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Two Stroke Explained
You find two-stroke engines in such devices as scooters, chain saws and jet skis because two-stroke engines have three important advantages over four-stroke engines: Two-stroke engines do not have valves, which simplifies their construction and lowers their weight. Two-stroke engines fire once every revolution, while four-stroke engines fire once every other revolution. This gives two-stroke engines a significant power boost. Two-stroke engines can work in any orientation, which can be important in something like a chainsaw. A standard four-stroke engine may have problems with oil flow unless it is upright, and solving this problem can add complexity to the engine. These advantages make two-stroke engines lighter, simpler and less expensive to manufacture. Two-stroke engines also have the potential to pack about twice the power into the same space because there are twice as many power strokes per revolution. The combination of light weight and twice the power gives two-stroke engines a great power-to-weight ratio compared to many four-stroke engine designs. You don't normally see two-stroke engines in cars, however. That's because two-stroke engines have a couple of significant disadvantages that will make more sense once we look at how it operates.
Two-stroke engines are ingenious little devices that overlap operations in order to reduce the part count. You can understand a two-stroke engine by each part of the cycle. Start with the point where the spark plug fires. Fuel and air in the cylinder have been compressed, and when the spark plug fires the mixture ignites. The resulting explosion drives the piston downward. Note that as the piston moves downward, it is compressing the air/fuel mixture in the crankcase. As the piston approaches the bottom of its stroke, the exhaust port is uncovered. The pressure in the cylinder drives most of the exhaust gases out of cylinder, as above.
As the piston finally bottoms out, the intake port is uncovered. The piston's movement has pressurized the mixture in the crankcase, so it rushes into the cylinder, displacing the remaining exhaust gases and filling the cylinder with a fresh charge of fuel, as shown above. Note that in many two-stroke engines that use a cross-flow design, the piston is shaped so that the incoming fuel mixture doesn't simply flow right over the top of the piston and out the exhaust port.
Now the momentum in the crankshaft starts driving the piston back toward the spark plug for the compression stroke. As the air/fuel mixture in the piston is compressed, a vacuum is created in the crankcase. This vacuum opens the reed valve and sucks air/fuel/oil in from the carburetor.
Once the piston makes it to the end of the compression stroke, the spark plug fires again to repeat the cycle. It's called a two-stoke engine because there is a compression stroke and then a combustion stroke. In a four-stroke engine, there are separate intake, compression, combustion and exhaust strokes.