How Turbochargers Work

It is fascinating how turbochargers work. A turbocharger can increase an engine’s horsepower without much weight increase. Turbochargers are a type of forced induction system that compresses the air flowing into the engine. This turbocharging effect allows the engine to push more air into a cylinder, allowing more fuel to be added, so the engine gets more power and instant acceleration.

porsche tubocharger how turbochargers work

A turbocharger is basically an air pump. It makes the air-fuel mixture more combustible by squeezing more air into the engine’s chambers, so it creates more power and torque. It compresses the air molecules so that the air the engine draws in is denser.

The compressed air leaving the compressor wheel housing is very hot because of compression and friction. The charge-air cooler reduces the temperature of the compressed air so that it is denser when it enters the chamber.

The turbocharger uses the exhaust gas to drive a turbine. This spins an air compressor that squeezes more air into the cylinders, which allows them to burn more fuel each second. A turbocharged car can produce more power  or more energy per second. A turbocharger is powered by waste energy in the exhaust. Some systems also include a tip turbine fan which draws air across the charge-air cooler to further reduce the temperature of the compressed air generated by the turbocharger.

It’s a pretty straight-forward process. Here is the breakdown of how turbochargers work. 

  • Cool air enters the engine’s air intake and heads toward the compressor.
  • The compressor fan helps to suck air in.
  • The compressor squeezes and heats up the incoming air and blows it out again.
  • Hot, compressed air from the compressor goes through the heat exchanger, which cools it down.
  • Cooled, compressed air goes into the cylinder’s air intake. The extra oxygen aids fuel burning in the cylinder at a quicker rate.
  • Since the cylinder burns more fuel, it creates energy more quickly and sends more power to the wheels via the piston, shafts, and gears.
  • Waste gas from the cylinder exits through the exhaust outlet.
  • The hot exhaust gases blowing past the turbine fan make it rotate at high speed.
  • The spinning turbine is mounted on the same shaft as the compressor. So the turbine and compressor both
  • The exhaust gas leaves the car, wasting less energy than it would otherwise.

How turbochargers work may seem simple, but the components must be precisely coordinated, as well as the turbocharger and the engine. At Shaus Motorsport we know that if everything is perfectly performance tuned, engine inefficiency and damage to the turbocharger and the engine can result. That is why it is critical to tune, maintain and install the turbocharger correctly.

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