Once only thought of as an aftermarket add-on for petrolheads or hoons, the turbocharger has gone mainstream. Naturally aspirated engines – that is, an engine that draws oxygen solely on atmospheric pressure – are less and less common, and even more sedate vehicles such as hatchbacks, family cars and grand tourers are choosing turbochargers as standard.
But what does that mean for someone stepping behind the wheel? Most drivers would have heard of a turbocharger, but many may not know what it is or even be aware that their vehicle is fitted with one. In this blog, the A Grade Automotive Network pops the bonnet and explains how a turbocharger works and why it’s the preferred choice of many mechanics and engineers.
More air in your lungs
An internal combustion engine doesn’t just need fuel to turn – it needs air, and at a fixed rate to the amount of fuel injected into the cylinder. Just as an athlete needs to take deep breaths to keep themselves oxygenated and moving, your engine needs more oxygen in order to perform at higher levels. Without diving into the numbers, a turbocharger forces more air into the cylinder, allowing the engine to burn a proportionally larger amount of fuel, creating a proportionally larger amount of power.
This was traditionally only used to give cars an extra boost of speed, but actually allows engineers to achieve even greater fuel efficiency and flexibility. An example – a 4.0-litre engine will consume far more fuel idling and driving at low speeds than a 2.0-litre engine, but can achieve higher speeds and faster acceleration. While a 2.0-litre engine would be much less powerful, attaching a turbocharger to it allows it to effectively reach the same power output as the 4.0-litre while still consuming less fuel while idling or driving at sub-highway speeds.
‘Turbo’ isn’t ‘super’
For non-petrolheads, mixing up ‘turbochargers’ and ‘superchargers’ can be pretty common. While they sound similar and are both forced induction systems, they differ in how they are powered. Superchargers rely on power drawn directly from the engine via a belt, while turbochargers are powered by the exhaust stream. This makes the latter more effective as it’s not siphoning power from the engine to operate.
Both have their applications, but whichever you pick, it’s important to understand that their maintenance requirements. Turbo powered engines require quality lubrication, both in the oil type and its filtration. Turbos can spin at over 100,000 rpm, so any lack of oil flow will quickly damage it. This can be an expensive repair. AGAN member businesses have extensive experience lubricating and servicing turbochargers and superchargers, so if you’re driving a turbo powered car, get the help you need from our team. For truly expert advice, contact AGAN specialist Eastern Turbocharger Services.