Backfire - motorcycle dictionary definitions
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In motorcycling, Backfire can be defined as:
A back-fire or backfire is an explosion produced by the fuel in the motorcycle's engine. The explosion itself starts in the exhaust system, rather than the designed combustion chamber. The backfire is caused when unburned fuel is ignited somewhere in the exhaust system, causing a visible flame to appear from the exhaust can. The backfire causes a popping noise, and a possible momentary loss of power.
Backfire in an automobile engine typically results from various malfunctions related to the air to fuel ratio. Backfiring can occur in carbureted engines that are running lean where the air-fuel mixture has insufficient fuel and whenever the timing is too advanced. As the engine runs leaner or if there is less time for the fuel to burn in the combustion chamber, there is a tendency for incomplete combustion. The condition that causes this is a misfire. The result of a misfire or incomplete combustion is that unburned fuel or flammable hydrocarbons are delivered to the exhaust manifold where it may ignite unpredictably. Another backfire situation occurs when the engine is running rich (with excess fuel) and there is incomplete combustion during the Otto cycle, with similar results.
When starting an engine, timing that is too advanced will fire the spark plug before the intake valve is closed. The flame front will travel back in to the intake manifold, igniting all of that air and fuel as well. The resulting explosion then travels out of the carburetor and air cleaner. A common air filter will allow the gases to escape, but will block the flame front. On many small marine engines, no air filter is used, but a screen is placed over the intake of the carburetor as a flame arrestor to prevent these flames from escaping the intake, and potentially igniting fuel, or fuel vapors in the enclosed sump or bilge of the boat and causing a fire or explosion. Improperly adjusted carburetors that create a lean condition during acceleration can cause the air fuel mixture to burn so slowly, that combustion is still taking place during the exhaust stroke, and even when the intake valve opens. The flame front can then travel up the intake and cause a backfire. In this situation it is conceivable that there is a backfire occurring in the intake manifold and exhaust manifold simultaneously.
Exhaust system backfires occur in engines that have an emission system malfunction, like an air injection system diverter valve problem, an exhaust leak, or when the catalytic converter has been removed. In some high-performance vehicles, when a driver shifts up and lets off the accelerator, the engine has a moment of running rich. This causes an incomplete burn which causes the fumes to explode in the exhaust system along with an audible clacking sound. However this condition is a result of working smog equipment, and is unlikely to cause any damage.
A fuel injected engine may backfire if an intake leak is present (causing the engine to run lean), or a fuel injection component such as an air-flow sensor is defective.
Common causes of backfires are: