In our continuing efforts to educate you on how things work, we find ourselves staring down a new automotive subject. It's time to understand what's going on under the hood of a turbocharged car. You already understand the manual gearbox, and you're now an expert on the inner workings of the differential. Today we're going to get hot and gassy and dive on into that bit of spinning metal that lets your engine breathe more efficiently.
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The basic goal of a turbo is to add more air into the engine. A modern engine makes your car move through four strokes; Intake, Compression, Power, and Exhaust. This action occurs inside the cylinder head as a piston swings down and an intake valve opens up to allow air and fuel into the cylinder. The piston then swings up and the intake valve closes as the air-fuel mixture is compressed. Next it's time for the spark plug to ignite that compressed air-fuel mixture to create the power stroke. Finally, the exhaust valve opens up to let the spent air-fuel mixture out of the cylinder.
An engine can run more efficiently if it doesn't have to work as hard to breathe. This is where a turbocharger comes into play. The gist of it all is that hot exhaust gases that are normally wasted can be used on one side of a turbo to spin. This causes the other half of the turbo to spin, which in turn draws in air that can be compressed, cooled, and sent into the engine to aid in internal combustion.
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The video animation from YouTube user Thomas Schwenke will explain this all in greater detail, and now you can talk to your enthusiast friends with a bit more knowledge of how that motor thingy under your hood makes your car go vroom.