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Know a good "Auto Basics/Principles" book? (But not a Haynes/Bentley/DIY book)

I’d like to learn more about the ideas of how a car works.
What is the intake manifold?
What is the difference b/w injectors and carbs?
What does an overhead or dual cam accomplish?
Anatomy of a car, from bow to stern…

I don’t exactly want a DIY fix it book, as that’s job specific, and online already. (Or in a Bentley/Hayne’s)
I don’t want an engineering textbook either. I don’t plan to design and build a car in this lifetime.

I want something in between. Something that addresses a little more big picture.
I want to understand some basic principles of how a car works.
But, I don’t want something childishly simple, either.

I heard this VW book may be in this spirit, but I’d like something more general (and updated)

Anyone have any suggestions? Thanks!

As good as the Muir book is for Bug owners, they have little in common with most other cars. The ‘Dummies’ book on auto repair looks like a good starting point:

NOTE: aome of the below may be obsolete. Any bookstore can order these fore you.

Auto Fundamentals
By Stockel, Stockel and Johanson
Published by Goodheart - Wilcox
ISBN 1-56637-138-4

Automotive Engines
By Crouse and Anglin
Published by MacMillan/McGraw Hill, (800) 338-3987
ISBN 0-02-801099-X

Complete Engine Performance and Diagnostics
By Robert Scharff & Editors of Motor Service
Published by Delmar Publishing / Thompson learning, (800) 477-3682
ISBN 0-8273-3579-2

Automotive Chassis Systems
By Thomas W. Birch
Published by Delmar Publishing / Thompson Learning, (800) 477-3682
ISBN 0-7668-0001-6

Fuel Systems and Emission Controls
Published by Chek-Chart Publication, (408) 739-2435
ISBN 9-781579-322496

You don’t need a book. All you need is an internet connection. auto.howstuffworks.com/

The articles in Wikipedia aren’t bad. For example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Overhead_cam looks like an understandable explanation for one of your questions.

“I’d like to learn more about the ideas of how a car works.”

Usedeconobox: bravo for this interest! Books and internet sites will serve you well. I’d like to suggest something else if you are lucky enough to have the opportunity, as a supplement to what you learn by reading. Develop some kind of relationship with a local mechanic, or someone who is retired from that work, or a serious amateur, who will appreciate your interest and will help explain things in real terms that might be a little puzzling from what you’ve read.

In the mid 80s, I needed a local mechanic when I was attending a music event in a town about 6 hours away from home, traveling in a battered old Chevy van. I had good tools with me, and modest experience, but didn’t know enough to troubleshoot the problem.

I chanced on a guy who ran a tiny little shop who did what I needed at the time (a carb rebuild), and was polite, uniquely personable, and generous with his answers to questions. A few years later I moved to that town, and have been a devoted customer of that mechanic for 20+ years, sending him new customers ever since. In that time, I’ve asked him questions which helped me diagnose some car problems so I could fix them myself and save money. He learned to know what I was capable of, and when he had lots of work he would basically insist I fix something myself because I could, rather than take my money. At times, I had to really pick his brain for steps in a process. Dave has a reflex to explain HOW a given thing works in a car, and can rely on experience to say that “in your car…it’s like this, and those cars usually have this problem or they rarely have that problem”, etc. In other words, he combines a bit of theory with real word experience to explain things in a useful, specific way. To paraphrase: tune-up: $110, brake job: $250… great advice: priceless.

A guy like that, if you could find the right one, would be a great supplement to your reading.

BTW, we’ve become friends, I’ve helped him out in a few odd cases where he needed an extra hand or when he was in a jam, and been glad to repay some of his kindness. I could never adequately repay him for all his help over the years, but that doesn’t stop me from trying, or from wanting to “pass it on”.

Good luck and have fun!

Western, great story. In fact, I might take some time this summer to help out the 1 mechanic I know socially. I have also met 1 or 2 indy’s that might be amenable to be helping out in their shop for a few weeks.

I’ve done about a dozen prev.maint. jobs on my car in the last few months, and own about $600 worth of tools now. For now, I’ve gone to the library and taken out 6 books I’ll read this week, from various years. There is no substitute for actually working on your car, however. At some point, I’ll need to branch out from youtube, forums, and books, and make friends with people who are doing more ambitious jobs.

Today, cars have evolved into two parts…The tin cubical you sit in that rests on four tires (they are ALL pretty much the same, you get what you pay for) and the “powertrain” that makes it move down the road…These are rapidly becoming standardized in their basic design…

If you saw a car being built, assembled, the process is EXACTLY the same as a washing machine…The “powertrain” and the “chassis” can be built in factories 10,000 miles from each other…Hundreds of “suppliers” make the seats, the door panels, the dashboard, the seat-belts, the carpet, the wheels, the brakes, the tires, and it all comes together in an “assembly plant” which turns all this stuff into a finished car…An amazing process…But a washing machine is exactly the same, it’s just smaller and has far fewer parts…You don’t need a title or a registration…

Here is another book. Only $4 shipped… Thanks for the tip.

My washing machine just can NOT reach highway speeds like my car can;-)

Just got that Reader’s Digest book from the library.
It has a ton of detail, and a ton of pictures…
Looks like a great book.

Mitchell on demand is usually found at a local library and is a great series. I know you didn’t want repair book, but looking through it will tell you where everything is and you can research what you don’t know. HowStuffWorks is a great website that will explain everything.

If you’re like me, you’ll be amazed and have a greater respect for automobiles. Still in my teens, I quit hammering on my chevelle and silverado so hard. The timing on engine parts and everything still fascinate me. It’s amazing what gives you low end torque or better high end.

The guys at Comp Cams were very helpful too.

Now the computer systems are something else! While people grumble about computerized cars (like me from time to time) they still help in effieciency and diagnostics.

Good luck! Can’t wait for it to click with you like it did me!!

Seems like the computers have made cars TONS more reliable, at the end of the day. Go electronics!@

Fuel injectors kind of explain themselves. Carburetion is a French word for air toilet. There is a little tank just like the one on the wall over there. That reminds me I’ll have to request a nicer office. The difference is that mostly air passes through it and little bits of fuel get pulled through tiny holes into the air stream.

Intake manifold comes from many fold. One passage joins into many which usually go one per cylinder. Exhaust manifold joins many into one. This is good because it minimizes the need for exhaust pipes. With eight exhaust pipes you could tell which cylinder is misfiring. Some things aren’t worth knowing.

I too agree you should buy a service/repair manual for your car. Although it won’t explain how everything works it will have pictures to show you what the parts look like and information on how to remove/repair them. Most have a small chapter on simple maintenance that you might find interesting and some have a chapter on how to do body work. Regardless of how good you get with repairs on car’s there’s always something new to learn and new technology. I’ve been learning ever since I was a kid 8-10 years old helping dad. Used to be carburetors and ignition points/condenser now it’s fuel injectors and electronic ignition systems. When they first came out with electronic ignition I didn’t understand anything about it, now I can troubleshoot/repair most of the parts of it. I’ve been working on my own cars for 36 years and know the basics of how things on them work, but still don’t understand why they work. With hybrid cars coming out there’s more to learn. Who knows what the next 25-50 years will bring? 98% of the time I can figure out the problem with a car, but let my lawn mower refuse to start/run correctly and I may end up having to get someone else to take a look at it to get it going/running right again simply because I haven’t messed with small engines like I have cars. I come to this web site and other automotive forums not only to try to help others, but to also broaden my mechanical knowledge by learning from people with better training and more experience than I have.