One common and effective way to increase a vehicle’s performance is to pump more air into the engine. Turbochargers can accomplish this task. While some vehicles come with turbocharged engines, some car owners modify theirs.
However, how much power it adds to a car has been debated online and offline. I will answer the question, how much hp does a turbo add to an engine as we progress? But first, let’s take a sneak peek into what turbochargers are and how they work.
What is Turbocharger—History and how it works
A certain amount of air and fuel is needed by the engine for combustion to take place. However, the engine sends fuel to the combustion chamber based on the amount of air it detects in the engine. Generally, the more air it detects, the more fuel it sends—the result is better car power. Turbochargers can make this possible.
A turbocharger is a device installed in an internal combustion engine to boost engine power by pumping more air (than the engine would usually produce) into the engine. A turbo-charge resembles a snail and is mounted between the engine and the exhaust.
The device works by sucking exhaust air first, compressing it before pushing it into the engine. Generally, compression packs oxygen molecules together, multiplying its force. The more air the engine gets, the more engine power is generated.
Turbochargers come in various designs and types ranging from single, twin, quad, compound, E, and Hot-V turbochargers. Which design you use impacts how much power they produce.
How much power it produces also depends on other factors like the turbo size and the proximate sizes of the compressor and turbine wheel. Larger turbines will use more exhaust gas, hence will generate more engine power.
A turbocharger, also called turbo or turbo supercharger, first made its debut in 1905. However, before the birth of turbochargers, superchargers were used for forced induction—increasing the amount of air pumped into the engine.
Superchargers in 1878 were introduced in a two-stroke gas engine, a design orchestrated by Dugald Clerk, a Scottish engineer. However, in 1885, a man called Gottlieb Daimler invented another way to push more air into an engine using a gear-driven pump. However, this didn’t hold much weight.
In 1905, Alfred Buchi, a Swiss engineer, introduced the turbocharger, though it wasn’t completed until 1915. The turbo had an exhaust-driven axial flow turbine and a compressor positioned on a regular shaft.
This first-ever turbocharger design was built to increase power in diesel engines.
Particularly to eliminate the loss of power aircraft experienced due to decreased density at high heights. However, Buchi’s first model was unreliable and, hence, wasn’t manufactured.
In 1916, another model of turbo was invented by Auguste Rateau, a French steam turbine inventor. With the aim of using it on Renault engines utilized by French fighter planes, his also didn’t get to production.
In 1917, different tests were carried out by two bodies—Sanford Alexander Moss and NACA. Both results showed that turbochargers could actually help an engine prevent power loss at a certain height above sea level.
However, in 1925, Alfred Buchi, the first inventor of the turbocharger, finally installed the turbocharger in a 10-cylinder diesel engine, making the engine the first application to use this device commercially and increasing its horsepower from 1750-2500hp.
The German Ministry of Transport used this engine in two of their big passenger ships—Hansestadt Danzig and Preussen. This model was then given out to other manufacturers, invariably leading to the use of turbochargers in marines, rail vehicles, and other bigger immovable applications.
They were also featured in various airplane engines used during WWII, starting with the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress. Other aircraft that featured a turbocharged engine include Republic P-47 Thunderbolt, Consolidated B-24 Liberator, Lockheed P-38 Lighting, and several Focke-Wulf F1 190 used for experiment.
The first use of turbos in trucks was conceived by the Swiss truck manufacturing company Saurer in 1930. And finally, in 1931, the company produced the BXD and BZD engines, with some featuring turbochargers.
Afterward, other vehicle manufacturers in the 1950s started researching turbocharged engines to start using them. The first cars to use turbocharged engines were the 1962 Oldsmobile Jetfire and Chevrolet Corvair Monza.
More passenger cars started using turbocharged engines in the 1980s to help improve performance in smaller displacement engines. Today, a large percentage of cars use turbo engines.
How it works
A turbocharger works by using exhaust gasses, leaving the engine to generate more air for the engine, which invariably boosts performance. A turbo comprises three major parts—the turbine, compressor, and a rotating shaft.
The turbine itself has two sections —the turbine housing and the wheel. The compressor also has two sections —the compressor housing and the wheel. Here is the connection of the turbocharger and how each component works to achieve turbocharging.
The turbine housing collects exhaust gas and directs it to the turbine wheel, invariably helping it spin. After igniting the turbine wheel, the gas leaves the turbine housing via an opening in the exhaust area.
This turbine then activates the compressor wheel connected to the turbine by a rotating shaft. As the compressor wheel turns, its high spinning speed pulls in air and compresses it.
The compressor housing then converts this high-speed, low-pressure air to high-pressure, low-speed air. This high-pressure air is then pushed into the engine. As more air enters the engine, fuel is also pushed in corresponding amounts. Thus giving the engine the ability to generate more power.
How much hp does a turbo add?
