As car manufacturers try to reduce engine sizes while increasing horsepower, turbochargers are becoming the new standard. For decades, turbochargers have boosted horsepower, making them popular in race and high-performance sports cars. Modern turbochargers also enhance fuel economy, making smaller engines more efficient while allowing them to achieve highway speeds.

This article will explore how a turbocharger works and how it increases your car engine’s performance.

What Is a Turbo and What Does a Turbo Do?

A turbocharger is a system that generates more power and torque for your vehicle’s engine via forced induction. To generate this force, the turbocharger uses the engine’s exhaust flow to spin a turbine, which then turns an air pump. The turbine in the turbocharger normally rotates at speeds ranging from 80,000 to 200,000 rotations per minute (rpm), which is up to 30 times faster than most vehicle engines. Due to its connection to the exhaust system, the turbine operates at extremely high temperatures.

As a rule, turbochargers can be used with gasoline or diesel engines to enhance engine power for a wide variety of vehicles, including cars, trucks, ships, and even buses.

How Does a Turbocharger Work? 

Turbocharger

Turbochargers are quite popular in automobiles nowadays, and they offer a major advantage in enhancing the performance and productivity of the car’s engine. So, how does this mechanism called a turbocharger work? Let’s take a closer look at the turbocharger’s working process.

The Basics of Turbocharging

In its simplest form, a turbocharger is a form of forced induction that employs exhaust gas to compress in-rushing air. Since the air is compressed, more oxygen is available in the engine cylinders, allowing more fuel to be burned. This results in increased power and torque, enhancing the overall performance of the engine.

Key Components of a Turbocharger

To understand how a turbocharger works, you should first understand the mechanics of it. Here’s a breakdown of the key components: 

  1. Turbine: It is located on the exhaust side of the engine and consists of a turbine wheel and a turbine housing. The exhaust gases escaping from the engine pass through the turbine housing, thus spinning the turbine wheel.
  2. Compressor: This film is placed on the intake side of the turbocharger. As the turbine wheel rotates, it drives the compressor wheel through a shaft. The compressor wheel draws in air from the surrounding environment, compresses it, and then delivers it with greater pressure into the engine’s intake manifold.
  3. Wastegate: The wastegate helps control the flow of exhaust gases into the turbine to avoid overboosting and possible damage to the engine. It opens to redirect the excessive exhaust gases away from the turbine, thus regulating the boost pressure.
  4. Intercooler: After compression, the air becomes very hot, which reduces its density and affects the engine’s efficiency. An intercooler cools the compressed air, increasing its density before it enters the combustion chamber.
  5. Shaft and Bearings: The turbine and compressor are mounted on a shaft that rotates on bearings. These components must be designed to handle high RPMs and temperatures, sometimes upwards of 100,000 RPM and  1,832°F.

The Turbocharging Process

The turbocharging process is outlined below:

  1. Exhaust Gases Drive the Turbine: Exhaust gases from the engine are directed to the turbocharger’s turbine housing, spinning the turbine wheel at a high speed.
  2. Air Compression: Simultaneously, the turbine wheel drives the compressor wheel, which sucks in and compresses surrounding air.
  3. Boost Pressure Control: The wastegate regulates pressure by partially diverting exhaust gases away from the turbine. When target boost pressure is achieved, the wastegate opens wider to release more gases.
  4. Intercooling: The compressed air is then cooled in an intercooler to increase its density before entering the engine’s combustion chamber.
  5. Enhanced Combustion: Cooler, denser air enters the engine cylinders, allowing more fuel to combust efficiently. This results in higher power output and improved engine efficiency.

How Does a Turbocharger Increase Your Car Engine’s Performance?

