What’s the Difference Between a 4-Cylinder, V6, V8 Engines?


When you’re looking for a new vehicle to purchase, you have a myriad of decisions to make. The process can be very overwhelming. Many consumers are uncertain about the engine types and all the various terms relating to them. The salesperson you speak with is likely to mention V6, V8, or 4-cylinder, and you might now know what that means. Understanding more about the different engine sizes can help you make the right decision about your new car.

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Every vehicle uses cylinders, and its engine size is usually talked about in terms of how many cylinders are present on the vehicle. Therefore, a 4-cylinder engine has four cylinders while a V6 has six cylinders, and so on. Inside every cylinder is a piston; this moves up and down. Air and gasoline are combined inside the cylinders, and then a spark is created from the spark plug to create a small combustion. That combustion pushes the cylinder downward, creating motion. The motion is transferred to the vehicle’s driveshaft, which propels the vehicle forward. As such, most vehicle motors are called internal combustion engines.

Benefits/Drawbacks

Most cars use a 6- or 4-cylinder engine and many trucks use an 8- or 6-cylinder engine. The more cylinders the engine has, the more combustion occurs, which creates more movement, which turns the vehicle’s crankshaft and provides more power to move the vehicle.

The caveat is that the more cylinders you have also means you use more gasoline to create the combustion needed to drive the car forward. Therefore, they aren’t considered as efficient as four-cylinder vehicles.

The caveat with four-cylinder vehicles is that you have less power because there are fewer cylinders and fewer combustions. While many car manufacturers have realized the problem and are working on new ways to combat it, it still stands that you lose power to make the vehicle more efficient.

Piston Issues

The pistons that are inside the cylinders of the vehicle are one of the most important aspects of your car, and they see a lot of stress and heat because of their placement. If a cylinder doesn’t work correctly or malfunctions, it can cause severe and irreversible damage to your engine. It can also negatively affect your vehicle’s performance.

Symptoms of bad or damaged piston rings include excessive consumption of oil, loss of power, loss of acceleration power, poor performance of the vehicle, and white or gray smoke coming from the exhaust. If you notice any of these issues, it is best to consult with a mechanic.

Optional Power

To combat the issue of 4-cylinders losing performance to gain better fuel economy, some carmakers have what is called ‘turbocharged’ engines. They are 4-cylinder engines that have the efficiency you crave, but they also have the V6 performance you desire. The engine operates as a regular 4-cyl engine, but the turbo aspect adds more power when it is needed.

Of course, the combustion, which is created by a spark and a mixture of gasoline and air, push the piston. The turbo feature works by pumping more air into the cylinder chamber, which causes the combustion to be forceful and more powerful. The added force makes the piston move much faster and harder, which is thereby transferred to the driveshaft, allowing the vehicle to move.

The turbo feature doesn’t operate all the time, which can help to keep fuel efficiency higher. Typically, the turbocharge feature only engages when the engine requires more power or speed for various reasons.

What to Choose

While the decision to pick a 4-, 6-, or 8-cylinder engine depends on your needs, the type of vehicle you want, your driving habits, and the type of efficiency/performance you want, you do have options and can now better understand the differences.

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What’s the Difference Between a 4-Cylinder, V6, V8 Engines?

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