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How the Valve train operates

The valves are typically operated by a camshaft, with a series of cam lobes along its length, each designed to open a valve appropriately for the execution of intake or exhaust strokes while rotating at half crankshaft speed. A tappet between valve and cam furnishes a contact surface on which the cam slides to open the valve. The location of the camshaft varies, as does the quantity. Most engines use overhead cams or even dual overhead cams as in the illustration, in which cams directly actuate valves through a flat tappet. This design is typically capable of higher engine speeds because it gives the most direct and shortest inelastic path between cam and valve. In other engine designs, the cam shaft is placed in the crankcase and its motion transmitted by a push rod, rocker arms, and valve stems. (Definitions found on answers.com)