How do turbochargers work

A turbocharger, every street racers’ dream, and a must-have in the higher altitudes of the mountain regions.

The purpose behind a turbocharger is to force as much oxygen into the combustion chamber of an automotive engine as possible. The more air that goes into it means that you can put more fuel into the chamber also. The more fuel and air in a combustion chamber means a bigger explosion when ignited by the spark plugs. That, in turn, means more horsepower and torque per explosion resulting in a very fast car or truck.

A turbocharger at its core is basically a fan driven by another fan. Every engine has an intake manifold system that draws in air and fuel. It also has an exhaust manifold system that removes the burned air and fuel. In a normally aspirated engine (non-turbo) air and fuel are drawn in by the downward action of each individual piston by vacuum. The mixture is ignited by the spark plug and the resulting explosion creates the power that keeps the engine moving. Then the burned mix is put out through the exhaust system. This cycle happens 200 times per minute in an 8 cylinder engine that is idling at 1000 RPMs.

Add a turbocharger to that system and you get an increased amount of air and fuel with the same engine, but the system is self parasitic if you will.

Basically, there is a fan inside the exhaust system that gets spun by the “wind” of the burned mixture that exits the engine. A shaft that mounts the fan goes through the exhaust manifold and into the intake manifold where another fan connects to the other end of the shaft. Since this assembly is one piece both fans operate at the same speed. The fan in the intake is actually a sort of vacuum that draws air from the air inlet and forces it, with pressure much higher than normal, into the compression chamber. A higher force in the chamber gets ignited and results in higher exhaust pressure. A higher exhaust pressure gets forced through the fan in the exhaust which makes THAT fan turn faster. Faster exhaust, faster intake, faster exhaust, faster intake….etc. It all adds up to more fuel and air in the compression chamber where all the power of an engine happens.

Turbochargers are an advantage at high altitudes also because, as most people know, oxygen gets thinner as the altitude gets higher above sea level. As oxygen gets thinner there is less fuel available to burn in the chamber. That results in less power, and less power means a poorly running car. So, how does one get more oxygen into the engine? The turbocharger! The turbocharger draws in a much higher content of oxygen and allows more fuel to be drawn in as a result. This is the only way an engine can perform properly at mountain altitudes.

If you’re in an area of relatively low sea level altitude and want to slap on 100 extra horsepower and there is a couple of grand burning a hole in your pocket, get a turbocharger.

In a related effect, Superchargers are basically the same thing. The only difference is that superchargers are belt driven by the engine instead of exhaust-driven.

In a related effect

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