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Engine displacement

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One complete cycle of a four cylinder, four stroke engine. The volume displaced is marked in orange.

Engine displacement is the volume swept by the piston(s) in a single movement. In the very familiar four-stroke piston engine (but also in the two stroke engine) this is the volume that is swept as the piston(s) move from top dead center to bottom dead center. It can be specified in cubic centimeters, liters, or cubic inches. An engine's displacement is a basic mechanical feature such that, all other factors being equal, more engine displacement means more horsepower.

Alternatively, displacement must sometimes be defined as the total volume of air/fuel mixture an engine draws in during one complete engine cycle, howsoever defined and subject to further interpretation by taxation and racing authorities.

The engine's displacement is often used in the manufacturers nomenclature. For instance, the BMW 528 is a 5-series car with a 2.8 litre engine and Nissan's Teana 350JM is a Teana with a 3498cc (213.5 CID) engine. Motorcycles are often labelled this way.

Units of measureEdit

The cubic inch was often formerly used (until the 1980s) to express the displacement of engines for new cars, trucks, etc. (e.g., the "426" in 426 HEMI refers to 426 cubic inches displaced). It is therefore still used for this purpose in the context of the classic-car hobby, auto racing, and so forth. The auto industry nowadays uses SI for this purpose (e.g. 6.1 L HEMI). However, the actual displacement measurements of an engine are still given by many manufacturers in cubic inch displacement (usually along with cc; e.g. the 6.1 L HEMI's published displacement is 370.0 CID/6,059 cc).[1][2][3][4] Some examples of common CID-to-litre conversions are given below. Note that nominal sizes are not always precisely equal to actual sizes. This principle is frequently seen in engineering, tool standardization, etc. (for ease of use) and in marketing (when a big round number sounds more impressive, is more memorable, etc.).

Make (±Division)CID (actual) (nearest 1)CID (nominal)SI (actual) (nearest 0.01)SI (nominal)
Honda, Kawasaki, otherssomething close to 61 CIDNA (not marketed in CID)[something close to SI nominal]1000 cc (= 1.0 L)
Honda, Kawasaki, otherssomething close to 98 CIDNA (not marketed in CID)[something close to SI nominal]1600 cc (= 1.6 L)
Honda, Kawasaki, others; Fordsomething close to 122 CIDNA (not marketed in CID)[something close to SI nominal]2000 cc (= 2.0 L)
GM (Pontiac, Buick, Oldsmobile, GMC, others)151 CIDNA (not marketed in CID)[something close to SI nominal]2.5 L
Toyota, Ford, Chrysler, otherssomething close to 183 CIDNA (not marketed in CID)[something close to SI nominal]3.0 L
AMC, Jeep, Chrysler (I6) 241.573 CID242 CID3,959 cc4.0 L
Fordsomething close to 244 CIDNA (not marketed in CID)[something close to SI nominal]4.0 L
Ford (Ford, Mercury)[something close to CID nominal]250 CID4.10 L4.1 L
AMC, Jeep, International Harvester[something close to CID nominal]258 CID4.22 L4.2 L
Ford (Ford, Mercury)[something close to CID nominal]289 CID4.74 LNA (not marketed in SI)
Ford (Ford trucks and vans)[something close to CID nominal]300 CID4.92 L4.9 L
Ford, GM (Chevrolet)[something close to CID nominal]302 CID (302 Windsor, 302 Cleveland, Chevrolet 302)4.95 L5.0 L
AMC, Jeep, International Harvester[something close to CID nominal]304 CID4.98 L5.0 L
GM (Chevrolet; others?)307 CID307 CID5.03 LNA (not marketed in SI)
GM (Oldsmobile)307 CIDNA (not marketed in CID)5.03 L5.0 L
Chrysler (Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth)[something close to CID nominal]318 CID5.21 L5.2 L
AMC, GM (Chevrolet)327 CID327 CID5.36 LNA (not marketed in SI)
Chrysler (Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth)[something close to CID nominal]340 CID5.57 LNA (not marketed in SI)
GM (GMC, Chevrolet, Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac, others)[something close to CID nominal]350 CID5.74 L5.7 L
Ford (Ford, Mercury)[something close to CID nominal]351 CID (Cleveland or Windsor) 5.75 LNA (not marketed in SI)
AMC, Chrysler (Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth)[something close to CID nominal]360 CID5.90 L5.9 L
Chrysler (Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth)[something close to CID nominal]383 CID6.28 LNA (not marketed in SI)
AMC, Ford, GM (Cadillac)[something close to CID nominal]390 CID6.39 LNA (not marketed in SI)
GM (Chevrolet)[sometimes 396 CID, sometimes 402 CID]396 CID6.49 LNA (not marketed in SI)
GM (Chevrolet; others?)[something close to CID nominal]400 CID6.55 LNA (not marketed in SI)
GM (Chevrolet)[something close to CID nominal]409 CID6.70 LNA (not marketed in SI)
GM (Pontiac)[something close to CID nominal]421 CID6.90 LNA (not marketed in SI)
Chrysler (Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth)[something close to CID nominal]426 CID (Wedge or Hemi)6.98 L7.0 L
Ford (Ford, Mercury)[something close to CID nominal]427 CID7.00 L7.0 L
Ford (Ford, Mercury)[something close to CID nominal]428 CID7.01 L7.0 L
Ford (Ford, Mercury)[something close to CID nominal]429 CID7.03 L7.0 L
Chrysler (Chrysler, Dodge, Plymouth)[something close to CID nominal]440 CID7.21 L7.2 L
GM (GMC, Chevrolet)[something close to CID nominal]454 CID7.44 L7.4 L
GM (Buick, Oldsmobile, Pontiac)[something close to CID nominal]455 CID7.46 LNA (not marketed in SI)
Ford (Ford [trucks and vans]; Lincoln [cars])[something close to CID nominal]460 CID7.54 L7.5 L
GM (Cadillac)[something close to CID nominal]472 CID7.73 L7.7 L
GM (Cadillac)[something close to CID nominal]500 CID8.19 L8.2 L
Chrysler (Dodge)506.5 CID505 CID8285 cc8.3 L
Chrysler (Dodge)509.8 CID510 CID8354 cc8.4 L

