What Does a Turbocharger Do, Anyway?

March 5th, 2013 by

Middletown Honda ServiceYou may have seen some automakers advertise that their vehicles come with the option to have a “turbocharged” engine, but what does that even mean?

Although they used to only be seen on particularly large diesel engines, turbochargers have become more and more popular on cars, particularly sporty little sedans and coupes that want a little more oomph.

We’ve talked about how gasoline and engines work in the past, so if you’re a regular, you are probably aware that one of the best ways to increase engine performance is to up the amount of oxygen reaching the combustion process. Adding cylinders or increasing the size of a vehicle’s cylinders are two ways this can be done, but often times this isn’t very practical.

Enter the turbocharger.

Designed to compress air further, thus making it easier for more oxygen to get into the cylinders and give you a bigger kick when you put the pedal to the floor, a turbocharger can increase the air pressure from atmospheric – about 15 psi – by almost 50%. What that means is that you get nearly 50% more oxygen into your cylinders.

Because physics tells us that we never win at the energy game, this translates to upwards of a 40% increase in performance, all from spinning a turbine and compressing the air your vehicle uses.

One thing to look out for is that engine knocking becomes a bit more common with a turbocharger. You’ll need to read the specifications on your vehicle or aftermarket turbo kit to be sure, but one of the easiest ways to circumvent knocking is to switch up to a higher octane fuel. If you’re not sure, contact one of our service experts and let us take a look.

You’ll notice that I mentioned “aftermarket” turbo kits, and if you know your way around an engine, these are options for many different vehicles. That said, you should really never tinker around with something like this unless you’re certain you know what you’re doing. This is much bigger than doing your own oil changes in the garage, and if you want a turbocharger without the worry, talk to a professional and have them install it.