A turbo can generally add up to 40-150 hp to your engine or increase hp by 20-50%. However, this is only an estimate. How much power a turbo adds depends on several factors. One is the type of turbo.
While a single turbocharger can potentially increase horsepower by 30-45 hp, a twin-turbo would do more. Another factor is the size of the turbocharger and its compressor and turbine wheel. Larger systems would pump in more air, resulting in more power gain. Your engine size also comes into play.
For example, while four turbos can go into a V6 and V8 engine, the V8 will produce more power since it’s naturally more powerful than a V6. So how much hp does a turbo add to a v8? A turbo can add an extra 70-150 hp. And how much hp does a turbo add to a v6? A turbocharger can boost a V6 engine’s power by 50-100 hp.
Another factor determining how much turbo to add is the other modification you have done to the engine. If other engine components don’t match the capacity of the turbo, you may not see much gain.
However, all numbers here are just estimates since several factors impact it. If you want to know how much power your specific turbo adds to your car, use the turbo hp gain calculator online.
You would be asked for specific information like your car makes, original HP from vehicle manufacturers, and other relevant info. So whether you’re asking how much hp does a turbo add to a Chevy or how much hp does a turbo adds to a diesel engine, the turbo gain calculator is the fastest way to find out.
Difference between turbo and non-turbo engines
The major difference between turbo and non-turbo engines is the power they produce. Turbo engines allow better airflow, so would produce more power than non-turbo engines. Quite interesting, turbo engines are usually smaller in size yet can produce more.
What are the advantages of turbo engines?
Here are the advantages that come with using turbocharged engines.
More engine power
First, a turbo engine generates more power than a normal engine would since its turbocharger helps pump more air into the engine. With more air comes more power. With more power, your car will travel at a faster speed and perform better without hampering the engine’s power.
Makes a car lightweight
Turbo engines use less space and reduce car weight. Instead of adding more cylinders to gain engine power, a turbocharger can be added. With its portable size, it still, in some cases, produces more power than big non-turbo engines.
Reduce fuel consumption
Turbocharging enhances fuel economy, invariably saving you money at the pump. Generally, an engine sends fuel to the combustion chamber based on the amount of air there. If the chamber doesn’t have enough air, it compensates by sending more fuel.
However, because a turbocharger allows more air, a corresponding amount of fuel is also sent. Since there is no need to pump excess fuel anymore, the result is better fuel economy.
What are the disadvantages of turbo?
Usually, there are some downsides of using turbo engines. Here you go.
Turbo is an expensive investment. Generally, new turbocharged cars come higher in price than cars with regular engines. If you’re adding a turbocharger to an old car, you may need to modify other engine components so your engine works at its best. Doing so adds to the cost.
Not 100% reliable
Moreover, turbo engines are not as reliable as regular ones. Turbo engines add additional parts; engines with more parts usually generate more issues.
Turbo lag is another issue with turbo engines—a situation where the throttle delays to respond after pressing the gas pedal.
Turbo uses exhaust gas to spin the turbine. This process takes time for the turbo to build power to push air into the engine. So when you hit the pedal, it will look like the throttle is not responding.
Overheating is another issue with turbos. Hot exhaust gasses power turbochargers, so the turbo can overheat if pushed beyond the limit. When the turbo gets too hot, they can cause engine overheating.
Important tips to keep your turbocharger long-lasting
While turbos greatly improve vehicle performance, they can damage your engine or decrease fuel economy if not properly maintained. Here are a few things to do to ensure your turbocharger lasts long.
Routine oil change
Regular oil changes will ensure your engine oil is in the right viscosity and healthy enough to lubricate moving parts. Vehicle manufacturer recommends changing oil every 5000-7500 miles. But it can come earlier depending on how much you drive.
Warm up engine
Warming up the turbo engines, especially during the cold month, prevents oil from thickening so oil can flow freely when oil doesn’t flow or circulate adequately in the engine, friction increases, causing overheating and engine wear.
Don’t overpush your turbo’s limit.
While basking in the glory of your turbo power, be sure not to push it beyond its limit. One way to avoid this is to take it easy on your accelerator; don’t push it too hard.
After driving, let the engine cool before turning it off
Turbos spin at relatively high speeds of 80,000-200,000 rpm, which is about 30 times faster than regular engines, so would generate heat. When you put off the engine immediately, you stop the residual heat cooks up the oil in the system.
This causes carbon build-up, resulting in corrosion and premature engine wear. To avoid this, let your car idle for some minutes after driving. This gives the engine time to cool off, so your oil doesn’t cook when you turn off the engine.
Avoid hitting the accelerator before switching off the engine
Pressing the accelerator just before turning off the ignition keeps the turbo wheels spinning. However, while these wheels continued to spin, oil flow would have stopped. Because the spinning turbo doesn’t get oil to lubricate or cool, friction occurs, leading to overheating and engine wear.