Governmental regulationsEdit

Taxation of automobiles is commonly based on engine displacement, rather than power output. Displacement is basic to an engine design whereas power output depends a great deal on other factors, including wear and even the weather. This has encouraged the development of other methods to increase engine power, such as variable valve timing and turbochargers.

There are four major regulatory constraints for automobiles: the European, the British, the Japanese, and the American. The method used in some European countries, and which predates the EU, has a level of taxation for engines over one (1.0) liter and another at the level of about 100 cubic inches, which is approximated to 1.6 liters. The British system of taxation depends upon vehicle emissions for cars registered after 1 March 2001 but for cars registered before this date it depends on engine size. Cars under 1549 cc qualify for a cheaper rate of tax.[5]

The Japanese is similar to the European taxation by classes of displacement, plus a vehicle weight tax. In the American system, which includes Canada, Australia and New Zealand, there is not this sort of taxation per engine displacement. In The Netherlands and Sweden, road tax is based on vehicle weight. However, Swedish cars which was registered in 2008 or later, have it's tax based on its carbon dioxide emissions.

Displacement is also used to distinguish categories of (heavier) motorbikes with respect to license requirements. In France and some other EU countries, mopeds, usually with a two-stroke engine and less than 50 cm3 displacement can be driven with minimum qualifications (previously, they could be driven by any person over 14). This led to all light motorbikes having a displacement of about 49.9 cm3. Some people tuned the engine by increasing the cylinder bore, increasing displacement; such mopeds cannot be driven legally on public roads since they do no longer conform to the original specifications and may go faster than 45 km/h.

Wankel engines, due to the amount of power and emissions they create for their displacement, are generally taxed as 1.5 times their actual physical displacement (1.3 liters becomes 2.0, 2.0 becomes 3.0), although actual power outputs are far greater (the 1.3 liter 13B can produce power comparable to a 3.0 V6, and the 2.0 liter 20B can produce power comparable to a 4.0L V8). As such, racing regulations actually use a much higher conversion factor.

See alsoEdit


  1. "2008 Dodge Charger – Specs & Upgrades". Chrysler. Retrieved 2008-05-02. 
  2. "Ford Vehicles: Get Specifications F-150". Ford Motor Company. Retrieved 2008-04-25. "Engine type: 5.4L Triton® SOHC 24-valve V8... Displacement (cu. in.): 330 CID" 
  3. "Chevrolet 2008 Silverado Pickup Truck - Specifications (under engine 'tab')". GM. Retrieved 2008-04-25. "Engine: Vortec 5.3L Aluminum-Block V8...Displacement (cu. in.): 325" 
  4. "Dodge Specifications". Chrysler LLC. Retrieved 2008-04-25. "Powertrain: Engine - Displacement - Cubic Inches: 345.0" 
  5. The Cost of Vehicle Tax for Cars, Motorcycles, Light Goods Vehicles and Trade Licences."

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