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The Internal Mechanics of a Motorcycle Carburetor

Josh Moninghoff Audience: Beginner Level Hobbyists ENGL 202C

Audience and Purpose

The purpose of the following document is to provide the audience with a fundamental understanding of the mechanics of a motorcycle carburetor. The document will focus on how the motorcycle carburetor provides the engine with the correct fuel and air mixture to ensure proper function of the given engine. After reading this document the audience should be able to identify the various components of the carburetor and how these components function systematically to produce the desired result. The audience for this description is a beginner level motorcycle hobbyist. The document should help the audience better understand how a carburetor functions. Understanding the basic mechanics of a carburetor will help the audience further their knowledge of the subject. This document could appear in a magazine or on a motorcycle related website.

The motorcycle carburetor is an air and fuel intake system, which combines the principle of atmospheric pressure with simple internal mechanics to provide an engine with a steady flow of a fuel and air mixture. The carburetors function is purely mechanical unlike an electronic fuel injection (EFI) systems, which relies on multiple electronic systems to function. This makes the carburetor the perfect fuel injection system for the people with the motivation to work on their own motorcycle. The carburetors fuel injection process involves four simple steps air intake, fuel intake, air and fuel mixing, and injection of the mixture into the engine. The basic carburetor system can be seen below in Figure 1.


The Mechanical Process

Step 1: Air Intake The carburetors air intake system relies on using the surrounding air to create a fuel and air mixture. Before this air enters the carburetor it must be filtered to remove any large dust or dirt particles that may inhibit the function of the carburetor. The type of filter used will determine how much air enters the carburetor, which is proportional to how much fuel is used. There are three main types of filters used, each will cause the carburetor to function a certain way: 1. Stock Air Filter - The basic type, commonly stock on a motorcycle, is a filter enclosed in a plastic case. This filter ensures a constant limited airflow, which means less fuel will be used making the motorcycle more economical. Figure 1 shown below illustrates this filter.


2. Velocity Stack Filter - The velocity stack filter is used to achieve optimal performance. The velocity stack is open to the surrounding air with minimal filtration resulting in maximum air flow and fuel consumption. Figure 2 shows a basic velocity stack filter.

Figure3:velocitystack filter

3. Pod Filter - The pod filter incorporates the best of both worlds. It restricts airflow more than the velocity stack, but allows more air than the stock filter. So, the pod filter maximizes the performance of the carburetor and engine without a significant decline in fuel mileage. This filter is shown in Figure 3 below.


Regardless of the filter, the air intake relies on the principle of atmospheric pressure to pull in air from the surroundings. In this case two main ideas of the principle are applicable. One idea is that atmospheric pressure exerts a constant and equal force, about 15psi, on its surroundings. The principle also states that high pressure moves to areas of low pressure. So, a low pressure is needed inside of the carburetor for the surrounding air to move into the system. This lower pressure is created from inside of the engine when the piston is moving downward. The concept will be applied further in step 3, and is depicted Figure 6.

Step 2: Fuel Intake As air is being pulled in from the surroundings, fuel is simultaneously entering the carburetor from fuel lines connected from the gas tank to the carburetor. The fuel enters into a fuel storage bowl at the bottom of the carburetor, called the float bowl seen in Figure 5. Fuel is pulled from the gas tank in one of the two following methods.

1. Gravity System - The gravity fed system uses the force of gravity to move fuel from the gas tank to the carburetor. 2. Vacuum System - The method creates a small vacuum between the carburetor and gas tank, pulling fuel into the carburetor. These methods are very similar to one another and depend on the make and model of the motorcycle. Once the fuel enters the float bowl, the fuel air mixture is ready to be created. Step 3: Air and Fuel Mixing At this point fuel is being stored in the bottom part of the carburetor as air enters and passes through the top. The incoming air is directly inline with the engine intake, so the fuel needs to be pulled up from the bottom of the carburetor in order for the mixture to enter the engine. Figure 6 illustrates this process.


