A carburetor, called a carb for short, is a device used in an internal combustion engine, such as the type found in an automobile. Invented by Karl Benz in the 1800s and patented in 1886, a carburetor’s job is to mix air and fuel. Up until the mid-to-late 1980s, these devices were the primary fuel-delivery method for engines. After that time, fuel injection took over as the most used method for fuel delivery, as it is considered more efficient and better in terms of emissions. In fact, the mid-to-late 1990s saw an end to the carburetor’s use in new cars.
Though carburetors have lost their places in most cars, they are still used in motorcycles. However, this may come to an end as many newer models also go over to fuel injection. As for now, carburetors continue to have a place in small engines, and they can be found in some specialized vehicles. For example, carburetors are still used in vehicles built for stock-car racing. Carburetors are also found in small-equipment engines, such as those found in lawnmowers.
All carburetors follow a basic type of construction. Basically, a carburetor consists of a tube with an adjustable plate across it. This plate is called the throttle plate and controls the amount of airflow. A narrowing in the tube is called the venturi, which creates the carburetor's vacuum. Within the vacuum is a jet, which is a hole that allows the vacuum to pull in the fuel.
To understand how a carburetor works, you have to look at Bernoulli's principle. This principle explains that the speed of air affects its pressure. When it moves faster, its pressure is lowered. Some people think the throttle pedal or accelerator controls the flow of fuel when a carburetor is used. Instead, the accelerator starts certain carburetor actions, leading to the measuring of air as it is drawn into the engine.
The speed of the airflow, as regulated by the carburetor, influences the pressure and regulates the amount of fuel that is supplied to the engine's air stream. The job of the carburetor is not at all trivial. If the device fails to get the mix just right, the engine will not run properly. When too little fuel is blended with the air, the engine runs lean, fails to run at all, or suffers damage. When too much fuel is allowed in, the engine floods, wastes fuel, emits too much smoke, or gets bogged down and stalls.