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What Is an Intake Manifold?

In automotive engineering parlance, an intake manifold or inlet manifold is the part of an engine that is responsible for the supply of fuel and air mixture to the engine cylinders. The exhaust manifold, on the other hand, collects all the exhaust gasses expelled by the cylinders into a single pipe.

An intake manifold holds an important role in making the engine function properly. Its role is so important that without it, an engine would not run at all. An intake manifold is a system of routes and passages that carry the mixture of air and fuel from the carburetor to the intake valves of the truck engine. The term manifold is derived from the actual folding together of multiple inputs and outputs.

Intake Manifold
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Intake Manifold Location

An intake manifold is located between the cylinder head or cylinder heads and the carburetor of a modern engine. One will find the manifold of an L-head engine mounted to the side of the block while it can be found mounted to the cylinder head on an I-head engine. Among old model engines, a carburetor is located on top of the intake manifold and sends both air and fuel to the cylinder head. On multi-point injected engines, the intake manifold holds the fuel injectors.

How Does an Intake Manifold Function?

The most basic function of an intake manifold is to evenly distribute the right combustion mixture of air and fuel to each intake port in the cylinder hear or cylinder heads. To optimize the running performance of the engine, it is important to provide an even distribution to cylinder heads. An intake manifold also serves as a mount for the throttle body, carburetor, fuel injectors, and other important components of a functional engine.

An intake manifold also plays an important role in the volumetric efficiency or the internal combustion design of an engine. With sudden contour changes, it initiates pressure drops that results to lesser and air and fuel entering the combustion chamber. It takes smooth contours and gradual transitions between adjacent segments for an intake manifold to be considered as high performance.

Types of Materials Used for Intake Manifold

The intake manifold used to be manufactured out of aluminum or cast iron, but the development of composite plastic materials is getting more and more patronized and is gaining popularity. Intake manifold made out of composite plastic materials is lightweight; however, it could crack under too much pressure and when the temperature turns extremely hot.

Factors That Affects Intake Manifold Performance

The fuel injectors or the carburetor normally spray fuel droplets inside the intake manifold. Due to factors such as electrostatic forces, some of the fuel forms into pools along the walls of the manifold or may blend larger droplets in the air affecting the engine and can lead to inconsistencies in the air-fuel ratio. An imbalance mixture of fuel and air would lead to poor engine performance and engine knock, but once the fuel is sufficiently atomized, the engine would go back to its normal running condition.

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