Car engine jargon explained

Timothy Alcock October 15, 2011 3
Car engine jargon explained

A glossary of common car engine terms.

A helpful guide to explain some of the key terms associated with car engines.

Anyone looking to lease or purchase a new car will know that it is no easy feat. From carbon emissions to colour, there are so many elements to consider that it can be easy to get lost, particularly when it comes to car engines.

1.8 litre, V6, four cylinder, 16 valve, 156bhp; there are so many different statistics related to a car engine that unless you’re a mechanic you’re bound to get overwhelmed. Although car engines are one of the most complex parts of a car, in reality you don’t have to have a degree in car mechanics to work out exactly what you’re getting engine-wise when you acquire a new car.

The first thing you’ll probably come across when looking at a new car engine is the litre size of the engine. From 1.0 litre right through to just under four litres, there are a wide array of engine sizes on offer in today’s market, with the larger engines appearing in larger-sized vehicles and vice versa. The size of the engine simply refers to the amount of fuel you can fit into your engine. Although larger engines tend to provide more power, smaller engines do tend to be more economical in terms of mileage are usually cheaper to fill up.

Quite often you’ll probably hear someone refer to an engine as a ‘V6’ or four cylinder engine – this simply relates to how many cylinders the engine has and how they are arranged within the engine. In simple terms, the engine’s cylinders contain pistons which pump and affect the power of the vehicle – the more cylinders you have, the more powerful the engine will be. Similarly, the number of cylinders your engine contains will also affect how they are arranged – if an engine has four cylinders they are usually lined up in a row (‘inline’), however if an engine has six or eight cylinders they are usually arranged in a ‘V’ shape (‘V6’, ‘V8’).

You may also hear an engine referred to in terms of valves. Every engine cylinder has at least two valves – one for the intake of air and fuel, and one for exhaust products. By changing the number of valves in each cylinder you can control how effectively the engine takes in fuel and air – increase the number of valves in each cylinder and you could potentially affect how efficient and powerful a car is and how effectively it performs.

Finally the ‘bhp’ of an engine refers to how much brake horse power it has, or in effect how powerful it is. In effect, this means that the more bhp a car has, the more powerful it will be and vice versa. More information on how brake horsepower works can be found here.

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  • Alara

    Thank you for posting this! I’m going to be buying a car so this is exactly what I need explained well and simply, instead of a mechanical breakdown on how engines function and what parts they consist of. This is helpful and I really appreciate it.

  • centralcontractsnews

    Glad you found some value, If you have any questions let us know, we are sure to have some bright spark in the room that knows :)