How can I increase my car’s horsepower?
An effective way to increase a vehicle’s horsepower is by improving airflow into the engine. This can be done in a couple of ways. Start by using any forced induction device that is, those devices that help pump more air into the engine. Great examples are turbochargers and superchargers.
With more air forced into the engine, performance increases tremendously. If a turbo increases a car’s horsepower by 70-150hp, how much hp does a supercharger add? Superchargers can increase an engine’s power by 50-100 hp.
It’s worth noting that while turbochargers and superchargers do the same job, they are not the same. With turbochargers using a turbine powered by exhaust gas to push its compressor, superchargers are mechanically driven by a belt in the engine’s crankshaft.
Another way of increasing engine air flow is by upgrading your exhaust system. The quicker air leaves the engines, the faster fresh air gets into the engine. Installing performance throttle is another way of increasing engine power.
The throttle body controls airflow into the combustion chamber in a naturally aspirated engine. Because a performance throttle body will increase airflow, the engine gets more power. Alternatively, you can tune your ECU to produce more power and better mpg.
Frequently Asked Questions —FAQs
How can I get more power out of my turbocharger?
While turbochargers allow for more power gain, you also need to upgrade certain parts to get the most out of your turbo. Start by also upgrading the intake system so you get more air. Sufficient air in the engine reduces the strain on the turbo, resulting in better performance. Also, ensure all components regulating airflow are working fine.
Operating on the correct fuel ratio is also a great way to maximize turbo power. One way to achieve this is to upgrade your fuel injectors and pump. When fuel and air are present in the correct ratio, performance doesn’t only improve; it also allows for proper combustion and less emission.
How much speed does a turbocharger add?
Generally, the more power your car gets, the higher the speed you can go. So, how much speed a turbo adds depends on the horsepower. Turbo hp depends largely on the size of the turbo in relation to its turbine and compression wheels.
Does an exhaust increase horsepower?
Yes, your exhaust impacts your horsepower. The engine lets air in and out of the combustion chamber as the intake and exhaust open and close. How quickly this is done depends largely on the exhaust.
A small restrictive exhaust can force exhaust gasses back into the system, which decreases engine power since oxygen coming in is also delayed. However, with an upgraded or performance exhaust, exhaust gasses leave the engine as quickly as possible and allow fresh air. The result is increased horsepower.
Can you put 4 turbos on a car?
Yes, you can put four turbos on a car so long there is space to do it. This setup is called a quad-turbocharged. Here, four turbos are mounted on your engine—pairing two large turbos with two smaller turbos.
The Bugatti Chiron was the first to use this turbo setup in their W16 8-liter engine. With each turbocharger sending air into a quarter of cylinders, the car produced a whopping 1500 hp.
Can you twin-turbo a 4-cylinder?
Yes, you can twin turbo a 4-cylinder. While a single turbo can provide sufficient power for a 4 cylinder engine, using two turbos is also possible. By twin turbocharging your four-cylinder engine, horsepower and torque increase tremendously since more air enters the engine.
Here, a small turbo is paired with a larger turbo and helps eliminate turbo lag. You would usually see this set up in a McLaren 570S. But how much HP does a twin-turbo add to a 4-cylinder engine?
A twin-turbo can increase engine power in a 4-cylinder engine by 100-250 hp, depending on several factors. So, how much horsepower does a turbo add to a 4-cylinder? A single turbo can result in a horsepower gain of 70-150 hp in a 4-cylinder engine.
Is it hard to install a turbo?
Installing a turbo is not hard if you have the right tools. Just ensure you have put everything in place before starting the installation. You must also invest time into it. If you don’t, you may get frustrated and think it’s hard.
However, it may be challenging if you own one of these cars that rarely gets this kind of modification since you have to do extra research on how to do it effectively. Installation of turbos is mostly with newer cars.
Does the turbo engine need premium gas?
Not all turbo engines need premium gas. If some needed it, it was because of how they were designed. Many turbo engines are built to run on regular gas and would work very well.
If, however, you choose to go with premium gas, all you may end up doing is spending more money on gas. If it’s designed to use regular gas, using premium won’t make it work better.
Do turbo engines need synthetic oil?
Turbo engines need synthetic oil to stay lubricated since they get really hot. Conventional oil breaks down, leaving carbon deposits due to high turbo temperature.
On the other hand, synthetic oil can withstand high temperatures without breaking down. Hence, can always keep the engine lubricated. So, when considering oil for use in turbo engines, go with high-quality, full synthetic oil.
Installing a turbo is a great way of increasing horsepower. But how much hp does a Turbo add? This depends on the turbo size and its turbine wheel and compressor wheel. Your turbo setup and even engine size also play a huge role.
While a twin-turbo will do better than a single turbo, a quad-turbocharged setup will produce more than a twin-turbo system. But generally, expect a gain of about 40-150 horsepower.