Types Of Car Engines: Everything You Wanted To Know

Car engines come in a variety, with different features, but with the same purpose. If you too own a car or are thinking of buying one, getting yourself acquainted with different types of car engines is a must.

As different cars come with different engines, let’s explore further how you can identify these types of engines as soon as you see them.

Types of Car Engines: What Are The Basics?

Here’s how you can identify your engine types in cars, just by having a look at the layout of the cylinders.

Types of Car Engine

1. VEE

When looking at the engine from the front side, this arrangement will be like the alphabet ‘V’. Every cylinder will be facing outwards and will be driving a common crankshaft at the base. 

Expect this sort of engine in all those premium and high-performance cars, as it allows squeezing in more cylinders. Also, the space consumed by the cylinders of the V type engine is quite compact as compared to others.


You will see all the cylinders arranged in a line. They will be facing in the upward direction which is usually perpendicular to the car. 

This sort of configuration in the engines can be seen in the wide variety of small and hatchback cars. The arrangement of the cylinder is simply straight in these engines.

different engine types
There are many types of car engine you may not even have heard of. (Photo: Car Throttle)


Looking at the arrangement of the cylinders in this engine, you will notice that the positioning is done parallel to the car. All those premium cars like BMW use this one of the most prominent types of car engines with such cylinder positioning.

4. VR and W

Developed by the Volkswagen group, it uses the same principle for all those V engines. The VR and W engine cylinder has a very narrow space between them. And, space is so narrow that these cylinders are squished together in one block.

It is at the base that the W configuration joins two banks of VR engines. Manufacturers rarely use this engine and configuration in any of the modern cars. Cars like Bentley Mulsanne use it though.


And, then comes another different type of engine, the Boxer, which is even called Flat. These horizontally opposed engines use cylinders that are simply laid down on their side in two banks. 

But, the two cylinders don’t face each other, they are placed pointing away from each other. Well, this allows the gravity to stay at a low level, which simply adds to the benefit of handling. 

Want to know which cars are using this layout in their cars? Well, brands like Porsche use this sort of arrangement of cylinders in their vehicles.

types of engines in cars
BOXER car engines are even called Flat. (Photo: Enginelabs.com)

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As known as the Wankel engine, the Rotary is an engine having no pistons. Rotors are used in this engine instead of pistons. The rotary engine is designed to be compact and small; besides it has a curved, oblong inner shape. 

The central rotor of this engine turns in only one direction, producing all 4 OTTO strokes including intake, compression, power, and exhaust efficiently when it is running.

Today, there is a limited number of cars having a Rotary engine design. You can find the Rotary engine in Mazda RX-8 and its predecessor, Mazda RX & models. The Rotary engine is not popular because it has a design limitation causing low torque levels.

These are some sorts of cylinder arrangements in the different cars, which can help you in identifying the right engines fitted inside. Yes, they all need different sorts of maintenance as well, which you can even discuss with the professional mechanic at your place or nearby.

Besides, https://carfromjapan.com/cheap-used-mazda-rx-8-for-sale generally come in various configurations, which can range from twin-cylinder, three-cylinder, four-cylinder, and five-cylinder, and can extend to six to eight and even ten-cylinder engines as well. 

These car engine types are a few common engine types that are used to run the vehicle these days.

cars with 2 engines
Cylinders generally come in various configurations. (Photo: Autotrader)

Now, let’s read how the two types of car engines work.

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External Engines and Internal Combustion Engines Defined

Here is how to tell what type of engine you have between external and internal combustion engines!

1. External Combustion Engine or E.C. Engine

External Combustion Engine allows the fuel combustion to take place outside of the engine. The heat is generated by the burning of fuel, which then converts the water or other fluid into steam. 

Once this high-pressure steam is created, it causes the rotation of the turbine. In this type of engine, the fuel can be anything, right from solid and liquid to even gas. 

You may see this car engine designing in ships, driving locomotives, and even at places where electric power is generated.

There are certain advantages of using this engine including the usage of cheaper fuels along with solid fuels, more flexibility, and high starting torque.

2. Internal Combustion Engine or I.C. Engine

An engine where the combustion of fuel takes place inside the engine is Internal Combustion Engine. High pressure and temperature are generated inside the engine cylinder with the burning of the fuel. 

This high pressure then exerts on the piston, which is responsible for the rotation of the wheels. When having this engine, we only use highly volatile fuel like diesel and petrol besides gasses. 

best type of engine
Internal Combustion Engines are compact and consumes lesser space comparatively. (Photo: CNN)

You may find all types of engine getting used at places where electric power is used and in automobile industries as well.

Counting its benefits, the I.C engine has an overall high efficiency over an external combustion engine. Besides, this engine is quite compact and consumes lesser space comparatively. 

Even the initial cost is lower and you will be able to start it easily in those chilling days, as it uses only the highly volatile fuel. 

There are several online sources, where you can find simple yet effective ways to boost engine power as well. After all, it is better to update yourself before the problem that may occur in the future.

FAQs On Engine Types In Cars

  1. How to know how many cylinders a car has?

Simply search for blue, black, and red wires on the top or right side of your engine. These are plug wires, and each one of them is connected to a cylinder and a spark plug. 

Therefore, the quantity of these wires equals the quantity of your cylinders. Typically, your car has 6 cylinders or 8 cylinders.

Check out this video from Helpful DIY to tell how many cylinders your engine has!

  1. Which type of engine most cars have?

The inline or straight car engine is the most common one in cars, SUVs or trucks. Because the cylinders are upright, small but powerful.

  1. What distinguishes car engines?

The volume that each cylinder displaces, or how big or tiny the engine is, and the number of cylinders it has, in general, determine how much power an engine can create. 

In addition, more big cylinders should create greater power than smaller ones, assuming all other things are equal.

  1. What kind of car engine is the most effective?

Similar to how reciprocating engines perform best when they are fully loaded, the gas turbine is most effective when it is operating at its maximum power output. 

The distinction is that heat and fuel efficiency drastically decrease at lower rotational speeds because the compressed air pressure reduces.

So, now you know different types of car engines and ways to identify them. Hope you find this piece of information insightful and see you again with more car maintenance tips in the near future.