What You Need To Know About Car Engine Types

Car engines rely on small controlled explosions that happen internally. The reciprocating motion is transferred from the crankshaft and gearbox to other areas of the vehicle, allowing the car to move. The engine is powered by a combustion cycle with four strokes, including intake, compression, combustion, and exhaust.

Various Types Of Strokes

An internal combustion engine operates in four strokes. Below is an illustration of how cars work: a basic breakdown.


The piston moves up and down as it is attached to a crankshaft. As the piston moves down, the camshaft is rotated by the timing belt, which allows the valves to open to release the air-fuel mixture.


This stroke occurs when the piston moves up. It allows the air-fuel mixture to achieve a high temperature when forced into a tight space.


A spark plug ignites just before the piston moves down again. It allows for ignition of the air-fuel mixture, which causes a small explosion that forces the piston down fast, producing the required energy to power the engine.


When the piston is at the bottom of a cylinder, the exhaust valves will open. As the piston moves up, the exhaust gases are expelled through the exhaust valve. At the top, the exhaust valve will close, and the cycle continues.

The cycle described is present in one cylinder of a four-stroke engine. Vehicles may have multiple cylinders of different configurations, layouts, and capacities, depending on the car type and power output.

Types Of Car Engines Based On Engine Layout

Modern combustion engines tend to have similar parts. There are combustion chambers, pistons, spark plugs, and more. The positioning of the components is one that differs significantly.

Below is a list of standard engine layouts.

Straight Line

In a straight engine layout, cylinders are arranged linearly, and the engine is positioned parallel to the car’s length. The engine may have several cylinders for additional power, and the layout goes from the front of the engine bay to the back.

Inline Engine

Cylinders in an inline engine are arranged in straight rows but do not go from front to back. It is positioned perpendicular to the car and goes from the left of the engine bay to the right. Typically, the cylinders are arranged in a side-by-side layout, enabling the engine to be kept small. It releases extra space for components such as a cooling system and car battery.

Flat Engine

This layout keeps the engine flat and is sometimes called a boxer engine. The cylinders are laid flat in either direction, with both sides having cylinders with pistons punching outwards. The layout keeps the center of gravity of such cars low, which allows for easy handling.

V Engine

This layout has cylinders positioned in a V shape. The option combines the benefits of the above designs and allows more cylinders to fit in a smaller space. Extra power in a small room is ideal for luxury, high-performance cars.

Types Of Car Engines Based On Cylinder Configuration

The number of cylinders present in an internal combustion engine determines the power output and fuel efficiency. Below are standard cylinder configurations for engines.

Twin Cylinders

There are engines with a single cylinder and are often common in motorcycles and scooters. Car engines have a minimum of two cylinders and advance up to eight or even more. Twin cylinders are the smallest and are used on low-powered machines.

Three Cylinders

This configuration is also found in small vehicles. Car manufacturers use such designs to make turbocharged versions to increase power outputs while maintaining fuel efficiency.

Four Cylinders

It is the most common engine configuration in recent days. The four cylinders are positioned inline to minimize the space occupied and are usually used in economical designs to balance power and size for everyday use.

Six Cylinders

This configuration is found in high-end cars. The six cylinders are found arranged in a V layout and straight form.

Eight Cylinders And Above

The higher the number of cylinders, the higher the vehicle’s performance. Supercars, racecars, and luxurious sedans usually have eight cylinders and more in their engines.

A car engine has multiple integral parts that assist its operation. Modern vehicles have several check lights on the dashboard to help owners identify engine problems. Seek the services of a professional when performing routine maintenance of the car.

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