Types Of Car Engines – Everything You Wanted To Know

Car Engine-Secured under the hood of the car, it usually looks like a gigantic confusing jumble of wires, tubes, and metal. This is the reason why your car is running. After all, this is what turns all the energy into the mechanical form, allowing your car to run. Car engines come in a variety, with different features, but with the same purpose, of course. If you too own a car or 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 actually identify these types of engines as soon as you see them.

Types of Car Engines- The Basics

Here’s how you can identify the car engine type of your car, 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 is quite compact as compared to other engines.


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.

Design and types of car engines
What are the types of car engines (photo source: Car Throttle @ Youtube)


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 type of car engines with such cylinder positioning.

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4. VR and W

Developed by the Volkswagen group, it uses the exact same principle for all those V engines. VR and W engine’s cylinder has a very narrow space between them. And, space is so narrow that these cylinders are like squished together in one block. It is at the base that 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 the boxer which is even called as Flat. These horizontally opposed engines use the cylinders that are simply laid down on their side in two banks. But, the two cylinders don’t face each other, in fact, they are placed pointing away from each other. Well, this allows the gravity to stay at the low level, which simply adds to the benefit of handling. Want to know which cars are actually using this layout in their cars? Well, brands like Porsche use this sort of arrangement of cylinders in their vehicles.

Cars using different types of car engines
Types of car engines used in different cars (photo source: Enginelabs.com)

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As known as Wankel engine, the Rotary is a engine having no pistons. Rotors are used in this engine instead of pistons. Rotary engine is designed 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 running.

Today, there is a limited number of cars having Rotary engine design. You can find 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 arrangement in the different cars, which can help you in identifying the right engines fitted inside. Yes, they all need different sort of maintenance as well, which you can even discuss with the professional mechanic at your place or nearby.

Besides, cylinders generally come in various configuration, which can range from twin cylinder, three-cylinder, four-cylinder, 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.

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

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External Engine and Internal Combustion Engine Defined

1. External Combustion Engine or E.C. Engine

This type of engine allows combustion of fuel 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, causes the rotation of the turbine. In this type of engine, the fuel can be anything, right from solid and liquid to even the gas. You may see these engines working in ships, driving locomotive, 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 flexible, and high starting torque.

2. Internal Combustion Engine or I.C. Engine

An engine where combustion of fuel takes place inside the engine is Internal Combustion Engine. A high pressure and temperature 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 your car engine type is this, we only use the highly volatile fuel like diesel and petrol besides gases. You may find these types of car engines getting used at places where electric power is used and automobile industries as well.

Counting its benefits, this engine has overall high efficiency over 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 this engine easily in those chilling days, as it uses only the highly volatile fuel. There are a number of online sources, where you can find simple yet effective ways to boost engine power as well. After all, it is better to update yourself way before about the problem that may occur in the future.

So, now you know different types of car engines, right? Next time, you won’t be clueless when someone asks you about the car engine types, right?