How Two-stroke Engines Work
by Marshall Brain
The Compression Stroke
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.
You can see that the piston is really doing three different things in a two-stroke engine:
On one side of the piston is the combustion chamber, where the piston is compressing the air/fuel mixture and capturing the energy released by the ignition of the fuel.
On the other side of the piston is the crankcase, where the piston is creating a vacuum to suck in air/fuel from the carburetor through the reed valve and then pressurizing the crankcase so that air/fuel is forced into the combustion chamber.
Meanwhile, the sides of the piston are acting like valves, covering and uncovering the intake and exhaust ports drilled into the side of the cylinder wall.
It's really pretty neat to see the piston doing so many different things! That's what makes two-stroke engines so simple and lightweight.