A flywheel is one of the most important components of an automobile engine. It’s a mechanical device that is specifically designed for storing rotational energy (kinetic energy). It’s proportional to the square of its rotational speed and mass.

flywheel working principle


What is a flywheel?

A flywheel as a weighty wheel requires enough force to rotate on its axis. It resists changes in rotational speed by its moment of inertia. Changing the stored energy on the flywheel, its rotational speed must be increased or decreased. That is, it keeps spinning until lots of force is applied.

A great amount of kinetic energy is preserved when the flywheel rotates. This energy is later used to power up the vehicle when starting the engine or speeding. Today we’ll be looking at the definition, construction, functions, working principle, and symptoms of bad automobile flywheel.

Construction of a flywheel

Due to the toughness requirement of a flywheel, it is typically made of steel that rotates on conventional bearings. High-energy-density flywheels are made of carbon fiber composites and use magnetic bearings. Such flywheel revolves at speeds up to 60,000 RPM (1 kHz).

Functions of Flywheel

Flywheels can be found in almost all types of automobiles as they serve a variety of purposes will be discussed here. Below are the functions of the flywheel in an automobile engine:

Engine Balancing: because the pistons are offset from the center of the crankshaft vibration and wobbles occur. This is also because each piston fires at a different angle.

The function of a flywheel in this situation is to suppress the side-to-side motion. This is achieved because of the heavy weight of the flywheel. Flywheels reduce the vibration of the engine as a whole as the engine is stabilized and balanced on the mounts.

Engine Start: the flywheel plays another role while starting the engine. The gear teeth on the flywheel are attached to a starter motor. This starter motor is controlled with the car key so when the car is started the starter motor turns the flywheel.

Immediately the engine spins and the combustion effect continues turning the engine. The Bendix gear in the started motor withdraws in order for the flywheel to freely spin.

Drivetrain stress reduction: is another function of a flywheel, achieved by stabilizing the engine’s movement. It also smooths out the engine’s speed and reduces wear and tear on the drivetrain components.

Flywheel also limits the wear between the transmission shaft and the driveshaft. These two are attached with a universal joint.

Engine speed soothing: The crankshaft converts the piston movement into rotary motion which is jerky as the power is generated. the rotational speed of the crankshaft is constant and the engine runs smoothly. This is because the mass of the flywheel applies inertia which kept the engine crankshaft spinning between each piston firing.

Weight manipulation: the weight of a flywheel determines the performance of an engine. The weight is designed based on the performance of the vehicles.

Heavier flywheels allow the engine to work under loads which may cause the engine to bog down. Big truck or trailer is good with the heavier flywheels while sports car and some commercial cars make good use of the lighter flywheels.

Working Principle

The working principle of a flywheel is quite easy and interesting as it stores energy for the vehicle’s usage. Just the way mechanical battery stores energy in a chemical form, flywheels save power in the form of kinetic energy.

More energy is produced if the flywheel spins at a higher speed. that a higher moment of inertia means bulkier. It is better to spin faster than to increase its mass. This is because lighter flywheels produce twice the energy than flywheels that weighs more or double. That’s, the lighter the flywheel the more energy is stored.

It is advisable to use a lighter, highspeed wheel rather than one with massive weight. But for heavier vehicles like trailers, trucks, vans, etc. heavier ones will be suitable. This is because they carry extra load and are not important to run at higher speeds.

So, knowing how a flywheel work is that the higher the speed the higher the energy stored. However, if the speed kept increasing, the wheel material might not be able to handle the force. This may lead to breaking up.

The video below explains how a flywheel work:

Symptoms of a bad flywheel

Below are the symptoms that occur when a flywheel is faulty:

Clutch slipping: this flywheel issue occurs when changing gears while driving. The gear may slip. This happens when no power is transferred to the wheels, resulting in a worn clutch.

Slipping the clutch will eventually wear out the flywheel as well. Grinding noises may suddenly occur from the pressure plate and the other parts of the flywheel in the clutch assembly will overheat. This will lead to warp and even crack.

Clutch dragging: this flywheel dilemma is similar to that of clutch slipping. In its situation, the clutch won’t completely release. This will cause various levels of gear grinding when the gear is changed.

In fact, it might lead to complete failure of putting the car into first gear when starting from a standstill. This issue is not directly from the flywheel but in the bearing or bushing in the flywheel or crankshaft assembly.

A burning smell: A burning smell is produced when the clutch works improperly. This is caused by a bad flywheel or an inexperienced driver.

The facings of the clutches are designed with materials which intended to reduce the amount of noise the clutch makes while working.

This facing produces a lot of heat due to friction if not properly operated. Thus, an acrid smell that is quite noticeable occurs.

Clutch pedal vibrates: you noticed vibrations coming from the clutch pedal or vehicle’s floor when the flywheel is faulty. This happens because the flywheel’s spring mounts have gone bad.

This is to let you know the spring mechanism normally reduces the vibrations generated by the clutch being used.

Clutch chatter: this problem occurs when finding it difficult to engage the clutch. It skips along with the flywheel as the clutch grabs and releases the flywheel repeatedly. It feels like a stutter or vibration when released.

Clutch chatter often happens in any gear, popularly when starting from a complete stop. A warped flywheel can sometimes be the cause.

This problem can be difficult to diagnose as the clutch disc, pressure plate or release bearing are at fault. These parts might be worn, broken, warped, or even contaminated by oil. It shows the same symptoms as the clutch chatter.

Related Article:

That’s it for this article “Working Principle of a Flywheel”. I hope the knowledge is attained, if so, kindly comment and share this article with other technical students. Thanks!

22 Responses

  1. Great article! I learned a lot about flywheels and their different functions. The working principle section was particularly interesting, as it explained the concept in a simple yet detailed manner. I also appreciate the section on problems, as it highlighted some common issues that can arise with flywheels. Overall, a very informative and helpful post!

  2. wonderful post, very informative. I wonder why the other specialists of this sector don’t realize this. You should continue your writing. I’m sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

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  4. Fantastic post! The explanation of the flywheel’s functions and working principle was very clear and easy to understand. The section on common problems faced by flywheels was particularly informative. As a student, I find this topic fascinating and I appreciate the in-depth coverage. Keep up the great work!

  5. Very informative post on flywheels! I never knew the different functions and working principles of flywheels. Thanks for breaking it down in a clear and concise manner. It’s interesting to learn how flywheels can help improve energy efficiency and reduce vibrations. Looking forward to learning more about this technology in the future.

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