Automotive Fundamentals 101 | What Does RPM Mean?

Post image of Automotive Fundamentals 101 | What Does RPM Mean?

Do you love cars, but struggle with the lingo? Perhaps all that automotive jargon is making it difficult to feel as passionate about the Automotive industry. Here at THE Blog About Cars we know how scary and impenetrable the world of petrolheads is – and we want to make it easy for you to get involved. So, week by week we are going to take a common yet potentially confusing Automotive term and explain it for you – a fast-track Automotive Fundamentals 101, if you will.

Lesson 4: What does RPM mean?

Again, it’s one of those phrases that you see on all car blogs – often in the context of a car having this much torque between available between 4,000 and 6,000 rpm. We may even know that it can indicate when to change gear – but as for what it really means, many novices simply don’t know.

rev counter

Your Rev Counter

What does RPM stand for?

RPM is Revolutions Per Minute, and is a measure of the rotational speed of a mechanical component – in this case that means how many times per minute your engine cycles.

What does RPM mean?

RPM is essentially just a unit of measurement, but you will encounter is in a number of different contexts. The Revolutions per Minute essentially matter because the speed effects how your is engine running – too low (thus too slow) will see your engine stalling because the fuel/air explosion isn’t enough to move the piston, whilst too high (thus too fast) means the cylinder is moving faster than the engine can push it, consequently wasting the explosion. In basic terms when you turn on your car the RPM is low, when you push on the accelerator it goes up. The higher the RPM, the higher the gear you will be in, and your RPM can tell you when you need to switch gear.

You will most likely see RPM used to elaborate on someone talking about a car torque – since the torque changes at different engine speeds, most torque measurements will be pinned down with the above “when between 4,000 and 6,000 RPM” statement – it works to ensure everyone is talking about the same thing!

You may also hear people talking about the Redline in relation to RPM – that’s the scary red section of the Rev counter (where you will see your engines RPM). Redline refers to the maximum engine speed the engine and its components are designed to operate without causing damage to the components themselves or other parts of the engine. This differs from car to car.

Voila! RPM explained!

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