HOW THEY WORK : “How Does a Turbocharger Work?”

When people talk about high performance vehicles, it is common to hear them mention the phenomenon that is known as “TURBO”, this is a short form for what is known as the “TURBOCHARGER”. This is an integral part of a number of common high speed or rather high performance vehicles. 

When people talk about high performance vehicles, it is common to hear them mention the phenomenon that is known as “TURBO”, this is a short form for what is known as the “TURBOCHARGER”. 

This is an integral part of a number of common high speed or rather high performance vehicles.

A number of SUVs (Sport Utility Vehicles) come with one form of a TURBO or the other.

The bottom line is that, the TURBO system (TURBOCHARGER) is an added utility in order to make those vehicles perform better than their standard counterparts.  What is a turbocharger after all?

According to Wikipedia, “A turbocharger, or turbo, is a gas compressor used for forced-induction of an internal combustion engine”, a form of supercharger.

The purpose of a turbocharger is to increase the density of air entering the engine to create more power.

However, a turbocharger has the compressor powered by a turbine, driven by the engine’s own exhaust gases.  Some of the superchargers are driven by the engines’ output power or otherwise.

A turbo will greatly boost the engine’s performance without increasing the engine’s size and weight, which makes turbo so popular!

In most vehicles, one has to increase the engine capacity say from 1500CC to 1800CC or even 2200CC in order for the engine to outperform its counterpart; such an undertaking  would mean that, the engine would become bigger and bigger to the extent that it might even fail to fit in the previously designed space.

With the TURBO, no need to increase the size, the TURBO will simply boost the engine’s power like magic!

You hear of the likes of “TURBO Intercooler” in a number of Diesel engines, this has been extended to trucks, buses etc. 

Now you know about the TURBO, how does it work anyway? 

Air entering the engine first passes through an exhaust driven compressor; this means that, the engine takes in a larger quantity of air (compressed air) the more air an engine takes in the better the combustion and obviously, the more the power it will generate.

The paradox of the energy used to drive the turbo compressor is that, the engine harnesses the otherwise useless exhaust gasses.

This is an example of recycling energy to give the engine more power.  As exhaust gasses leave the engine, a TURBO turbine is placed in the path of the fumes, these very exhaust fumes drive the TURBO turbine wheel around, which is directly connected via a shaft, to the compressor wheel.

Increased exhaust gas drives the turbine wheel faster; this provides the engine more air, producing more power. This answers the question of why TURBOs operate at high speeds!

In most vehicles, the TURBOCHARGER goes into operation at speeds equal or above 100KPH.

When the maximum boost in pressure has been met, the excess is left to escape through a special valve, thus slowing it down and limiting the maximum boost pressure.

This redirection valve is known as the “waste-gate”. 
This extraction of energy from exhaust fumes that would have otherwise been useless, to improve engine efficiency is done by means of a turbocharger.

Turbochargers are usually seen as power enhancements on performance cars, but today, turbochargers are becoming more regularly used to provide greater torque on small capacity engines.

The advantages of using a turbo engine include improved fuel efficiency and reduced exhaust emissions.

These days, TURBO has moved from its earlier intended purpose to acquire status symbol.

People feel great to be seen driving in huge vehicles with all sorts of writings on them e.g. SUV, TURBO, Intercooler, Sport etc.

If you intend to own a vehicle with any form of TURBO system, you must make sure that, after you have been cruising for some time, do not switch off the engine abruptly as this will “kill” your TURBO system; your vehicle can be fitted with a TURBO Controller, this will allow the oil to settle as well as the TURBO to cool down before the engine turns itself off.

Secondly, always use only those engine oils that are clearly marked for use with TURBO engines.  The amazing thing is that, the TURBO oil is normally the same for both Diesel and Petrol engines.

There is a misconception out there that, TURBO engines consume too much fuel, that’s not true, they actually consume less fuel but provide much more power than the conventional vehicles at the same fuel level.

eddie@afrowebs.com 

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