Types of Engine – Details, Brief Description

The types of engine will be explained in these articles. The engine, we all are very much familiar with it. So, what is an engine? An engine is a device that uses fuel and operates.

In this device, heat energy from the fuel changed into mechanical energy. This is often called a heat engine and it is widely used in automobile industries.

Types of Engine

Types of engine mean a big chapter. Engines are mainly classified into three types, thermal, electrical, and physical.

Details classification along with little brief descriptions are described for the basic.

  • Thermal engines
    • Internal combustion (I.C) engine
    • External combustion (E.C) engine
    • Reaction engines
  • Electrical engines
  • Physical engines

Internal Combustion (I.C.) Engine 


The internal combustion engine, as the name suggests, combustion of fuel happens inside the engine.

How does the I.C engine work?

  • Fuel combustion takes place inside the engine i.e. inside the cylinder.
  • Very high pressure and high temperature are generated in it.
  • The cylinder is fitted with a piston arrangement.
  • High pressure exerts on the piston.
  • The piston moves forward and backward continuously
  • The piston is connected to the crank by a connecting rod.
  • The reciprocating motion of the piston transfer to the crank.
  • Crank helps to rotate the wheels.

Advantages of I.C. engine

  • Compact
  • No space constraints.
  • The initial cost is less with respect to the E.C engine.
  • Higher efficiency than the E.C. engine.
  • Petrol, diesel, etc. high volatile fuels are used, hence, no problem in the engine starting even in cold winter.


  • Automobile industries, Motorcycle, Car, Bus, truck, etc.
  • Helicopters
  • Power generations

Types of Engine (I.C. Engine)

Internal combustion engines are largely used mainly in automobile industries and these engines are also called automobile engines.

Now, these I.C engines or automobile engines are broadly classified as follows:

  • Type of design
  • Number of strokes
  • Number of Cylinders
  • Arrangement of Cylinder
  • Valve arrangement
  • Cycle of operations
  • Types of fuel burn
  • Methods of Ignition
  • Firing order
  • Thermodynamic Cycle Engine
  • Type of Cooling
  • Speed
  • Method of Fuel Injection
  • Method of Governing
  • Application

According to design – types of engine 

Reciprocating engine

This kind of engine is having reciprocating action in the engine cylinder. Due to the piston arrangement, this engine is also called a piston engine.

  • Fuel combustion in the cylinder
  • Generation of pressure due to fuel combustion
  • Pressure force exerted on the piston
  • Piston gets reciprocating motion and moves in to & fro in the cylinder.
  • Reciprocating motion changes into rotary motion by crankshaft mechanism.
  • The crankshaft rotates and which is connected to the drive shaft.
  • The driveshaft rotates and the wheels also rotate.
  • Widely applied in automobile industries.

Rotary engine

  • In this type of engine, fuel is burnt like others
  • There is a rotor and this rotor is free to rotate.
  • The pressure is produced by combustion; it rotates the rotor.
  • Rotation of the rotor rotates the wheels.
  • Wankel has developed this engine in 1957 and it is also known as the Wankel engine.
  • Complex to seal the rotor.
  • Mazda developed the recent RX8 car based on the rotary engine.

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According to the number of strokes

Types of engine based on the number of strokes,

Two Stroke Engine

  • As the name implies, this engine will have two-stroke
  • Stroke means the movement of the piston in the cylinder per cycle.
  • Two-stroke means the piston will move two times in every cycle.
  • The piston moves from top dead center to bottom dead center in the first stroke and bottom dead center to top dead center in the second stroke.
  • It means it will move forward one time and backward one time.
  • It creates one power stroke.
  • These forward and backward movement completes one revolution of the crankshaft.
  • High torque produced.
  • Used in motorbikes, scooters, pumping sets.

Four Stroke Engine

  • Based on the name, the engine produces four strokes.
  • The piston moves forward two times and backward two times in a cycle.
  • The piston moves two times from the top dead center to the bottom dead center and two times from the bottom dead center to the top dead center.
  • Each cycle crack got two revolutions.
  • Single time fuel burns in two revolutions.
  • Generally used in bikes, cars, buses, trucks, etc.

