Open main menu

Multi-cylinder engine

  (Redirected from Four-cylinder)
For multiple-cylinder steam engines, see Compound steam engine and Triple-expansion steam engine
A cutaway illustration of a V6, 24-valve, DOHC engine, an example of a Vee-configured six-cylinder engine.
A Fiat AS.6 engine for a Macchi-Castoldi M.C.72 racing seaplane. While it is often considered a "V24 engine", it is actually two V12 engines bolted together in tandem, driving separate crankshafts.

A multi-cylinder engine is a reciprocating internal combustion engine with multiple cylinders. It can be either a 2-stroke or 4-stroke engine, and can be either Diesel or spark-ignition. The cylinders and the crankshaft which is driven by and co-ordinates the motion of the pistons can be configured in a wide variety of ways. Multi-cylinder engines offer a number of advantages over single-cylinder engines, chiefly with their ability to neutralize imbalances by having corresponding mechanisms moving in opposing directions during the operation of the engine.[1]

A multiple-cylinder engine is also capable of delivering higher revolutions per minute (RPM) than a single-cylinder engine of equal displacement. This is true for two reasons. First of all, the stroke of the pistons is reduced. This decreases the distance necessary for a piston to travel back and forth per each rotation of the crankshaft, and thus limiting the piston speed for a given RPM. Secondly, in an engine with multiple cylinders, the piston mass is reduced. This reduces stress on internal components at higher RPM's. Typically, the more cylinders an engine has, the higher the RPM's it can attain for a given displacement and technology level, at a cost of increased friction losses and complexity. Peak torque is also reduced, but the total horsepower is increased due to the higher RPM's attained.

Although there are 1, 3 and 5-cylinder engines, almost all other inline engines are built with even numbers of cylinders, as it is easier to balance out the mechanical vibrations. Another form of multiple-cylinder internal combustion engine is the radial engine, with cylinders arranged in a star pattern around a central crankshaft. Radial engines are most commonly used as aircraft engines, and in basic single-row configuration are built with odd numbers of cylinders (from 3 to 9). An odd number of cylinders is necessary in a four stroke radial, since the firing order is such that every other cylinder fires as the crankshaft rotates. Only with an odd number of cylinders will all cylinders evenly fire in this manner in two crankshaft revolutions (first the odd cylinders, followed by the even cylinders). "Twin-row" or "multi-row" radials are also built, which is basically two or more single-row radials connected front-to-back and driving a common crankshaft. In this "twin row", or "multi-row" configuration, the total number of cylinders will be an even number, although each row still has an odd number. For example, a typical single row radial such as the Wright Cyclone has 9 cylinders. The twin row Wright Twin Cyclone is based on this engine and thus has two banks of 9 cylinders, for a total of 18, an even number.


Common configurationsEdit

Two-cylinder enginesEdit

Configurations of two-cylinder engines include:

Three-cylinder enginesEdit

Configurations of three-cylinder engines include:

Four-cylinder enginesEdit

Configurations of four-cylinder engines include: the most common 4-cylinder engine

Five-cylinder enginesEdit

Configurations of five-cylinder engines include:

  • Straight-five engine, an engine with 5 cylinders in a straight line.
  • VR5 engine, an engine with 5 cylinders staggered slightly, allowing cylinder bore centerlines to be closer together, reducing overall engine length.

Six-cylinder enginesEdit

Configurations of six-cylinder engines include:

Eight-cylinder enginesEdit

Configurations of eight-cylinder engines include:

Ten-cylinder enginesEdit

Configurations of ten-cylinder engines include:

Twelve-cylinder enginesEdit

Configurations of twelve-cylinder engines include:

Larger configurationsEdit


  1. ^ Victor Albert Walter Hillier, Peter Coombes, Hillier's Fundamentals of Motor Vehicle Technology, Book 1 (2004), p. 47.