Turbochargers are among the most effective innovations in automotive manufacturing, providing vehicles with increased performance, improved fuel efficiency, and environmental benefits. This is how:

  • Increased Air Intake: A turbocharger enables the engine to draw more air in, which will throw more oxygen for the explosions in the cylinders, resulting in enhanced power.
  • Enhanced Fuel Efficiency: Turbochargers can contribute to fuel burning in the engine. This efficiency, therefore, describes a condition in which more power is generated for a given quantity of fuel, leading to improved fuel efficiency.
  • Improved Power-to-Weight Ratio: This makes it possible for organizations to design and develop small and light engines that deliver power similar to those of naturally aspirated engines. This is provided to enhance the energy per unit weight of the vehicle.
  • Better Performance at High Altitudes: At higher altitudes, air is rare, and naturally aspirated engines suffer from a lack of breathing and thus reduced power output. Turbochargers help counteract this power drop by kicking more air into the engine, therefore maintaining the performance.
  • Reduced Emissions: Turbochargers can help reduce undesirable emissions in automobiles by enhancing the manner in which fuel is burned.

History of Turbochargers

Alfred J. Büchi, a Swiss automotive engineer working with the Gebrüder Sulzer Engine Company, invented the first turbocharger in Switzerland. He patented it in Germany in 1905, and in 1915, while serving as Chief Engineer for Sulzer Brothers’ research division, he developed the world’s first turbocharged diesel engine. Over the next four decades, Büchi continued to refine his design.

Sir Dugald Clark, a Scottish inventor known for his work on the two-stroke engine, also made significant contributions. He tried to figure out a way to separate the compression and expansion stages of the internal combustion engine by using two separate cylinders. The principle behind his design was the same as modern-day superchargers, i.e., increasing airflow into the cylinder to burn more fuel. 

Louis Renault, Gottlieb Daimler, and Lee Chadwick are some of the names who also contributed to the development of supercharging systems for engines. Therefore, the modern turbocharger amalgamates brilliant insights from a broad spectrum of great minds. 

Which Was the First Car to Get a Turbocharged Engine?

 

Turbocharged Engine

In 1962, Chevrolet introduced the Monza Spyder, which featured the first turbocharged version of this engine.

 

This engine was a 2.4-liter (145 cu in) flat-six that produced 150 horsepower, a significant increase from the naturally aspirated version of the same engine.

 

The Corvair Monza Spyder showcased the potential of turbocharging in increasing performance without a large displacement engine, marking a significant milestone in automotive engineering.

Turbocharged Engines Pros and Cons

Here are the key advantages of turbochargers:

  • Increased power: Turbos help small engines to produce more power, increase their torque, and enhance acceleration.
  • Improved fuel efficiency: Turbos can make engines more efficient, which in turn implies better fuel economy.
  • Reduced emissions: Turbocharging directly translates to the enhanced combustion process, implying fewer emissions. The improved combustion efficiency helps reduce harmful exhaust emissions, making turbocharged engines a more environmentally friendly choice.
  • Weight and space efficiency: The turbos allow the smaller engines to produce a lot of power while still lightening the load and decreasing the size of the car.

Here are the cons of turbochargers:

  • Turbo lag: Due to the time it takes to spool a turbocharger, there is a decoupled period where the turbocharger generates a boost, affecting the instantaneous power output.
  • Increased complexity: Turbocharged engines contain some additional components. This complexity can lead to higher repair costs and maintenance requirements.
  • Maintenance requirement: Like any other machine, turbos are used under very high working pressures and temperatures, which increase their rate of depreciation and, in turn, require more frequent maintenance.
  • Heat management: Turbochargers generate heat during operation, which can impact surrounding engine components if not managed effectively. 

Environmental Impact of Turbocharges

The trail of dark smoke emitted from a car’s tailpipes signifies a significant environmental concern. This smoke, often seen with older or poorly tuned engines, represents inefficient combustion. 

Inefficient combustion occurs when fuel doesn’t burn completely, leading to the release of unburned hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide, and particulate matter. These pollutants contribute to air pollution and pose health risks.

Turbochargers are a solution to vehicle emissions since exhaust gases drive a turbine that forces compressed air into the engine to improve torque.

Why Do You Need Turbocharger Repair Services? 

In case, you are experiencing any issues with your turbocharger or feel that there is a drop in performance, then you need to get it checked out immediately. This is where specialized turbocharger repair services come in. You cannot expect your regular repair guy to diagnose and fix problems with your turbo. 

 

If you’re looking for turbocharger repair services in Burnsville, MN, just drive down to Diesel Components Inc. at 670 E. Travelers Trail #105 between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, and we will do the rest. You can also message or contact us at (952) 890-2885.