How Do Pushrods Engine Work? Five Outstanding Reasons

In the world of automotive engineering, there are various types of engines that power our vehicles. One such type is the pushrod engine, which has been around for decades and continues to be widely used in numerous applications. In this article, we will delve into the inner workings of pushrod engines, exploring their basic components, operation, and the reasons behind their enduring popularity.

Understanding Pushrod Engines

What are Pushrod Engines?

A pushrod engine, also known as an overhead valve (OHV) engine, is a type of internal combustion engine. It features a design where the valves are actuated by pushrods instead of directly by the overhead camshaft. This design creates a unique mechanical arrangement that provides certain advantages and characteristics.

The Basics of Pushrods

At the heart of a pushrod engine are the pushrods themselves. These are slender metal rods that transmit the motion from the camshaft to the valve lifters. Typically made of hardened steel, pushrods are designed to withstand high pressures and repeated motions.

The length of the pushrods is crucial, as it determines the valve timing and lift. It must be precisely configured to ensure optimal performance and efficiency. To achieve this, manufacturers employ advanced engineering techniques and calculations.

The Inner Workings of Pushrod Engines

To gain a deeper understanding of how pushrod engines operate, let’s examine three key components:

Camshaft Operation

In a pushrod engine, the camshaft is located within the engine block, close to the crankshaft. As the crankshaft rotates, it transfers rotational motion to the camshaft through a timing chain or belt. The camshaft consists of lobes or cams that control the opening and closing of the valves.

Valve Lifters

Valve lifters, also known as tappets, are cylindrical components that sit between the camshaft lobes and the pushrods. Their purpose is to transfer the motion from the camshaft to the pushrods, which in turn open and close the valves.

Depending on the specific design, pushrod engines can utilize different types of valve lifters, including hydraulic lifters and solid lifters. Each type has its own advantages and characteristics, affecting factors such as valve lash and maintenance requirements.

Rocker Arms

Rocker arms act as a bridge between the pushrods and the valves. They pivot on a fulcrum point and transmit the motion from the pushrods to the valves, causing them to open and close in sync with the camshaft lobes.

The rocker arms play a crucial role in amplifying the motion of the pushrods, allowing for efficient valve operation. They are often designed to provide the necessary leverage and precision required for optimal valve performance.

Five Outstanding Reasons for the Popularity of Pushrod Engines

Despite the technological advancements in engine design, pushrod engines continue to be widely used across various applications. Here are five notable reasons for their enduring popularity:

1. Compact Design

Pushrod engines are renowned for their compact design, which makes them an excellent choice for applications with limited space. This compactness allows them to fit into various vehicle types, including sports cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

2. Cost-Efficiency

Compared to more complex engine designs, pushrod engines are cost-effective to manufacture and maintain. Their simplicity reduces production costs, which can be a significant advantage for both manufacturers and consumers.

3. Reliability

Pushrod engines are known for their durability and reliability. Their robust construction and reduced number of moving parts contribute to a longer lifespan, making them a preferred choice for heavy-duty applications.

4. Torque Production

Pushrod engines are excellent at producing low-end torque. This characteristic makes them ideal for applications where quick acceleration and ample low-end power are crucial, such as in off-road vehicles and trucks.

5. Easy Maintenance

The simplicity of pushrod engines extends to their maintenance. With fewer components to worry about, servicing and repairs are generally straightforward, reducing downtime and costs for owners.


Pushrod engines continue to prove their worth despite the advancements in engine technology. Their unique design, mechanical simplicity, and the numerous advantages they offer contribute to their popularity across various automotive applications. Whether it’s the compact size, cost-effectiveness, reliability, torque production, or ease of maintenance, pushrod engines stand as a testament to the enduring power of tried-and-true engineering.


1. Are pushrod engines still being used in modern cars?

Yes, some manufacturers still use pushrod engines in their vehicles, particularly in applications where their unique advantages shine.

2. How do pushrod engines compare to overhead cam engines in terms of performance?

Pushrod engines excel in low-end torque production, making them ideal for certain applications. Overhead cam engines often offer higher RPM performance.

3. Do pushrod engines have any environmental advantages?

Pushrod engines can be designed for better fuel efficiency, and their compact size can reduce a vehicle’s overall weight, improving fuel economy.

4. Are pushrod engines more challenging to repair than other engine types?

On the contrary, pushrod engines are often considered easier to repair due to their simpler design and fewer moving parts.

5. Can pushrod engines be modified for higher performance?

Yes, pushrod engines can be modified to enhance their performance, with various aftermarket parts and tuning options available.