Exploring Engine Components: What They Are and How They Function


Various engine components convert the stored energy of fuel into the mechanical energy of motion. Each part plays a specific role, ensuring the proper running of the engine and its working efficiency. They also allow you to control the power output precisely, improving drivability in different road conditions and load situations. Join us as we discuss the parts and their functions.

What are Engine Components?

Engine components are individual parts that make up an automotive engine. Here, we are talking about internal combustion (I.C.) engines, which most vehicles use worldwide.

Your car engine is a complex unit with many different parts. Some are contained inside it, while others are mounted onto it. Together, they enable the following processes:

  • Air and fuel intake
  • Combustion of the air/fuel mixture
  • Converting the resulting force into linear motion
  • Turning the linear motion into rotation
  • Transmitting the rotational to other parts
  • Exhaust of combustion byproducts
  • Cooling and lubrication
Engine components diagram showing the various parts and their location
Engine components diagram showing the various parts and their location
Resource: https://youtu.be/X4PEVU7psMo?si=qYDSFPxrOWQyw2cP

Main Engine Components

The engine comprises many parts. Some play a significant role, while some are minor but crucial to the engine’s efficiency. Here is a list of the main components of an engine, what they do, and everything else about them, including the materials used to make them.

Engine Block

The engine block makes the bulk of the unit and houses parts that transmit power to the outside, such as the crankshaft and camshaft.

It’s also where the pistons move up and contains passages that convey cooling water or oil. On the outside, several other parts attach to. They include the flywheel, water pump, and crankcase at the bottom.

For many years, this part was mainly made using cast iron. Today, many cars use lighter blocks made from aluminum alloys. Aluminum also has better heat dissipation properties.

Cylinder Head

The cylinder head is the part that attaches to the top of the engine block using bolts. A gasket installed between it and the block ensures a leak-free connection. The head contains the combustion chambers or the cylindered spaces where combustion occurs.

Like the block, it houses several other minor engine components, including intake and exhaust valves, rockers, pushrods, and the camshaft. It also provides mounting surfaces for spark plugs, valve guides, and fuel injectors.

The cylinder head was traditionally made of cast iron. Modern ones are being made using aluminum alloys, making them lighter. The material is also easy to polish and an excellent heat dissipater.


It directly powers the transmission, enabling a car to move. It also operates the camshaft and moves several other parts.

Location-wise, the crankshaft sits in the lowest part of the engine, in the crankshaft journals, and is supported by bearings on either side. From here, it draws power from the pistons via the conrods.

The crankshaft must be strong enough to power the gearbox and other engine parts. It is, therefore, usually made of cast or forged, heat-treated steel.


As the name implies, the camshaft is a rod with cams (lobes) mounted along its length and rotated by the crankshaft. It’s typically made from alloy steel. Its position depends on the type of engine. Some have it in the cylinder head and some in the lower section.

The camshaft causes the intake and exhaust valves to open and close in sync with the pistons. The timed operation is critical to the engine’s smooth operation, making the shaft one of the main components of an engine.

There’s usually a cam for each valve on the cylinders (intake and exhaust valves) and sometimes an extra cam to run the fuel pump or gears to operate the distributor and oil pump.

Timing Chain/Belt/Gears

These engine timing components connect the camshaft to the crankshaft. They enable a synchronized opening and closing of the intake and exhaust valves. This synchronization is what makes a can run without misfires.

Overhead camshafts use timing belts or timing chains. These designs have crankshafts positioned far from them. In other designs, a set of gears provides this connection.

Timing belts are quiet but do not last long, requiring frequent service and replacements. On the other hand, timing chains last longer but produce more noise.


These are cylindrical parts with flat tops that move inside the combustion chamber. They help convert the intense pressures of combustion into the mechanical energy of motion.

Connecting rods attach them to the crankshafts. The rods help transfer up/down piston motion to turn the crankshaft.

The pistons are typically forged or cast iron, steel, or aluminum alloys. That’s because they must be sturdy enough to withstand mechanical stress and tough enough to withstand intense combustion heat and pressure.

Connecting Rod

Also shortened to conrod, the connecting rod is the part that attaches to the piston on one end and the crankshaft on the other. You can also call it a piston rod.

It transmits the piston’s reciprocating or linear motion to the crankshaft and causes it to turn. The crankshaft then powers the transmission and other engine parts.

Connecting rods must be light enough. At the same time, they must be sufficiently rugged and robust to transmit the piston forces without breaking. They are usually made from forged steel or a type of cast iron called nodular graphite C.I.


Gaskets seal the joints that various components make with the engine block when they attach to it. The parts that use them include the cylinder head, oil sump, and the intake and exhaust manifolds.

The gaskets must withstand high heat and pressure levels and follow the contour of the mating surface. They are mainly steel or copper. Asbestos is usually added to make them heat-resistant.


The crankcase is the lower section of the cylinder block and is made from a similar material (cast iron or aluminum alloy). It usually houses the crankshaft and its counterweights. It has an open base where the oil pan or sump attaches.

In addition to holding a few mechanical parts and oil, the crankcase enhances its structural integrity. It also helps ensure the effectiveness of the oil galleries.

Oil Pan

You can also call it the oil sump. It sits underneath the crankcase, forming the bottom-most part of the entire block. Its function is to store the cooling and lubricating oil. It has a drain plug that removes the used oil.

The oil pan attaches to the crankcase using screws. A gasket between the two parts ensures their joint is leak-proof. In some cars, a dipstick that goes into the oil sump checks the oil levels.


These engine components open and close to control the flow of air and fuel. They are also responsible for the timed opening of the exhaust ports to release the byproducts of combustion.

The camshaft rotates to operate the valves, using cams or small profiles that press them down in turns while the engine runs or operates. They consist of a spring mechanism that closes them shut.


The manifolds are composed of pipes and other components associated with air entry into the cylinders/combustion chambers and exit of exhaust gases.

The intake manifold contains the throttle body and several other intake parts/ it splits the air as it goes into the cylinders to combine with fuel.

The exhaust manifold, on the other hand, combines the byproducts of combustion from all cylinders and channels them to the exhaust pipe.


The flywheel is a heavy circular part made of steel that attaches to the crankshaft on the transmission side. Its mass enables it to store rotation inertia.

The car uses this energy to run smoothly and at a constant speed between power fluctuations or momentum changes. It ideally works by accumulating torque when the speed is high and releasing it when it reduces.


Various engine components work together to move your car or other vehicle, and each part is crucial in ensuring its smooth running. As you have learned, the parts must be sturdy to withstand extreme heat and pressure levels. That, in turn, means the need for high-quality components.

WanTuo is your go-to engine parts manufacturer if you’re looking for quality, performance, and durability.

We supply different types of engine components, including crankshafts, camshafts, pistons, pistons rods and many more. Grow your auto parts business with us. Order your parts now!


I'm Louis, a seasoned writer specializing in auto parts, particularly the science behind components like cylinder heads and pistons. With over a decade of experience and a background in mechanical engineering, my articles reflect a commitment to professionalism, blending technical insight with engaging content.

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