Rev Up: The Diesel Engine Quiz

Estimated Completion Time
4 min
Rev Up: The Diesel Engine Quiz
Image: Dave Rudkin/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images

About This Quiz

Know what makes diesel engines run? Take this quiz to test your knowledge!

Not so very long ago, diesel fuel was less expensive than what most of us put in our cars. Additionally, some auto manufacturers are designing Sports Utility Vehicles that run on diesel. Diesel has become a way to run clean, fuel-efficient engines. But what's the hype all about?

The diesel engine was named after its inventor, Rudolf Diesel, a German engineer. Originally used in submarines and ships, diesel engines became a long haul vehicle and large equipment staple. Now, diesel engines are in use just about everywhere, with about half of all consumer vehicles sold in Europe being of the diesel engine type. The hype is based on the fact that diesel engines are simply more fuel efficient than standard combustion engines. And, now that the cost of diesel fuel is in reach for just about everyone and engine enhancements have made diesel far less dangerous to the environment than it once was, diesel engines are making headway in the engine market. Of course, even if diesel fuel itself is slightly less expensive than regular gasoline, the increase in efficiency makes it worth it.

So, if you think you can handle the speed of this quiz, let's get started.

The diesel engine was invented by…
scientists working for the German corporation Die Siel Weltwirtschafts.
Rudolph Diesel
Rudolph Diesel created, developed and patented the first diesel engines.
Otto von Diesel

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In a diesel engine, what causes the fuel-air mixture in the cylinder to combust?
the heat created when the air is compressed by the piston
It is the heat of the compressed air that ignites the fuel-air mixture, which is why diesel engines are considered compression ignition rather than spark ignition engines.
the firing of a sparkplug
leftover heat from the previous power stroke

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The largest diesel engine in the world is the Wärtsilä-Sulzer RTA96-C, used by the Emma Mærsk container ship. How much horsepower can it produce?
about 40,000
over 100,000
The RTA96-C generates 107, 390 hp using 14 massive cylinders.
almost 1,000,000

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Why are some diesel engines difficult to start in cold weather?
High oil viscosity in cold conditions makes it difficult to move the pistons.
The fuel is cold when it's sprayed into the cylinder, making it difficult to ignite.
The cold cylinder block absorbs much of the heat of the compression stroke, making it difficult to ignite the fuel-air mixture.
While high oil viscosity can be a problem, the primary reason cold diesels are tough to start is heat absorption during the compression stroke.

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What is often used in diesel engines to make cold starts easier?
a glowplug
A glowplug is a small electric heating element that helps ignite the fuel-air mixture when a diesel engine first starts.
a spark plug
a heated garage

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How is the power of diesel engines in railway locomotives transmitted to the wheels?
The engines spin a massive flywheel which transfers its momentum to the wheels with a clutch.
The engines operate as generators that power electric motors, which drive the wheels.
Diesel-electric engines work well in locomotives both because a mechanical transmission would wear out quickly under such massive loads and because electric motors provide superior torque for pulling across the power band.
The engines are linked to a massive gear train and driveshaft.

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The fastest diesel locomotive ever made was the Soviet TEP80. How fast did it go to set the record?
123 mph
168 mph
The TEP80 hit an unverified top speed of 168 mph in 1993 while traveling between St. Petersburg and Moscow.
218 mph

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How do modern diesel engines accomplish cold starts without using a glowplug?
The electronic control module delays adding fuel to the cylinder until the air is sufficiently compressed to ignite.
The ECM in a modern diesel can make numerous tiny adjustments to the timing of fuel injection to compensate for cold temperatures.
The electronic control module adds a substance to the fuel that gives it a lower ignition temperature.
The cylinders are made from a thermally non-conductive material that doesn’t absorb heat on the compression stroke.

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When was the diesel engine invented?
1878
1892
Rudolf Diesel obtained a patent for a "combustion power engine" -- what we now call the diesel engine -- in 1892.
1902

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What inspired Rudolf Diesel to invent a new kind of engine?
global warming
family
efficiency
Disturbed by the inefficiency of gasoline and steam engines, Diesel decided to devote his time to developing one with higher efficiency.

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What's the first step in a diesel engine's combustion process?
fuel injection
air compression
As opposed to gasoline engines, diesel engines work by first compressing the air and then injecting the fuel.
fuel mixing

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Using a separate chamber outside the cylinder to vaporize fuel is known as…
engine knock
electronic timing
indirect injection
Indirect injection helps to evenly distribute fuel vapor, and moves the injector out of the cylinder, where it doesn't have to endure such high pressure.

