, this motion drives the vehicle’s wheels.

There are two kinds of internal combustion engines found in our cars today: the spark ignition gasoline engine and the compression ignition diesel engine. Most of these are four-stroke cycle engines, meaning four piston strokes are needed to complete a cycle. The cycle includes four distinct processes: intake, compression, combustion and power stroke, and exhaust.

‘Spark-ignition gasoline’ and ‘compression ignition diesel’ engines differ in how they supply and ignite the fuel.  In a spark ignition engine, the fuel is mixed with air and then inducted into the cylinder during the intake process. After the piston compresses the fuel-air mixture, the spark ignites it, causing combustion. The expansion of the combustion gases pushes the piston during the power stroke. In a diesel engine, only air is inducted into the engine and then compressed. Diesel engines then spray the fuel into the hot compressed air at a suitable, measured rate, causing it to ignite.

Few, that was a lot of information. Luckily, there’s an animated diagram for all us visual learners that does a pretty good job of laying out the basics of engines (still hardly seems basic right!?) Take a look!

Hopefully, the infographic of a simple 4-cylinder engine will help you understand what’s happening on those unhappy days when your car is laid up at a mechanic’s shop and maybe it will feel a bit better for your pocket too!

Regardless of when the uptake of alternative powered vehicles really starts to make up a material portion of NZ’s vehicle fleet, the internal combustion engine has done Kiwi’s a great service, and we expect it to continue to do so for a long time yet!

The ‘new’ My Auto Shop

NZ’s best mechanics at your fingertips: A new, nationwide My Auto Shop, driven by customer feedback. 

After pressing pause on the business for the last 6 weeks, the team has been heads down building the new version of My Auto Shop. We’re excited to come out of lockdown with a refreshed model of business that now covers all of NZ!

Since launching in January we have learnt a lot about the automotive industry. We completed hundreds of pickup and drop offs, managed many repairs on all kinds of vehicles and spoke with all of our customers to see what they valued most. When COVID-19 hit, it gave us the opportunity to step back and have a good look at the business and check we were working on the right things. 

Something that was overwhelmingly important to our customers was transparency  around the people who are working on their car, including prices and capabilities. And we think that’s going to be even more important in a post-covid world where money is a little tighter. Therefore, instead of being the ‘UberEats for car repairs’, we have shifted to be more like AirBnB. You can now see tailored prices for your vehicle from the best local garages side by side on a map. You can filter by proximity, speciality and rating to find the best one for you, then book online in a couple of minutes. NZ’s best mechanics at your fingertips. Because safety remains critically important to us, all of our garages remain MTA approved workshops.

We’ve also spent time talking with workshops all over the country to now have nationwide coverage. From Morrinsville & Napier, all the way down to Winton & Invercargill you can now use My Auto Shop for your car repairs. We have worked closely with the MTA through this time to ensure we have the best workshops for your car. There are now over 60 workshops signed up & vetted on the platform, and we are working to strengthen coverage in some of the gaps. You can see all the information about the garage on a profile page on the website, including rating, years operating, number of employees and garage specialities.

Our service offering has also expanded, to now include a couple of different levels of car service, WoFs, pre-purchase inspections, wheel alignments and diagnostics, with tyres, windscreen repairs and more technical jobs en route. Keep your eyes peeled as these are added in the coming weeks to cover all your car needs.

We are excited to tackle the rest of this year and deepen our fun, friendly, customer orientated way of working in an industry which has historically been lacking. Please come and check it out, even just for a look!