What Is a Rotary Engine?

What Is a Rotary Engine?

In Mazda’s RX series of automobiles you will see rotary engines there that are best known and well liked these days but were introduced with their basic design since the late 1800s. Now you will think what is a rotary engine? Basically these are the engines with simple design lacking numerous elements that are normally used in reciprocal piston engines. This simple design makes them quite light in weight and the best option for motorcycles, aircraft, and boats as well.


To turn the rotor (attached to the driveshaft of vehicle) fuel and air are ignited through a spark inside the engine’s combustion that is. This process is same as of a regular piston engine, although a rotary engine owns four separate chambers rather than one that usually drives a single piston. In each phase of combustion cycle, fuel mixture is shifted from one chamber to the other. Intake, compression, ignition, and exhaust are the four phases of a combustion process.


Stephen Balzer first introduced the rotary engine in 1890s but he could not carry on his manufacturing and sold it which further developed by other manufactures. Rotary engines got immense popularity until improvements in piston engine design which made the rotary model archaic.

In 1950s, a German engineer named Felix Wankel again began to produce a more competent as well as reliable rotary engine design, which then initially used in motorcycles and later on it was employed in Mazda for use in vehicles.


A rotary engine lacks several moving parts, which makes it light weight and causes it to fail less often. Rotary engines do not have belts, camshafts, valves, or flywheels to manage. This makes it less expensive requiring least repair cost as well. Spinning actions of the rotary engine allows it to run at high speeds and produce more horsepower over a shorter time span as compare to a comparable piston engine.


The light weight of rotary engines enables it to be used in huge vehicles like airplanes and boats whose speeds are particularly affected by heavy machineries. In addition to this a rotary engine gets freeze very often, thus it is also a best and safer option for aircraft. Several portable items (for instance chainsaws or generators) may have rotary engines as well.


Along with countless benefits, rotary engines put forward some flaws as well.

Over time, the fuel and air mixture inside the engine may begin leaking from one combustion chamber into another, which probably reduces the efficiency of engine. As rotary engines worked with only small quantity of oil, it is required to check the oil reservoir frequently.

The discussed flaws are the main reasons that prevented rotary engines to become popular among several automobiles.

Written by Bruno

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