How Boxer Engines Work

The boxer engine no doubt is a car-enthusiast favorite. On the market today, you can find them in four and six-cylinder form in all Subaru models along with the Toyota 86 and the Porsche 718 and 911. And while a lot of car enthusiasts have heard of the term “boxer engine” before, they may not know exactly what it means or how it works. Or that not all flat engines are actually boxers.

For the explanation, check out the video Engineering Explained posted. They use a miniature, 3D-printed Subaru engine, and a 2018 WRX to explain how boxers work. Basically, each piston in a boxer engine gets its own crank pin so the pistons opposite each other move together. These pistons move together, like a Boxer’s gloves, and that’s what gives this engine type its name.

Now some flat engines use shared crankpins for opposing pistons, so they move opposite of each other. This setup can technically be thought of as an 180-degree V layout. Ferrari’s flat-12 engine was technically 180-degree V12s, although the automaker added to the confusion by calling the first car equipped with this motor the Berlinetta Boxer.

The 3D-printed cutaway of a boxer engine is a really helpful visual aid for those wanting to learn, so even if you know how these motors work, you may still want to check this out.