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What Does RPM Mean?

We've all seen that scene in a car racing movie. The one where both drivers look at each other during the countdown, as they press their foot down on the accelerator. The anticipation builds as the camera switches to their dashboard as the needle approaches the red before they finally speed off. Haven't you always wanted to know what that meant? Well, let's find out.

RPM is an acronym that stands for Revolutions Per Minute. It is unit used to measure the rotational speed of an object around an axis. In the context of cars, it represents the number of rotations that an engine's rotary components makes within a minute. This consists of the crankshaft and piston.

An engine's crankshaft is the center of rotational power as it converts the vertical movement of the pistons into rotational movement. The piston is a component that initiates the vertical movement in order for the rotation to happen. A car's RPM can be seen on the tachometer, which is usually next to the speedometer.

The tachometer is denoted by single digits such as 1-6. These single digits are used to represent the RPM of the engine. For example if the dial is on 1, this means that the engine is currently making 1000 revolutions per minute. An engine's RPM can be increased by pressing down on the accelerator and decreased by releasing your foot from the accelerator.

This has allowed drivers to accelerate until they reach or exceed the maximum RPM of their engine, which is known as the redline. "Redlining" does significant damage on the engine and manufacturers have combated this problem by introducing rev-limiters on engines. A rev-limiter prohibits a person from accelerating beyond the maximum RPM.

RPM gives an insight into a transmission's performance and health. An automatic transmission will shift gears seamlessly when it reaches a certain RPM. A manual transmission places greater importance on the tachometer as it guides the driver on when to shift gears. If there is any fault in the transmission, it will usually be displayed through the erratic behavior of the tachometer. That calls for urgent mechanical intervention.

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