According to the number of cylinders

Types of engine based on the number of the cylinder,

Single-cylinder engine

  • As the name suggests, a single-cylinder is used.
  • A piston is in the cylinder and it is connected to the crankshaft.
  • Smaller size
  • Lightweight
  • Easy maintenance
  • Durability is less than double cylinder
  • Efficiency is less than double cylinder
  • Motorcycles, cars, scooters, are used.

Double Cylinder

  • It has two numbers of engine cylinders.
  • Smooth operation
  • More durable than the single-cylinder engine
  • More efficient
  • Many cars are having this engine.

Multi-cylinder engine

  • It has three numbers or more than three cylinders.
  • Used in high power requirements.
  • A better balance of forces.
  • Smooth operation
  • Very compact
  • Can get high speed.
  • Motorbikes, cars, etc.

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Arrangement of Cylinder

  • V type engine
  • W type engine
  • Inline or Vertical engine
  • Horizontal engine
  • Radial engine
  • Opposed Engine

V type

V type engine means two cylinders will be mounted in ‘V’ shape. Since the angle between cylinders is looking like ‘V’, this is known as V type.

  • Two cylinder banks are present in each V engine.
  • Same numbers of the cylinder in each bank.
  • Compact design.
  • It can be V6, V8, V12, etc.
  • V6 means each bank will have 3 cylinders.
  • A common crankshaft is connected to all the cylinders.
  • The crankshaft rotates the wheels.
  • A balanced V-engine gives higher efficiency.
  • Difficult to manufacture, any imbalance can create much vibration.
  • This engine is also known as the ‘Vee’ engine too.
  • Used in cars, buses, trucks, etc.

W type

W type engine means; all the cylinders will be mounted in ‘W’ shape. Normally, three or more cylinder banks are used to form a ‘W’ engine.

  • Each W engine has a minimum of three-cylinder banks.
  • A common crankshaft or sometimes two crankshafts are connected to all the cylinders.
  • It can be W3, W8, W12. W16, W18, etc.
  • Heavy-duty applications.
  • These kinds of engines are used in cars, trucks, tractors, etc.

Inline or Vertical

  • The cylinder arranged normally in a vertical position.
  • It can be inclined as well.
  • Positioned in a straight line one after another.
  • Normally used in many cars, medium vehicles, heavy vehicles, etc.
  • Low manufacturing cost comparative to V type.


  • The cylinders are arranged in a horizontal position.
  • It has the center of gravity at a lower level with respect to the vertical engine.
  • The operation is very smooth.
  • The vibration level is very low.


  • There is a common crankshaft.
  • Pistons are placed in a circular plane.
  • All pistons are connected to connecting rods.
  • All connecting rods are connected to the main rod, i.e. master rod.
  • The crankshaft is connected to the master rod.
  • When the piston gets reciprocating motion, the crankshaft starts to rotate.
  • This engine is looking like a star and it is often called a star engine.
  • Small aircraft, this kind of engine are used.

Opposed Engine

  • In this kind of engine, cylinders are placed opposite to each other.
  • These are placed in horizontal plane.
  • Smooth operation
  • A single crankshaft is used.
  • High output, it gives two power stroke in one combustion process.

Valve arrangement

  • L-head
  • T-head
  • I-head
  • F-head


  • The inlet valves and exhaust valves are arranged side by side and both are located on the same side of the piston.
  • The operating mechanism of all the valves is below the valve.
  • A single camshaft operates all valves.
  • It forms an inverted ‘L’ shape when the cylinder and combustion chamber consider together.


  • The inlet valves and exhaust valves are located on the head of the cylinder directly.
  • All the valves are actuated by a single valve.
  • The automobile industry is common for use.


