[Infographic] A Guide to Different Engine Types

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A car can have the nicest chrome exhaust tip and the plushest seats, but it’s the engine that truly makes a car a car. While most automobiles today use internal combustion engines, the way an internal combustion engine is configured can vary quite a bit from one car to the next. As professionals who have completed auto mechanic training know, some engines can reach amazing speeds, while others are valued for their excellent fuel economy and still others may be preferred because of their small size.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in the auto industry, you’ve probably wondered about what the different engine types are. Anybody with a passion for cars is bound to want to know as much as they can about what makes these amazing machines move.

To find out more about what the different engine types in automobiles are, check out the infographic below!

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A Guide to Different Engine Types

How Internal Combustion Engines Work

All vehicles on the road today, except electric vehicles, use internal combustion engines

In an internal combustion engine, fuel is ignited to create a small explosion

The engine converts the energy from these explosions into motion

Did you know? The first internal combustion engine small enough for transportation had just .5 horsepower

Internal combustion engines come in many different configurations, including:

The Inline/Straight Engine

  • The simplest and most common automobile engine design
  • Cylinders are grouped in a straight line
  • Seen in many cars, especially those with 3.0L engine capacity or less

V Engine

  • Cylinders are arranged in two rows to form a V shape
  • Can have the same number of cylinders as an inline engine
  • Takes up less space than an inline engine
  • Expensive to manufacture
  • Tends to be in higher-end vehicles

Wankel/Rotary Engine

  • Uses a triangular rotating rotor instead of pistons
  • Capable of producing lots of power
  • Known for its small size and simplicity
  • Produces high fuel emissions
  • No longer available in consumer vehicles

Boxer Engine

  • Pistons move horizontally, just like boxer gloves
  • Its low centre of gravity improves overall vehicle stability
  • Popular in the 20th century
  • Today only Porsche and Subaru use them extensively

Did you know? The boxer engine was invented in 1896 by Karl Benz, who also invented the first automobile in 1885

W Engine

  • Developed by Volkswagen for extremely high-end vehicles
  • Cylinders are staggered in a W formation
  • The top-end version, the W16 engine, produces over 1,000 horsepower

Diesel Engine

  • Uses compressed air, rather than a spark, to ignite fuel
  • Can produce much greater power than gas-powered engines
  • Rare in personal vehicles in Canada
  • Used in trucks and marine vessels

Did you know? In North America 95% of cars are gas-powered, but in parts of Europe half of cars use diesel













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