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Multi-cylinder engine

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Title: Multi-cylinder engine  
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Multi-cylinder engine

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.
An 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, because the stroke of the pistons is reduced, decreasing 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. 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's 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 typically built with odd numbers of cylinders (from 3 to 9), as odd numbers are easier to balance in this configuration. "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, an 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 configurations

Two-cylinder engines

Configurations of two-cylinder engines include:

Three-cylinder engines

Configurations of three-cylinder engines include:

Four-cylinder engines

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

Five-cylinder engines

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 engines

Configurations of six-cylinder engines include:

Eight-cylinder engines

Configurations of eight-cylinder engines include:

Ten-cylinder engines

Configurations of ten-cylinder engines include:

Twelve-cylinder engines

Configurations of twelve-cylinder engines include:

Larger configurations


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