What Are Turbos? (Why It Matters)
For those that develop an interest in tinkering and making adjustments to the mechanics of their cars and trucks, it’s only a matter of time before coming across a term like “turbos.”
These devices, which are more properly known as turbochargers, can be paired with internal combustion engines, and use the force of exhaust gas to compress intake gasses before they are fed to the engine.
But how do turbos really work, and what are the advantages, if any?
How Turbos Work
Though there is more than one turbocharger configuration (such as variable geometry and electrically assisted turbochargers) they all operate according to similar basic principles.
The turbo itself consists of two roughly symmetrical, nearly circular halves that operate via a shaft that runs between them.
One side of the turbocharger is fitted to the exhaust port and serves as the exhaust inlet for the turbo. This portion contains a turbine wheel inside of a turbine housing (hence the name for the device, “turbo”) which utilizes the force of exhaust gases before venting it through the rest of the vehicle’s exhaust system.
The spinning turbine wheel in turn spins a compressor wheel that compresses intake air before feeding them to the engine’s combustion chambers.
So, in a nutshell, the purpose of a turbocharger is to compress air from the air intake to create a denser air/fuel mixture in the engine’s combustion chambers.
It is important to note that this is similar to the operation of a supercharger, but not the same. In a turbocharger, intake air is compressed using the kinetic energy of exhaust, whereas, in a supercharger, the energy necessary to compress the air from the intakes comes from the engine’s accessory belt or crankshaft.
Can a Turbo Make a Car or Truck Faster?
A turbocharger can not only potentially make a car or truck faster but more powerful, as well. A typical turbo can result in a net improvement of as much as 50% more horsepower from the engine.
An engine’s power is a result of the combustion of the fuel with air; therefore, holding the rate at which the fuel is burned steady, the output power can be increased by increasing the volume of air (in this case, compressing it before introducing it to the combustion chamber).
However, turbos do not simply allow an engine to produce more power. They do so in a very efficient fashion. They do not rely on the mechanical action of the engine to compress intaken air; therefore, there is no net draw from the engine’s power. The turbo uses exhaust gas that would be wasted otherwise. So, in a sense, turbos are a highly efficient way to increase the power of an engine without compromising any of its existing power.
A turbocharger can also potentially improve the fuel economy of a vehicle. However, simply adding a turbocharger to an engine does not overtly improve fuel economy; this is a misrepresentation of the advantages offered by turbos. Rather, outfitting a smaller engine with a turbocharger, which enables it to mimic the performance of a larger engine with greater displacement, is how a turbo can be used to extract greater fuel economy. It’s not that the same engine will offer better fuel economy; it’s that turbos enable smaller engines to perform as though they were larger.
Turbos also offer substantial advantages at high altitudes because the compressed air delivered to turbocharged engines has a higher concentration of oxygen than air taken at the intakes under atmospheric pressure.
Where Can You Learn More About Turbos?
Interested in outfitting your car or truck with a turbocharger, or just upgrading the stock turbo? Still, have questions before you make a decision one way or the other?
You can learn more online at the aptly named “TURBOS.COM.” They carry a wide range of heavy-duty and diesel engine turbos as well as Garrett Motion and KC Turbos.
Most importantly, their staff are experts on turbochargers. If you have any questions about operation, parts, compatibility, or costs, get in touch with them directly at 480-427-6200 or Contact Us before you commit to your turbocharger replacement or upgrade project.