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A crankshaft contains two or more centrally-located coaxial cylindrical ("main") journals and one or more offset cylindrical crankpin ("rod") journals. The two-plane V8 crankshaft pictured in Figure 1 has five main journals and four rod journals, each spaced 90° from its neigbors.

The crankshaft main journals rotate in a set of supporting bearings ("main bearings"), causing the offset rod journals to rotate in a circular path around the main journal centers, the diameter of which is twice the offset of the rod journals. The diameter of that path is the engine "stroke": the distance the piston moves up and down in its cylinder. The big ends of the connecting rods ("conrods") contain bearings ("rod bearings") which ride on the (offset) rod journals.

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