Your professionally trained team at Twin Hills Ford in Richmond Hill understands that thoughtful buyers want to learn all they can about the vehicle they’re interested in purchasing. We all know making a good choice is not all about a vehicle’s color scheme and features. There are interesting parts to compare and think through under the hood, too!
Engine size isn’t a “big deal” at all, once you understand and can apply the necessary terminology to help you think through what you need most from the vehicle you want to buy.
Think It Through
How you plan to use your vehicle will determine the importance of the engine size. Are you looking for a reliable commuter vehicle? Are you going to be towing a camper or a boat? Do you take lots of long trips? The answers to all these questions can help you determine what you really need.
Common sense says the bigger the engine, the more powerful the vehicle. Likewise, the bigger the engine, the more fuel it needs - and generally, the more expensive it is, too.
The opposite is also true. The smaller the engine, the less powerful the vehicle, less fuel required, and usually, it is also less expensive. With turbocharging capabilities, that isn’t always the case, but it’s still a good rule of thumb.
Unless you’re a true gearhead, there are only a few terms you need to familiarize yourself with to figure out what kind of engine suits your needs: horsepower, torque, cylinders, engine capacity, and RPM.
In terms of vehicles, horsepower is the amount of power an engine can produce. The horsepower measurement is important if only to compare the power capabilities between two vehicles. If you’re in the market for a typical commuter or family vehicle, mid-range horsepower (200-250hp) is probably all you need. If towing or payload ability is a concern, you may need more horsepower.
Torque measures twisting force. Typically, torque and horsepower go hand-in-hand. While horsepower is the amount of power the engine can produce, torque measures how quickly the vehicle can accelerate from a stop. When you hear the phrase, “This beauty can go from 0-60mph in 4.5 seconds,” that is an example of someone bragging about torque. In order for that vehicle to perform at that level, it has higher horsepower and consequently will require more fuel to get that kind of output.
The cylinders inside an engine are where the action happens! Inside each cylinder is a piston burning fuel and converting that fuel into energy to power the vehicle. Typically, a standard vehicle contains 4 cylinders, but 6 or 8 isn’t uncommon at all. When salespeople use the phrase, “... a V6 engine,” that means the engine contains 6 cylinders - which produces more driving power. Remember, though, the more the engine power, the less the fuel economy.
Very simply stated, when pistons move up and down inside the cylinder, they compress fuel and air. That compression energy is then harnessed to produce the engine’s power. The measurement of the engine size is a measurement of the total volume of the cylinders. Usually written in cubic centimeters, it’s often rounded to the nearest tenth of a liter. 1 liter is made up of 1000 cubic centimeters.
When you’re researching your vehicle, you may see the engine described as a 2.0L engine. That means (assuming a 4 cylinder engine) that each piston can compress approximately 500cc of fuel and air into the combustion chamber with every revolution of the engine. The more combustion, the more power.
RPM is the abbreviation for revolutions per minute. When discussing vehicles, it’s a measurement of how many times the engine’s crankshaft makes a full rotation every minute, and how many times each piston goes up and down within the cylinder.
A low RPM means higher torque and lower horsepower, while higher RPM means less torque and more horsepower. Typically, a standard vehicle’s average RPM runs somewhere between 1500-2000rpm.
If you understand what these terms mean, you will know exactly what kind of power to expect from your vehicle. For a commuter vehicle, a standard 4 cylinder engine with 250 horsepower is plenty. But if you’re a highway driver, it may be important to have the pick-me-up a V6 engine will provide. If you’re planning to tow a camper or boat, a V8 engine with impressive torque may be a better fit.
Our team at Twin Hills Ford on Yonge Street doesn’t expect our customers to know every vehicle engine detail - that’s what we are here for! But if basic knowledge of what these terms mean makes you feel more confident about what you want and need, that’s great, too! We are here to help you figure it all out, every step of the way!