The crankshaft has a linear axis about which it rotates, typically with several bearing journals riding on replaceable bearings (the main bearings) held in the engine block. As the crankshaft undergoes a great deal of sideways load from each cylinder in a multicylinder engine, it must be supported by several such bearings, not just one at each end. This was a factor in the rise of V8 engines, with their shorter crankshafts, in preference to straight-8 engines. The long crankshafts of the latter suffered from an unacceptable amount of flex when engine designers began using highercompression ratios and higher rotational speeds. High performance engines often have more main bearings than their lower performance cousins for this reason.
The distance the axis of the crank throws from the axis of the crankshaft determines the pistonstroke measurement, and thus engine displacement. A common way to increase the low-speed torque of an engine is to increase the stroke, sometimes known as "shaft-stroking." This also increases the reciprocating vibration, however, limiting the high speed capability of the engine. In compensation, it improves the low speed operation of the engine, as the longer intake stroke through smaller valve(s) results in greater turbulence and mixing of the intake charge. For this reason, even such high speed production engines as current Honda engines are classified as "under square" or long-stroke, in that the stroke is longer than the diameter of the cylinder bore. As such, finding the proper balance between shaft-stroking speed and length will lead to more optimal results.
The configuration and number of pistons in relation to each other and the crank leads to straight, V or flat engines. The same basic engine block can be used with different crankshafts, however, to alter the firing order; for instance, the 90° V6 engine configuration, in older days sometimes derived by using six cylinders of a V8 engine with what is basically a shortened version of the V8 crankshaft, produces an engine with an inherent pulsation in the power flow due to the "missing" two cylinders. The same engine, however, can be made to provide evenly spaced power pulses by using a crankshaft with an individual crank throw for each cylinder, spaced so that the pistons are actually phased 120° apart, as in the GM 3800 engine. While production V8 engines use four crank throws spaced 90° apart, high-performance V8 engines often use a "flat" crankshaft with throws spaced 180° apart. The difference can be heard as the flat-plane crankshafts result in the engine having a smoother, higher-pitched sound than cross-plane (for example, IRL IndyCar Series compared to NASCAR Nextel Cup, or a Ferrari 355 compared to a Chevrolet Corvette). See the main article on crossplane crankshafts.