Types of Car Engines

by Ava Fails

Car engines are classified in different ways, including number of cylinders, fuel type and cylinder arrangement. While engines vary in manufacturer and design, the basic types remain same.

Fuel Type

There are two main fuel types used in car engines: gasoline and diesel. These also classify the type of ignition in the engine as well. More recent alternatives to gasoline and diesel include electricity, ethanol, methanol, hydrogen, propane and natural gas.

Cylinder Arrangement

The cylinders of a car engine are arranged in two different ways: inline or "V." An inline engine indicates that the cylinders are arranged in a row. The "V" arrangement is two rows of cylinders side-by-side that form a "V" shape.

Number of Cylinders

The number of cylinders in a car engine ranges between three and 12. The number of cylinders also determine the amount of power produced by the engine. For example, a six-cylinder engine is more powerful than a four-cylinder engine.


The ignition type of an engine relates to how the fuel is ignited inside the engine. The fuel is either spark-ignited with a spark plug or compression-ignited by compressing air until the temperature reaches ignition. Gasoline engines use spark ignition while diesel engines are compression-ignited.


Without a cooling system, car engines will quickly destroy themselves due to extreme temperatures. Car engines are either liquid- or air-cooled. Liquid-cooled engines are the modern industry standard and are cooled by a water pump that circulates water throughout the engine.

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