  • When L-head and I-head engines combine, it forms F-head.
  • In the cylinder head, intake valves are mounted.
  • Exhaust valves are mounted in the engine block.
  • Intake valves are operated by the camshaft.
  • Tappets on the camshaft directly operated the exhaust valves.


  • In this kind of engine, one side of the cylinder has inlet valves, and another side has exhaust valves.
  • To operate the inlet valves, one camshaft is required.
  • To operate the exhaust valves, another camshaft is required
  • A single camshaft can also be used to operate all the valves, however, double camshafts provide higher efficiency as well as higher performance.

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According to fuel used

Petrol engine

  • Petrol (gasoline) is used as a working fuel.
  • Normally motorbikes, cars, motorboats, these engines are used.
  • Air and petrol are mixed before entering the cylinder.
  • Another component, named carburetor, is used for mixing.
  • Low power production comparative to the Petrol engine
  • Fuel consumption in more.
  • Low maintenance cost.
  • It is called a gasoline engine as well.

Diesel engine

  • Diesel is used as a working fluid.
  • Mixing of air and fuel is in the cylinder.
  • High power production comparative to the petrol engine.
  • Fuel consumption is less.
  • These are used in trucks, buses, cars, etc.
  • High maintenance cost.

Gas engine

  • These engines are operated by gaseous fuels.
  • Normally, used in LPG, CNG, etc. as common fuel.
  • Small and light vehicles are used.
  • These are used in some light vehicles.

According to the method of ignition

Compression ignition engine

  • Compression ignition means ignition happens by the compression.
  • During the compression of air, the temperature of air increases.
  • Increase of temperature results ignition.

Spark ignition engine

  • Spark ignition means ignition happens by the spark.
  • By the spark, fuel starts to burn.
  • The extra arrangement is required to create the spark.

Hot spot ignition engine

  • No practical use.

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According to the air intake process

Naturally aspirated

  • Air intake into the cylinder is by natural process.
  • Intake air is atmospheric pressure.
  • No forces or pressure is created in the air.
  • No turbo lag.
  • Used in many sports cars.

Supercharged engine

  • Intake air is pressurized.
  • More air means, more combustion, and more power can generate
  • Pressurization is done by the compressor which is driven by the engine crankshaft.
  • A belt is connected between the compressor and the engine. Hence, the same power is transmitted.

Turbocharged engine

  • It also takes some kind of pressurized air.
  • It also generates more power.
  • Pressurization is done by the compressor as a supercharger.
  • In the turbocharger, power is transferred from the exhaust stream.
  • This exhaust is passed through a turbine and rotates the compressor.

Cycle of operations

OTTO cycle

  • It is based on the otto cycle.
  • Basically a constant volume cycle
  • The energy released from the fuel is during the combustion process and it is at constant volume.

DIESEL cycle

  • It is based on the diesel cycle.
  • Basically as constant pressure cycle
  • The energy released from the fuel is during the combustion and this happens at constant pressure.

Dual cycle engine or semi-diesel cycle engine

  • It is based on dual or limited pressure cycle
  • The energy released from the fuel combustion partly at constant volume and pressure.

Types of fuel burn

  • Petrol
  • Diesel
  • Liquefied petroleum
  • Liquefied Petroleum gas (LPG)
  • Compressed Natural gas (CNG)
  • Producer Gas
  • Ethanol
  • Hydrogen
  • Bio-diesel
  • Biogas
  • Vegetable oils
  • Alternative Fuels etc.

There are few engines which can operate by petrol or diesel both.

Firing order

Firing order means the sequence of the firing, so that power strokes happen within the cylinders.

  • It is mainly designed to balance the engine.
  • Remove vibration.

Firing order varies with the number of cylinders,

  • Single Cylinder 1
  • Double Cylinder 1-2
  • Three-Cylinder 1-2-3, 1-3-2
  • Four cylinder 1-4-2-3, 1-3-2-4
  • Five cylinder 1-3-5-2-4
  • Six cylinder 1-5-3-6-2-4, 1-4-5-2-3-6
  • Seven cylinder 1-3-5-7-2-4-6
  • Nine cylinder 1-3-5-7-9-2-4-6-8

Type of Cooling

Air Cooling

  • Air cooling means simply cooling is done by air.
  • The engine is cooled by air.
  • Atmospheric air is blown on ho surfaces of the engine.
  • Hot portions are provided with fins to have more surface area.
  • More surface area means heat exchange will be more.
  • Scooters, motorcycles are examples.

