What Is Engine Displacement?

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Engine displacement is the combined swept volume of the pistons inside the cylinders of an engine. It is calculated from the bore (diameter of the cylinders), stroke (distance the piston travels), and number of cylinders. Displacement is an important factor, as it has a direct impact on an engine’s power output, fuel efficiency, and in some countries, how a vehicle is taxed.

The pistons inside an engine move in a reciprocating motion, that is, up and down within the cylinder, as the crankshaft rotates. The volume inside one cylinder changes as the piston moves through the combustion cycle. Simultaneously, the other cylinders change volume as their pistons move through other phases of the combustion cycle. So while volume of individual cylinders change as they reciprocate, total engine volume remains constant.

How engine displacement is calculated

The equation for calculating displacement is: Engine displacement = π/4 * bore² * stroke * number of cylinders. Displacement is usually measured in liters (L), cubic centimeters (CC), or cubic inches (CI).

Why engine displacement matters

Engine displacement is a determining factor in the horsepower and torque that an engine produces, as well as how much fuel that engine consumes. Generally speaking, the higher an engine’s displacement the more power it can create, while the lower the displacement the less fuel it can consume. This is because displacement has a direct impact on how much fuel must be drawn into a cylinder to create power and maintain engine operation. A high-displacement engine draws in more of the air/fuel mixture per revolution; therefore more fuel is consumed. Other factors play into how powerful or efficient an engine is, such as fuel delivery, ignition systems, valvetrain layout, and forced induction, but in the simplest terms a bigger engine will be more powerful, and a smaller engine will be more efficient.

In some countries vehicles are taxed based on engine displacement. This is not the case in the United States, however generally speaking higher-displacement engines are more costly, as they are more resource and labor intensive to design and manufacture.

In today’s automotive market there is a huge range of engine displacements available, from fuel-sipping two liter four-cylinders to powerful V8 and V12 engines with over six liters of displacement. What displacement is right for you depends on your priorities. If you’re looking for a simple commuter car, a low-displacement engine can provide great fuel economy (also keep in mind that low-displacement engines usually have fewer cylinders, meaning fewer parts to replace if there’s a problem). If speed is what you seek, a high-displacement engine will likely create enough power to keep you satisfied (although with forced induction, automakers can squeeze extra power out of smaller engines). Ultimately it’s best to take a test drive when you’re interested in a new car, so you can get a good feel for how it behaves on the road. Displacement is far from the only thing to consider.


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Nazareth

26 years of experience
110 reviews
Nazareth
26 years of experience
Mazda 3 - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Los Angeles, California
Nazareth provides excellent service. He is very friendly, flexible and proactive, I can only recommend booking him.
Mazda 3 - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Glendale, California
Nazareth was great to work with. I would highly recommend him for future vehicle work. He was able to get the job done quickly and in a professional manner.

Michael

7 years of experience
16 reviews
Michael
7 years of experience
Honda Accord - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Scottsdale, Arizona
Michael is awesome! Extremely knowledgeable, competent, and has strong integrity. He was able to help me understand why I didn’t need certain fixes that the dealership recommended (which ended up saving me almost a thousand dollars). He’s very personable, charismatic, and skilled at what he does. I can confidently say that the “YourMechanic” website is beyond blessed to have this man working with them.
Jeep Wrangler - Brake Pads Replacement (Front, Rear) - Chandler, Arizona
Very professional and knowledgeable. I would highly recommend Michael to anyone looking for car maintenance. Great service! Thank you.

Jason

31 years of experience
167 reviews
Jason
31 years of experience
Fiat 500L - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - San Jose, California
Unbelievably efficient and knowledgeable. Jason just comes and gets it done. I so appreciate his commitment to Excellence as evidenced by his refusal to use the wrong oil for my oil change, even though it meant him coming out another day. Just had my brakes done in less than an hour. So happy I found this and so happy that Jason's my mechanic. I highly recommend him. Meghan in San Jose
Nissan Altima - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Mateo, California
Jason was very professional and friendly. He provided extremely honest and helpful advice on issues with my Altima that would require proactive future maintenance.

Pardeep

20 years of experience
655 reviews
Pardeep
20 years of experience
Honda Civic - Brake Pads Replacement (Front) - San Jose, California
Thank you for helping to problem solve and being professional. I will likely be seeing you again soon.
Ford Fusion - Brake Pads Replacement (Rear) - Fremont, California
Again 5 star service. And already scheduling him for my next appointment. Highly recommend Pardeep for your car needs.

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