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15 Types of Car Engines (Internal Combustion & External Combustion Engine)

The car engine is the heart of the automobile. It is responsible for transforming fuel to energy and transferring that power to the wheels which move your car. Each one has its own benefits and drawbacks and it is important to know what you are looking for in a car engine before deciding which type to purchase.

Let’s explore the different types of Car Engines!

What is a Car Engine?

The Car Engine is an internal combustion engine which burns gasoline, diesel, propane or natural gas to produce mechanical power. The amount of power a car engine produces is measured by its horsepower, which varies based on the vehicle’s overall weight and the type and number of cylinders. It often consists of cylinders (which may be arranged in one of several possible configurations) and a piston-controlled by a camshaft that open valves onto the cylinder head’s intake(where fuel and air enter). Inside the cylinder head, it has a crankshaft which opens valves onto the combustion chamber.

These valves allow fuels to enter and then close as the piston rises. As the gases in the cylinder heat up and expand, they become trapped inside creating higher pressure than atmospheric pressure, which moves a piston with force enough to drive motion. This process continues until all the fuel is used up and then the engine is shut off.

Internal Combustion  Engines

Internal Combustion  Engines

The internal combustion engine is the most common type of car engine. The fuel in this type of car engines burn at high pressure within a hermetically sealed chamber, which causes the gases to expand and produce mechanical energy that can be transformed into kinetic energy. It consists of one or more cylinders connected to a crankshaft. Each cylinder has valves that open and close timed with the piston movement. When the fuel is ignited, it burns inside of the cylinder creating heat which forces the piston outward which powers the car. This process continues until all fuel is used up then the engine stops operating.

Two-stroke Engine

Two-stroke Engine

The two-stroke engine is the most simple of all internal combustion engines. This car engine operates in only two strokes and one revolution, which is why it is called a two-stroke engine. It uses less fuel than the four-stroke engines but emits higher levels of pollutants while running. 

A two-stroke engine contains only one moving part within itself and is called a piston. It works by intake of air in the beginning of one revolution, then it compresses that air in one stroke, then at the end of another revolution another stroke occurs and fuel gets injected making it combust. The engine continues working like this until all fuels are used up.

Four-stroke Engine

Four-stroke Engine

The four-stroke engine is the most commonly used car engine. This type of car engines are more fuel efficient than two-strokes and have lower levels of pollutants. It differs from the other types in that it has a piston which moves up and down inside a cylinder instead of rotating while only moving back and forth like the other types. There is a crankshaft that is responsible for turning the cylinders and causing the pistons to move, there are valves which open letting in air then close after and there are fuel injectors on top of each cylinder which let in fuel while another valve lets out exhaust.

Five-stroke Engine

Five-stroke Engine

The five-stroke engine is another internal combustion engine that differs from others in that it has two additional strokes. It includes a suction stroke and a compression (or power) stroke, which are performed before the intake and exhaust strokes respectively. This car engine can operate using gasoline, diesel or natural gas but is not as common as other types of engines. The five-stroke engine is more efficient than most other types, which is why it’s not as common.

There are three types of valves in this engine which are intake, exhaust and intake/exhaust valves. The five-stroke engine works by intake valve opening to let air into the cylinder, then the piston moves backward from at atmospheric pressure creating suction(which gets air instead of fuel). Then the piston moves forward for compression(or power) stroke, which compresses the air and fuel together. The other intake/exhaust valve opens to let out exhaust while another closes so that air is trapped inside then it works similar to a four-stroke engine but only with an extra compression stroke.

Six-stroke Engine

Six-stroke Engine

The six-stroke engine is more complicated than the previous engines but it can be efficient and powerful. This car engine also has intake, exhaust and intake/exhaust valves but instead of a compression stroke, there is an expansion (or power) stroke which happens after the combustion stroke . It works similar to a four-stroke engine in that piston moves up and down but the difference is that there are valves in between each stroke. The process of how this engine works is as follows:

  1. Air enters through valve opening, piston moves down compressing air (intake stroke)
  2. Fuel is injected into cylinder, combustion occurs (power/expansion stroke)
  3. Exhaust is released, piston moves down (exhaust stroke)
  4. Air enters through valve opening, piston moves up compressing air (intake stroke)
  5. A valve closes after compression to trap air inside the cylinder then combustion occurs again and exhaust is released(power/expansion stroke).

