Car Basics: Car Engines

At the simplest level a car engine is a machine that converts one form of energy (e.g. fuel or electricity) into mechanical energy.  That mechanical energy propels your car.

All car engines are complex machines and we don’t want to get into too much of the complexity here – but the following is an explanation of basic information about the key elements of car engines.  Most cars sold in New Zealand are petrol or diesel powered – and this post is focused on those engines, but if you’re interested in an electric vehicle check out our earlier post Thinking of buying an Electric Vehicle? — The Car Brokers.

Engine size. The size of an engine is measured in cubic centimeters (cc) and that refers to the total volume of air and fuel that’s pushed through the engine by its cylinders.  For example, a 2,000cc (or two liters) engine has the capacity to displace two liters of this air-fuel mixture. The basic point to note is, generally, the bigger the engine the more powerful it is.

Cylinders are the core of an engine, with the piston (at its most basic, the piston is simply a solid cylinder of metal) moving up and down inside the cylinder, which is hollow.  Cars usually have four, six or eight cylinders.  In general, the fewer the cylinders a car has the less powerful it will be and better fuel economy it will get.

Fuel Economy refers to how far a vehicle can travel on a specific amount of fuel.  Fuel economy is usually described as the kilometers a vehicle can travel per liter of fuel.  To make comparison easier, websites like provide a star rating.  Essentially the more stars a vehicle model has, the more fuel efficient it is.  We have an earlier post Car Basics: Fuel Economy and Emissions — The Car Brokers that will be useful if you want to know more information on fuel economy.

Fuel Types.  Check out our earlier post on the things to consider if you are choosing between a petrol or diesel vehicle Petrol or Diesel? — The Car Brokers.

A Turbocharger is is a form of forced induction to the engine. It increases the amount of air entering the engine to create more power.  Turbo chargers are relatively popular in new, small engines because they can increase an engine power without a significant increase in fuel use.

The Car Brokers can help you determine the best vehicle for your specific needs and then find and negotiate the best deal for it.  Email us at - we’ll do the hard work and save you time and money.