The engine is a lot like the brain of a car. It holds all the power necessary to help your car function. And without it, your car would be nothing. But there are multiple car engine types out there on the road.
With an Inline engine, all cylinders are arranged in a line facing upward. The 4-cylinder inline engine is the most popular type of engine used in cars today, so there's a good chance this may be what your car is running on. It's lightweight, compact, and has fewer moving parts than most other engines. On the downside, it rarely exceeds 2.5 to 3.0 liters.
Tack on two extra cylinders to the Inline 4, and you'll have the Straight Six. In this car engine type, the cylinders are arranged in a straight positioning that's parallel to the car. The straight engine is most commonly found in luxury cars.
When you look at this type of vehicle engine from the front, it seems a bit like the letter "V." All cylinders face outwards and drive one common crankshaft at their base. But don't bother looking for this type of engine in an economy car or SUV. You'll only find the Vee engine in high-performance sports cars. This is because the Vee engine type allows more cylinders in a more compact space than other engine types.
This engine is a lot like the Vee engine with a few differences. Developed by Volkswagen, the VR and W engines have cylinders that have narrow spaces between them. Today, this engine is found in cars like the Bentley Mulsanne.
The boxer engine is unique. It uses two cylinders that are laid flat on their sides in two banks. These cylinders point away from each other, allowing gravity to remain low, which enhances handling. You'll find the Boxer engine in luxury models such as Porsche.
The Rotary engine uses rotors instead of pistons. Its design is quite compact with a curved, rectangular shape. There's a central rotor that turns only one way, and it produces intake, compression, power, and exhaust while running. Because of its design, this engine limits torque so that you won't find it often outside of the Mazda RX models.
When it comes to identifying the vehicle engine type your car has, it usually comes down to cylinders. So, what exactly are cylinders? We're about to cover that in detail, along with a few other engine parts you should know about.
We talked a lot about cylinders in the last section, but you probably already knew that the cylinder is an important part of the engine. Whenever you're looking at a new car, the number of cylinders is typically front and center. And most of us associate the number of cylinders with power, which isn't wrong.
Car cylinders are a lot like pots you use for cooking. It's not the cylinder itself that's powerful, but it's what it holds. Car cylinders contain fuel. And the more cylinders you have, the more fuel you can use at one time. It's the same with cooking pots. You can cook 2 liters of soup with a single one-liter pot.
Cylinders are made of durable metal and sealed shut on one end. The other end opens and closes. The cylinder has tight-fitting pistons that slide up and down, and two valves can open and close to let something in or shut everything out.
Inlet valve - lets fuel and air enter the cylinder (either from the carburetor or fuel injector)
Outlet valve - lets the exhaust gases escape
Spark plug - this sits at the top of the cylinder and it makes a spark that sets fire to the fuel
Piston - this sits at the bottom of the cylinder and attaches to an axle called the crankshaft
Crankshaft - this powers the car's gearbox, which drives the wheels