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How Turbochargers Work

Turbochargers, once only used in racing cars, are now becoming more and more popular among civilian vehicles for its energy conservation and effective horsepower boost. In this article, I would give you a clear picture of what a turbocharger is, how it works and what benefits you can get from it.

 

The turbocharger consists of three parts: turbine side, compressor side and cartridge. The turbine side is made up of a turbine wheel and a turbine housing, and the compressor wheel and the compressor housing comprise the compressor side. The cartridge is the one that connects the turbine side to the compressor side. The turbocharger is bolted to the exhaust manifold of the engine. Thus, exhaust from the engine goes in through the turbine inlet to spin the turbine and by the shaft connected to the compressor, the compressor wheel spins too. Therefore, it compresses the ambient air and pumps the finished to the cylinders. The more exhaust that goes through the blades, the faster they spin, and the engine gets more power. Usually, the turbocharger for a four-cylinder car can reach speeds of up to 150,000 rpm so that the turbine shaft has to be supported very carefully. Most bearings would explode at speeds like this, so most turbochargers use a fluid bearing. This type of bearing supports the shaft on a thin layer of oil that is constantly pumped around the shaft. This serves two purposes: it cools the shaft and some of the other turbocharger parts, and it allows the shaft to spin without much friction.

 

However, the turbocharger cannot provide an immediate power boost when you step on the gas, and we call it “lag”. That is because it always takes a second for the turbine to get up to speed before boost is produced. And how to decrease turbo lag? One way to decrease turbo lag is to reduce the weight of the turbo, thus reducing the inertia of the rotating parts. And the surest way to reduce the weight of the turbo is to make it smaller. However, the smaller turbocharger may provide an immediate power boost at lower engine speeds, but may burn the turbo at a higher one, as a really large volume of air surely will cause the blades spin very quickly and get the temperature rising too high. Therefore, many people choose to use two turbochargers of different sizes. The smaller spins quickly to reduce lag when at lower engine speeds, while the speeds get higher, the larger turbo will take over to provide more boost.

 

A turbocharger also helps at high altitudes, where the air is less dense, for its air compression function to let more air in to burn and thus provide more power.

 

Now that you have known what a turbocharger is, how it works and the very benefits you can get from it. Get one yourself sometime!

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