Virginia Auto Service

4 Basic Parts that Make Your Engine Go

The engine is a complex contraption with many parts vital to keeping your vehicle running smoothly. Of all these parts, the crankshaft, connecting rods, pistons, and cylinders are basic to every truck and car engine.


The cylinders of the engine are essentially tubes. Most cars will have at least four cylinders. The more cylinders the more “powerful” the vehicle’s engine is. It is inside these tubes that the magic happens. Everything that the rest of the parts described below do, is happening within the cylinders.


Each one of the cylinders have a piston that pumps inside of it. The piston has to handle thousands of explosions each time you use your vehicle. When it pushes up into the cylinder, the fuel/air mixture that is in it gets compressed, then a spark plug makes it “blow-up.” The explosion occurs to push the piston back down fast and powerfully. Once the piston is pushed down the connecting rod will push against the crankshaft to keep the engine turning. Pistons have a top and a bottom. The explosions happen at the top end which is smooth, often with indentations in the surface, so that the piston won’t hit a valve.

V8 engine pistons on a crankshaft
V8 engine pistons on a crankshaft

Connecting Rods

Connecting rods are connected to the bottom of the pistons. The bottom of the piston is hollow, and inside it is a thick steel pin (wrist pin) that connects the connecting rod and the piston. This makes the rod twist slightly back and forth while remaining securely attached to the bottom of the piston. This is an essential function as it causes the crankshaft to rotate.


Essentially, what we learned above is that there is an explosion that occurs in the cylinder that causes the piston to be forced downward towards the interior of the engine. There is a connecting rod at the bottom of the piston that connects the piston to a certain point on the crankshaft, which transfers the energy from the explosion from an up/down movement of the piston to a rotational movement in the crankshaft. Every time the explosion occurs, the crankshaft turns a little more. Every connecting rod attaches to the crankshaft at different points, which means a different part of the crankshaft is always being pushed in the rotation. This is happening thousands of times a minute, resulting in a powerful engine that is able to move your vehicle down the road.

*You must remember that in order to run smoothly your engine needs lubrication. Make sure that you are keeping your oil at proper levels and that you change it regularly. For best results refer to your owner’s manual for the right time to have it changed. If you don’t keep up with regular oil maintenance, you risk seriously damaging your engine.