Types of Car Engines: Layouts and Configurations

It’s easy to turn a key or press a button. Understanding the underside of the hood is a bit more complicated with different types of engines and cylinder configurations.

Your car will go faster thanks to the tubes, wires, and oddly shaped pipes. Let’s have a look:

  • How car engines work
  • Types of car engines
  • Configurations of Cylinders

Four-stroke Engine

A four-stroke engine is the most common type of engine you will find in your car, truck, or SUV. This is a four-stroke engine. It means that the engine’s internal combustion process has four steps. The internal combustion process involves igniting fuel and air to produce a controlled explosion within the cylinders. Let’s look at what this means.

The cylinders are closed metal tubes that have a spark plug, two valves, and a crankshaft. Pistons are found inside the cylinders. Pistons, which are similar to plungers but with a tighter fitting design, are pistons. These are attached to the crankshaft. They slide up and downward retracting the energy from the explosion. The outlet and inlet valves let air and gas in, and exhaust out, respectively.

The spark plug ignites the gas and the pistons move to turn the crankshaft. Finally, the crankshaft’s turning motion transfers to the gearbox and propels the vehicle forward.


Wikipedia: There are four strokes in gasoline/petrol engines. They include intake (1), compression (2), and power (3). Exhaust (4) is also a part of the four-stroke cycle.

The four steps that create the movement of pistons are intake compression exhaust.

The piston is first pulled down inside the cylinder, while the inlet valve injects fuel and air mixture into it.

The valve closes, and the piston rises. This allows the mixture to be compressed and ready for ignition. The spark plug then ignites after compression.

A mini-explosion causes a small explosion that creates hot gas, which forces the piston down and turns the crankshaft.

Finally, the crankshaft’s force powers the crankshaft, causing the piston to move back up. The exhaust is then released from the cylinder by opening the outlet valve.

This process is repeated in every cylinder, creating a tremendous force that propels your vehicle forward.

Car Engine Types: 3 Most Common Layouts


Inline Engine

Straight or Inline: This engine is most commonly found in cars, trucks, and SUVs. The engine is compact and efficient because the cylinders are upright and side-by-side.

V: A V engine looks like a v with the cylinders at a 60-degree angle. These engines can fit many cylinders and are often found in supercars with high-performance or premium features.

Flat – Also called a ‘boxer engine’, the cylinders are arranged horizontally. This style is used by gravity. Flat engines are rare and are mainly found in Porsche. Read more – enginert.

Cylinder Configurations

Before fuel injection and turbochargers were invented, the number of cylinders was the determinant of the engine’s power.

Fuel Injection allows for the direct fuel injection to the combustion chamber. This is in contrast to a carburetor, which relies on suction from the pistons to draw the fuel mixture and air into the combustion chamber. Diesel engines use fuel injection to increase power and efficiency. The turbocharger increases the compression of the combustion chamber, increasing the power output and efficiency.

These engine additions allow for more power without having to use more cylinders. 

The four-cylinder motor is the most popular configuration (mostly inline). This engine is found under the hood of small to mid-range cars. This turbocharger is compact and produces great output. Many vehicles can be fitted with a turbocharger for an additional boost.

We also have twin-cylinder cars, but they are less common. Two-cylinder engines are small and eco-friendly.

Three-cylinder engines can be found in a straight layout because of the uneven cylinder numbers. They are often found on small cars and small hatchbacks such as the Mitsubishi Mirage. These engines are also extremely fuel-efficient and compact, making them affordable.

The increase in cylinders from 4 to 6 is for high-end performance and sports cars. The engine layout is usually straight or V-shaped.

We also have eight-cylinder engines. A supercar with 8+ cylinders is likely to have a V layout.

Are you ready to browse?

It doesn’t need to be difficult to understand the different types of engines and what is in your car. It’ll help you identify which engine gives you more power or is more efficient. Matt Blatt offers a range of options, from the Kia Opta’s 4-cylinder engine to our Kia Sorento 6-cylinder engine! This does not include our pre-owned cars.