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Which type of engine has the highest compression ratio?
diesel
Higher compression ratios lead to higher efficiency and more power. While gasoline engines have compression ratios of 10-to-1, diesel engines compress at a ratio as high as 25-to-1.
steam
gasoline

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Indirect injection makes it possible for one engine design to do what?
be manufactured in both diesel and gasoline engine versions with minimal changes
Some indirect injection engines, such as some versions of the Austin BMC B-series, can be manufactured in conventional gasoline engine and diesel engine versions by changing little more than the cylinder head and ignition/injection systems.
operate continuously for up to 500 hours
power both high speed race cars and high torque trucks

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What percentage of shipped freight relies on diesel?
50 percent
75 percent
94 percent
Responsible for the shipment of about 94 percent of freight, diesel is an integral part of the economy.

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Why does diesel fuel evaporate slower than gasoline?
Its boiling point is lower.
It's heavier.
Diesel fuel has more carbon atoms in longer chains than gasoline does, making it heavier and causing it to slowly evaporate.
It's oilier.

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Which of the following technologies has helped reduce some of diesel's harmful emissions?
catalytic converters
CRT particulate filters and catalytic converters burn soot and reduce particulate matter, carbon monoxide and hydrocarbons by as much as 90 percent.
diesel daubers
smaller engines

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What's biodiesel made from?
recycled plastics
petroleum
plant oils and animal fats
Biodiesel is an alternative or additive to diesel fuel that can be used in diesel engines with little to no modifications to the engines themselves. It's not made from petroleum -- instead it comes from plant oils or animal fats that have been chemically altered.

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A diesel-powered car completed what amazing feat in 1931?
pulled a 10-car train loaded with iron ore 500 yards
drove from Paris to Johannesburg on a single tank of fuel
raced the entire Indy 500 without making a single pit stop
Dave Evans drove a Cummins diesel-powered car in the 1931 Indy 500, finishing the race on one tank of fuel and finishing 13th.

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Diesel-electric engines were vital to the development of what military technology?
long-range bombers
submarines
For most of the 20th century, submarines were powered by diesel engines that charged batteries while on the surface, then shut down when submerged, leaving battery power to run the electric drive motors.
mobile artillery

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In some diesel engines, both the exhaust and intake processes happen on the same piston stroke. These engines are known as...
2-stroke engines
A 2-stroke engine can produce more power than a 4-stroke engine of the same size in certain applications, typically generators or large ship engines.
Sigurdson engines
non-conforming engines

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A diesel engine helped set a world record of 222 mph at the Bonneville Salt Flats in 2002 for the world's fastest what?
parade float
school bus
pickup truck
The pickup truck was powered by a Cummins diesel engine and towed its own support trailer to the track.

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Why are diesel engines considered more reliable than gasoline engines in damp environments, such as on a boat?
Diesel fuel still works even if water gets into the fuel tank.
Diesel fuel prevents engine components from rusting.
Without spark plugs, they have no complex electrical ignition system that might short circuit or wear out.
Diesel engines don’t rely on an electrical ignition system, so wet conditions don’t affect engine performance.

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What is the common rail in a common rail injection system?
a low-voltage, high-resistance wire that assists ignition
a single gauge of railroad track that diesel trains run on
a single tube carrying pressurized fuel that supplies the injector at each cylinder
A common rail system uses a single pressurized fuel line instead of a separate line for each injector.

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What race did a diesel-powered car win in 1998?
Daytona 500
24 Hours Nürburgring
A BMW 320d won the 24 Hours Nürburgring race in 1998 powered by a diesel engine, the first diesel win in a major 24-hour endurance race.
Indy 500

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What is winterized diesel fuel?
Diesel fuel that has been properly stored in a corrosion-resistant container for winter storage
Diesel fuel that won't "gel" in cold weather because of special anti-gelling additives
Cold diesel fuel is prone to "gelling," which can be prevented with special additives.
diesel fuel with a low ignition point for easier cold starts

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The Jumo 205 diesel engine is famous for being used in what application?
It powered several types of German aircraft in the 1930s and 40s.
Although diesel engines have some advantages for use in aircraft, they were replaced by gasoline engines and turboprops (and eventually jet engines).
It provided all the power to light the 1939 New York World's Fair.
It was used to power the centrifuges that refined the uranium used in the Manhattan Project.

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One of the primary pollutants in most types of diesel fuel is…
sulfur
The sulfur in diesel fuel not only pollutes the environment, it reduces the efficiency of the engine. Low sulfur fuels and biodiesel are possible alternatives.
cyanide
dioxin

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Diesel engines are generally more efficient than gasoline engines, but they're especially efficient under what conditions?
at low speed and idle
Gasoline engines suffer drastically reduced efficiency at idle, while diesel engines remain efficient at idle. This is why diesel generators and truck engines can be left running for hours while burning minimal fuel.
at high altitude
in temperatures above 90 degrees F

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What limits the boost pressure that can be used on a diesel engine equipped with a turbocharger or supercharger?
the aperture of the induction channels
the physical capability of the engine to handle the pressure without exploding
A gasoline engine can only handle a limited amount of boost because too much leads to premature ignition and engine knock. A diesel engine can take much more boost, up to the point when the cylinder head fails.
the timing of the injection system

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Dave Rudkin/Dorling Kindersley/Getty Images
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