Water Cooling

  • Water cooling means cooling by water.
  • Circulating water is used to cool the engine.
  • Circulating water gets the heat and transferred to the radiator.
  • The radiator is cooled by fans.
  • Buses, cars, trucks are examples.

Based on Speed

Different engines have different speeds, however, it can be categorized, as follows:

  • Low-speed engine (0-250 RPM)
  • Medium-speed engine (250-900 RPM)
  • High-speed engine (900-1200 RPM)

Method of Fuel Injection

Based on the fuel injection method, the engines are classified as:

  • Air injection engine
  • Carburetor engine
  • Airless or solid injection engine

Method of Governing

Governing means the process, by which the consumption of fuel is controlled. Based on the governing method, engines are classified into four categories,

Hit and miss governing engine

  • Hit and miss mean, here, missing of few explosion steps in operation.
  • There is a governor to control it.
  • In case the engine is at high speed, the governor helps to miss or skip a few explosion steps.

Qualitative governing engine

In this kind of engine, the fuel delivery system consists of a control valve.

  • This control valve controls the fuel quantity.
  • Fuel quantity can be changed as well as air quality can be changed.

Quantitative governing engine

  • In these kinds of engines, the air-fuel ratio is constant in the mixture.
  • There is a throttle valve to regulate the quantity mixture.
  • Here, the quality of the mixture is fixed but quantity is changed based on requirements.

Combination system of governing engine

  • In this type of engine, both qualitative and quantitative methods are used.

Based on Application

Based on the application, there are different kinds of engines,

  • Automotive engine – petrol, diesel, gas engine,
  • Marine engine – ship,
  • Locomotive engine – trains,
  • Aircraft engine – aircraft,
  • Stationary engine – generator, pump, etc.

Types of Engine (E.C. Engine)

In simple words, an external combustion engine means the engine where the combustion of fuel happens externally that means outside the engine. Due to combustion outside, this engine is known as an external combustion engine.

How does E.C Engine work?

  • Fuel is burned not the inside of the engine, it is burnt outside the engine.
  • Thermal energy or heat is generated.
  • The same heat is used to convert the low boiling fluid, normally water is widely used.
  • Water is then converted to steam due to the heat
  • High-pressure steam is generated
  • Steam is passed through a turbine, it rotates and a ship moves.
  • Steam is able to move a piston forward and backward and drive the wheels of the vehicles.

Advantages of E.C. engine

  • The starting torque is very high.
  • Cheap fuel
  • More flexibility than the I.C engine.
  • Solid fuel or liquid fuel or even gaseous fuels can be used.


  • Ships
  • Locomotives
  • Electric power generation
  • Boiling water reactor in nuclear power plant

Reaction engines 

The reaction engine is one types of engine.

  • This engine generates a huge thrust.
  • It is known as a jet engine.
  • It operates based on reaction force or reactionary action.
  • Once combustion happens a huge thrust is produced, as per Newton’s third law, the same and opposite force is produced.
  • This reaction force drives the jet.

Electric engine 

An electrical engine is one types of engine.

  • These kinds of engines are driven by electricity.
  • No fuel-burning or no combustion chamber is required.
  • No pollution.

These electrical engines also are different types, like

  • Magnetic engine
  • Piezoelectric engine, and
  • Electrostatic engine.

Physical engines

Physical engine is another types of engine. In these kinds of engines, mechanical energy is stored whenever required to operate.

Submarine engines are this kind.

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Hence, we have learned basic details of types of engine. If you want to appear a short quiz on types of engine.

Further Study

Read more articles,


4-stroke engines

ABS system



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