Abstract The vibrational characteristics of an internal combustion engine crankshaft are investigated from a cylinder health diagnostics point of view. Experimental results from a six-cylinder industrial diesel engine are presented to demonstrate the effects of cylinder imbalance on the individual harmonic components of the engine speed signal. A crank-angle domain numerical model of the crankshaft dynamics for a six-cylinder industrial diesel engine is also adopted to establish the effects of continuous low-power production in individual cylinders of a multi-cylinder engine. Outline of a diagnostics algorithm that makes use of the properties of crankshaft vibration behaviour is provided. In particular, crank-angle domain notch filters are employed to extact the harmonic components of engine speed. The outlined method can be implemented for individual cylinder health diagnostics across a family of multi-cylinder engines and can be formulated to handle changes in crankshaft characteristics due to replacement of mechanical components and/or wear.