If you pay attention to the car ads that regularly run on TV, you are sure to have heard them talk about the turbocharged engines that grace certain vehicles. It would appear that this is a major selling point when it comes to buying a vehicle, but if you were to ask the average consumer exactly what a turbocharged engine does you’d likely be met with a vacant stare. The reality is that people will opt for this type of engine because it sounds better than average mechanics under the hood, but are they actually making the right choice? The only way to find out is to look at exactly what a turbocharged engine does.
To get better understanding of what a turbocharger does, you really have to have a little bit of basic knowledge about how engines work. Cars are equipped with an internal combustion engine which, in layman’s terms, is basically a piece of equipment that requires the intake of air and fuel to work properly. When the air and fuel mix it creates the power to drive the engine, with any waste created in the process expelled to help keep the engine clean and running smoothly.
When a turbocharger is added into the mix fits more air into the engines chambers, making for a much more combustible mixture of air and fuel. That in turn creates a powerful ‘explosion’ that forced the piston downward, producing more power and torque. To put it simply, a turbocharger (and even a supercharger) is basically an air pump, albeit one that makes a lot of things tick under the hood. The turbocharger takes the hot exhaust gases created after combustion and transfers it from the turbine wheel to the compressor wheel, making both spin much more quickly. This quick rotation draws in ambient air which is then compressed and pumped into the engines chambers.
As you can imagine, all of this high speed, powerful stuff going on in the engine creates an incredible amount of heat. Heated air entering the chambers is bad for the engine, which is why turbocharged engines are often fitted with a change-air cooler, or heat exchanger as it is sometimes called. The three components of the engine, cooler, and turbocharger are usually referred to as a charge-air system, with their main task being to make sure that all that extra air that is being forced into the engine chambers is denser and cooler.
While we described the turbocharger as nothing more than an air fan, it is in fact a rather complex piece of machinery. Every single component within the turbocharger has to be coordinated in painstakingly precise detail, as well as making sure that it is a perfect match for the engine in which it is being placed. Failure to do so can mean an engine that doesn’t work very efficiently and which is prone to potential damage. Now that you know exactly what a turbocharger does, you can start believing all the hype you hear on those TV ads.