Numerous variations of these six-stroke engines exist, some with additional expansion strokes. In most of them the intake/exhaust valves are located at each end of the cylinder.

Radial Engine

Radial Engine

The radial engine is one of the oldest types of car engines. It has a straight row of cylinders that are angled outward at an angle less than 90 degrees to allow more space for other elements like the cylinder head. The crankshaft is situated between the rows, it’s offset and turns all the cylinders at once which makes it harder to balance but it makes the engine more powerful. The spark plugs are located in the center of each cylinder allowing them to receive even firing.

Radial engines can be supercharged by placing a compressor on top of each row which pressurizes air and forces it into the cylinders at a higher pressure than atmospheric pressure. This allows for more power while using less fuel.

Diesel Engine

Radial Engine

 

The diesel engine is a very well known type of car engine. It is one of the most efficient, they use heat instead of spark plugs. Compression ignition uses fuel power to compress air and ignite it creating this reaction which produces more power than a spark plug does but less energy per unit weight than gasoline engines do because the combustion reaction releases less energy the less air there is already in each cylinder.

The diesel engine uses a four-stroke process and started becoming popular in automobiles after World War II but it’s use declined after the 1970s with new emissions laws. It’s still used today because of its high fuel efficiency, high torque at low speeds and long engine life.

Another factor making diesel engines popular is they are safer than gasoline cars, mainly because of the way their combustion process works (doesn’t require a lot of oxygen) but also because they don’t have explosive vapor.

Gasoline Engine

Gasoline Engine

 

 

 It’s also known as a petrol or internal combustion engine because it uses compressed gas within the cylinders to produce power. Fuel comes from an upper cylinder which turns the crankshaft and compresses air in lower chambers. This process forces air fuel mixture inside of the cylinder to ignite when the spark plug fires up allowing the pistons to turn and move the car forward. The main disadvantage of using a gas powered engine is that they require ignition sources which can be unreliable or difficult to start in rain, snow or cold temperatures.

Engine Cooling System

Engine Cooling System

The cooling system of a car engine is designed to keep the temperature of the engine under control by making sure that it does not overheat and cause mechanical breakdown.

When an internal combustion engine heats up, it causes damage to certain parts of the pump and cooling system. Water-cooled engines have a series of radiator hoses and tubes which carry water from outside to the engine. This water gets converted into steam which cools down the internal parts of the engine. Cooling systems are a vital part of an automobile and need to be kept in proper working order if you want your engine to last for many years without giving you any trouble.

Piston

Piston

In a car engine, Piston is one of the most important parts. It plays a significant role in the function of the engine and it converts heat energy into mechanical energy to produce power from gas fuel. This process fills up combustion chambers inside cylinders with compressed air which causes an explosion that pushes the piston down. When the piston moves down, it creates mechanical energy which is used by the drive shaft to move the car forward.

Pistons have two parts in them: a circular cylinder and a flat ring called “the skirt” that’s attached to the cylinder with a piston pin (connecting rod). This helps transfer the power from pistons and transform it into mechanical energy that’s used to move the car forward.

Engine Cylinder

Engine Cylinder

An engine cylinder is one of the most important parts of a car engine because it houses pistons and cylinders which transfer heat energy into mechanical energy. It also uses up fuel in the process of combustion.

Engine cylinders have many features, such as: intake valves (open when piston moves up), exhaust valves (open when piston moves down) and combustion chambers. Combustion chambers convert heat into mechanical energy which is used to power the car forward. Intake valves make a tight seal between pistons and cylinders but are small enough that air can still enter the cylinder.

