What Is a Backfire? Definition, Meaning and Concept

Almost everyone has heard of a fake car before. The negative effect is used as a comedy element in movies and television shows, often providing a thick layer of black smoke that provides many laughs. Others have been around when a car was not running, often startling people and animals who may think they just heard a gunshot. Essentially, blowback occurs when a buildup of gases inside a running vehicle's engine suddenly ignites and pushes through the exhaust system to create a strong boom. Here is some background on how kickback occurs and what to do if your vehicle begins to misfire.

Sometimes referred to as afterfire, flashback can occur when a blockage occurs somewhere within the internal combustion engine of any vehicle. Often the negative effect originates from the carburettor adjustment. Since the carburetor on older type engines helps ensure that the gas/air mixture is maintained correctly, any adjustment that throws the balance off could lead to the buildup of gas fumes within the unit. Also, this same type of condition can take place in the intake manifold of the engine. After some buildup, the result will be a loud bang, often followed by smoke from under the car's tailpipe. The result can be quite embarrassing, not to mention loud and irritating.

While few newer engines that don't rely on carburetors experience a backfire, it's not entirely unheard of. Generally, it is the very basic principle of some kind of imbalance between gas and air consumption that creates the problem. Typically, the modern mechanic can quickly electronically scan the vehicle's engine and exhaust system and isolate the source of the problem in no time. In some cases, the repair is relatively inexpensive and can be carried out without the need to get into the engine. In other cases, the negative effect may be a sign of a larger problem that will only get worse over time. If that's the case, the repair job can be quite expensive as well as time consuming.

The comedic value of the shots will no doubt continue to amuse audiences for years to come. However, the incidence of engine firing today is significantly less than even twenty years ago. It is quite possible that within a generation, the negative effect will be a thing of the past, as far as cars are concerned.