What is a turbo and how does it work?

July 26, 2022

What is the function of the turbo?

An engine needs air to burn fuel. The more air an engine gets, the more fuel it can burn. A turbocharger gives an engine more air. This improves engine performance without adding more displacement. The turbo is sometimes called exhaust gas turbo. This is because a turbocharger is powered by exhaust gases. Thus, a turbocharger provides better airflow to the engine, improving performance.

How exactly does a turbo work?

A turbo can be compared to a water wheel. Then replace the water with exhaust for a while. The exhaust gas stream then drives a turbine wheel. The turbine wheel is connected to the compressor wheel. The compressor wheel allows more fresh air to enter the car’s intake system. This provides more power.


You will find the shaft with the compressor wheel and the turbine wheel in the bearing housing. The bearing housing, is part of the interior. A turbo only works if there is sufficient exhaust gas flow. The time it takes for the turbo to reach revs is called the turbo lag. In modern cars, this turbo lag is prevented, by means of a computer. There are also turbochargers that are electrically driven, so there is no turbo lag at all.

How long does a turbo last?

In order to keep the turbo good for as long as possible, good lubrication of the turbo shaft is very important. What you can do yourself to make your turbo wear less is to let the engine get up to temperature well before you push the throttle deeper. Is your car consuming more oil than usual or is there a lot of smoke coming from your exhaust? Then drive by the garage, to have your turbo checked.

Why does a turbo sometimes make noise?

With some turbocharged engines, you hear a certain sound when you take your foot off the gas pedal. In English, this sound is often called a “turbo flutter. This whistling sound is due to the engine’s throttle closing. The pressure of the air given by the turbo then has nowhere to go. This air then goes back into the turbo because it has nowhere else to go. The precise sound is the air passing the compressor wheel.

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