What is a cylinder? Why do automobile engines need many cylinders?

What is a cylinder? Why do automobile engines need many cylinders?


When looking at car specs, you’ll often see 4-cylinder engine information. So what is cylinder? Why do automobile engines need many cylinders?

What is a cylinder? The relationship between engine and cylinder

A car’s engine is a device that converts some form of energy, such as gasoline or diesel, into kinetic energy to move a vehicle. Typically, internal combustion engines and external combustion engines are of two basic types. Each type of motor is divided into many different small types, these small types have different characteristics.

Multi-cylinder engineEngine needs many cylinders

The cylinder acts as a major part of the engine, inside the cylinder the piston moves up and down. Every automobile engine has more than 1 cylinder. For ordinary cars, the number of cylinders in the engine will be 4, 6 or 8 cylinders. Sports cars need a larger number of cylinders, maybe 12 or 16 cylinders.

Inside many cylinder engines, there are ways to arrange the cylinders: arranged in a vertical row (cylinders in a straight line), arranged in a V-shape (cylinder in a V-shape) and finally Two cylinders are arranged horizontally opposite (cylinder to the opposite).

An engine arranged cylinders into a V-shape

An engine arranged cylinders into a V-shape

Almost all cars today use a 4-stroke engine, to convert gasoline into moving energy, this engine is also known as a 4-stroke engine. These include: charging, compression, burning and discharging. In addition to the cylinder, the engine also includes spark plugs, camshafts, crankshaft, valves.

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Why do engines need more cylinders?

Force allocation

For example, a 4-stroke engine, each cylinder needs 720 degrees of rotation of the crankshaft (equivalent to 2 turns) to perform a cycle. That is, a burning cycle will be born after 2 revolutions. In which only one explosive period is capable of generating useful work, but the loading, discharging and compression periods cause a large amount of labor, especially the compression period.

Thus, it can be seen that a 1 cylinder engine generates work in the form of circulating pulses. Therefore, in order to distribute the traction evenly, the engine is forced to make use of the inertia to keep the rotational speed unchanged, which causes the engine to use a heavy flywheel. The heavier the flywheel is, the more evenly distributed the power is, but this results in a less sensitive motor that is harder to control. The engine will emit vibration, operation is not smooth.

That is also the reason that the engine needs more cylinders instead of 1 cylinder. With 2-cylinder engines a combustion cycle occurs just after a rotation of the crankshaft. A 4-cylinder engine requires only a quarter of a cycle to detonate an explosion. Even the 12 cylinder engine only needs 60 degrees of rotation of the crankshaft to have an explosion. It is easy to see that even more power is generated if the engine has a greater number of cylinders. This is also the reason that 12-cylinder engine is so popular.

Many cylinders help the engine operate more smoothlyMany cylinders help the engine operate more smoothly

The cause of the oscillation

In fact, oscillation does not only occur in vertical direction. The reason is that the rod can move left and right, not just up and down as many people still confuse. So oscillation can also occur horizontally.

When compared with pistons, manufacturers realized that the weight of the rods was much lighter. So the horizontal oscillation generated by the reciprocating movement of the transmission rod is much smaller than the vertical oscillation of a multi-cylinder engine. That is for single cylinder engines.

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And the multi-cylinder engine is far more troublesome than we imagined. Because the engine explodes once per rotation, the 2 pistons move correspondingly in both direction and position. This results in a total oscillation twice the magnitude of the oscillation generated by a single cylinder engine. The direction of oscillation is mainly the way the piston moves up and down.

3-cylinder engine engine3 cylinder engine engine

At present, very few automakers apply 1-cylinder engines for their products. Almost every car uses a multi-cylinder engine. The most popular models are 4-cylinder engines.

Minh Duyen

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