Vehicles are intricate machines composed of many components to ensure complete functionality. Despite many people only seeing the entire machine, each part has a key role in how the machine works. With cars, each part requires the utmost attention to assure drivers that it’s safe and drivable. One important component is the turbocharger. Turbochargers elevate the capacity of automobiles, planes, marine craft, and heavy machinery, and anyone interested in them must read this guide to how turbochargers work. You’ll see the ways in which the turbocharger’s history shaped its role into the power performer it is today.
What Turbochargers Are
Turbochargers are turbine-driven forced-induction devices that channel air into the internal combustion chamber to increase efficiency and power in the engine. This is because compressed air moves proportionally more fuel into a combustion chamber than atmospheric pressure from a naturally aspirated engine alone. It’s important to know that turbochargers are not superchargers. A supercharger is an engine-driven device, while turbochargers are turbine-driven through the engine’s exhaust gas. Some car manufacturers opt for a twincharger, in which both a turbocharger and supercharger are used.
After the use of forced induction in the nineteenth century, the turbocharger appeared in 1915 in the form of a radial engine with an exhaust-driven turbine and a common shaft-mounted compressor. Its original purpose was to reduce the power loss of plane engines with altitude changes, but it failed at this application. Ten years later, following other trials on planes, the first turbocharger was successfully installed on a diesel engine. This increased the power output alarmingly, and manufacturers produced them for boats, railcars, aircraft, and other large machines. Turbochargers weren’t used for automobiles until the 1950s, when car manufacturers noticed a lag in the power output in many models. This required a new, shortened turbocharger to fit the cars’ designs, but this was still in limited number. In the 1970s, turbochargers became a regular addition to automobile production as new regulations on environmental concerns and high energy consumption required car manufacturers to reduce the fuel and exhaust emissions from their vehicles.
How It Works
Turbochargers work by compressing air through the turbine out to the front of the engine. This allows fuel to burn properly, and the exhaust gas pushes excess air into the cylinders to make them burn more fuel. Turbochargers allow for more energy per second than a naturally aspirated engine. Picture two fans mounted on a metal shaft, called the center hub rotating assembly, that spin together. One fan, the turbine, blows hot air past the other fan. This other fan, the compressor, will then rotate, which moves the shaft with it. These components sit within the cold air intake, so as the rotating assembly spins, it condenses air into the engine’s cylinders. From there, the compressed gas is less dense than what is ideal to use the vehicle. Hot air is less effective to burn fuel than cold air, so it’s important that this air cools somehow. Once this hot gas passes through a heat exchanger in the compressor, it cools down, and any excess hot air passes elsewhere.
With this, it’s important to know how turbochargers differentiate from superchargers. Superchargers are like turbochargers with one key difference. While turbochargers rely on exhaust gases to turn it, the car’s crankshaft turns the supercharger instead. However, this can be a disadvantage. As the crankshaft powers the supercharger, it uses more fuel. Therefore, superchargers use more fuel while turbochargers conserve and reduce the total fuel output. Nevertheless, more fuel means more power. Turbochargers give more power to the car through the energy in the compressor. Contrary to popular belief, the conserved fuel does not give this extra power. Instead, the compressed air forces the engine to burn more fuel and give it more power. However much extra power you get depends on the size of the engine, size of the turbocharger, and type of fuel used. Hence, the turbocharger alone can improve power but has limiting factors. Other components, like engine size and type of fuel consumed, will add to this power output as well.
What Can Go Wrong
Turbochargers are great ways to increase power in a vehicle, so it’s no wonder that there are advantages to using one. Turbochargers can perform with gas or diesel engines in mostly any vehicle. As previously stated, you will increase your power output per second. While it might seem like you burn more fuel in the process, turbochargers are small and light, which means they use more fuel power without burning more fuel in the process. This has a lot of benefit to car manufacturers. The extra power turbochargers produce make smaller engines, like a V6, act more powerfully, like a V8. This can save a substantial amount of fuel and still give the power output of a higher-powered engine. Not to mention, turbochargers use oxygen to burn the fuel, which produces less air pollution than normal.
Still, there are some issues to be aware of. One of the main reasons all engines are not turbocharged is that turbocharged engines deliver diminished fuel economy compared to conventional, electric, or hybrid engines. Also, turbochargers can fail. They are expensive parts to fix, and regular maintenance can add up in terms of time and money. Constant pressure and temperature changes on your engine will lead to long-term issues if they are not maintained properly. Driving can also be an issue as the turbo lag from the time it takes oxygen to pass through the compressor causes a delay in your vehicle’s performance. While electric turbochargers have reduced this issue, it’s still prevalent enough in most turbochargers to be an issue.
No matter, turbochargers are still excellent performance enhancers. That’s why anyone who needs an OEM (original equipment manufacturer) turbo kit for automobiles, marine craft, or heavy-duty equipment must see us at TurboPark. We carry turbochargers for sale, service, or repairs. Check out our selection of turbo products and parts, as well as our selection of premium turbocharger brands like BorgWarner, Garrett, Holset, IHI, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries, or Hyundai Mobis. As your complete source for turbochargers and parts, we are happy to provide quality service and parts. Contact us today!