External Combustion Engines

External Combustion Engines

External combustion engines have a heat source like steam, electricity or solar power. These types of engines are also known as external combustion engines because they exist outside of the vehicle and do not depend on process that takes place inside the engine to work. The main advantage of an external combustion engine is its fuel efficiency. Also, none of these energy sources can be considered rare or limited.

Steam Engine

Steam Engine

 

A steam engine is a type of external combustion engine which uses water and coal to create pressure and hot vapor. The vapor expands under high pressure on the piston forcing it downward producing power. This power is used to turn an outboard propeller or wheels on land based vehicles. The main disadvantage of using coal vs oil is that coal contains impurities which can damage the engine and car parts. It also is less energy efficient than other types of fuel sources.

Steam Turbine

Steam Turbine

 

A steam turbine is similar to a steam engine in the sense that it uses high pressure vapor. The main difference is that it’s used on land and does not necessarily need a large boiler or huge fire box. They are often used in power plants and are very fuel efficient.

Steam turbines are often used on large ships because they operate quietly and do not produce a lot of air pollution.

Gas Turbine

Gas Turbine

 

A gas turbine is considered an external combustion engine because it uses high-pressure vapor to turn a shaft. The pressure comes from burning combustible fuel such as kerosene, natural gas or diesel. The blades and turbine are placed together to form a compressor. The compressed air or gas then passes through the combustion chamber where it’s burned with fuel. The burning process heats up the exhaust gases which are then used to make high-pressure vapor that will spin the propellers and turn shafts.

Gas turbines can operate at high efficiency levels because they can be started and stopped on demand without affecting its operation.

Stirling Engine

Stirling Engine

Invented by Robert Stirling in 1816, the Stirling engine is unlike other types of external combustion engines because it does not require a continuous supply of fuel or air. It uses a regenerative cooling process and can produce more power per unit area than any other type of internal combustion engine currently available. The main disadvantage of using an air engine is that it has lower power than other types of engines and does not produce much torque at low speeds. It’s also a relatively new invention so it would be difficult to use in older cars.

Closed Cycle Gas Turbine

Closed Cycle Gas Turbine

A closed cycle gas turbine is an external combustion engine that uses a compressor to draw air into the gas generator. It’s then compressed and mixed with fuel such as natural gas, kerosene or diesel. The mixture then burns because of high pressure which heats up the exhaust gases causing them to expand and produce power for rotating the shafts. A closed cycle gas turbine is similar to a steam engine in the sense that it uses an air cooling process. The only difference is that the steam engine uses pressure to heat up water and make vapor while a closed cycle gas turbine uses fuel to heat up the air before it’s compressed.

Gas turbines are more efficient than other types of engines because they can start and stop on demand without affecting its operation. They’re also able to produce large amounts of horsepower with very little displacement.

FAQs

Why is a pressurized diesel engine better than an unpressurized one?

The compression pressure in the cylinder increases efficiency of the diesel engine by allowing the air inside to be heated and make it expand before igniting it with fuel. It also allows for more power to be produced with less energy because of a higher volume to surface ratio.

Why are diesel engines so common?

Diesel engines require less maintenance and have a longer lifespan than other types of cars because they do not need to be agitated as often as gasoline and other fuel sources. It also has an impressive torque capacity which allows for more power to be produced from little displacement, while offering high efficiency levels and reduced fuel consumption.

What’s the downside of diesel engines?

Diesel engines aren’t as efficient as gasoline engines because they use compression pressure to ignite the air inside instead of a spark plug like other types of internal combustion engines which allow for cleaner emissions and more power. Diesel car owners are also required by law to have a filter in place and have their oil changed regularly because they are more prone to carbon.

Conclusion

The car engine is an important part of any vehicle. It’s the heart that supplies power to everything inside the cab, including all its accessories and components. While most people think of their engines as mechanical machines, these are actually energy conversion devices which use fuel to produce heat. 

Hopefully you now have a better understanding of what a car engine is and how it works.

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