Once again the principle of atmospheric pressure plays a role in the mechanics of the carburetor. The float bowl is at a high pressure while the intake of the carburetor remains at a low pressure from the downward movement of the engine piston. Therefore, the high pressured fuel in the float bowl will want to move to the low pressure of the air intake creating a fuel and air mixture.

The amount of fuel needs to be regulated to ensure the correct mixture throughout different ranges of the throttle. The regulation is done in the float bowl by the pilot jet, the needle jet, and the main jet. The pilot jet and main jet regulate the fuel being pulled from the float bowl, while the needle jet regulates how much fuel enters the venturi once fuel is taken from the bowl.. Each jet is responsible for regulating fuel at a certain point in the throttle. The pilot jet regulates from idle to throttle, the needle jet regulates from throttle to throttle, and the main jet regulates from throttle to full throttle. The function and placement of the main and needle jet can be is illustrated below in Figure 7.


Step 4: Injection of Fuel/Air Mixture to the Engine The air flowing through the carburetor has now been mixed with the high pressure fuel from the float bowl. This mixture travels a short distance through the venturi to the intake manifolds of the engine. The low pressure of the carburetor and engine continues to pull the mixture into the cylinders of the engine where the piston is now beginning to move upwards to create compression. Once the mixture enters the cylinder and the piston creates compression, then the fuel/air mixture is ignited via a spark plug and power is created. Figure 8 displays this process of intake, compression, and power.


The continuous process of the carburetor mixing air and fuel for fuel injection is vital to a motorcycle engine performance. The function of the carburetor is quite simple. It essentially relies on the principle of atmospheric pressure to inject fuel and air into the engine. The process can be summarized in the following four steps. 1. The surrounding high pressure air is filtered and travels to the low internal pressure of the carburetor. 2. Fuel is simultaneously entering the float bowls via fuel lines connecting the gas tank to the carburetor. 3. The high pressure fuel in the float bowl moves towards the low pressure air in the carburetor, creating a mixture of air and fuel. 4. The continuous flow of air into the carburetor pushes the mixture towards the engine cylinders, and the process repeats itself. The proper function of the carburetor is a vital part of determining the life and the performance of the motorcycle engine. Without the correct fuel and air mixture more stress will be put on the engine, and the motorcycle will perform below its potential.

Works Cited Figure 1 (unmodified): "Thunder Products - Performance Carburetor and Clutching for Snowmobiles, Motorcycles and ATVs." Dial-A-Jet High Performance Snowmobiles ATVs Products Mikuni Keihin SkiDoo Arctic Cat Polaris Yamaha Carburetor Clutch Kit. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://thunderproducts.com/u_f_o.htm>. Figure 2 (unmodified): "New Air Filter Element Set 1974-76 CB360 CL360 OEM Honda Filters #B72." EBay. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://www.ebay.com/itm/New-Air-Filter-Element-Set-1974-76-CB360CL360-OEM-Honda-Filters-B72-/230750923250?pt=Motorcycles_Parts_Accessories>. Figure 3 (unmodified): "Velocity Stack." Szpak Manufacturing. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://www.szpakmfg.com/stack.html>. Figure 4 (unmodified): Lowbrow Customs. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://www.lowbrowcustoms.com/index.php?l=product_detail>. Figure 5 (unmodified) "Mikuni VM34SS a Guided Tour." Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://www.siue.edu/~rsutton/SR/mikuni.htm>. Figure 6 (unmodified) and Information: "Motorcycle Carburetor Theory 101." Paul's Honda Nighthawks Pages. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://hondanighthawks.net/carb14.htm>. Figure 7 (unmodified): "JETTING 101." Home. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://www.powroll.com/tech_specs_jetting101.htm>. Figure 8 (unmodified) and Information "Crazy Horse Motorcycles LLC - Www.crazyhorsemotorycles.com." Crazy Horse Motorcycles LLC. Web. 01 Mar. 2012. <http://www.crazyhorsemotorcycles.com/>.