What is a turbo and what does it do?

In the realm of automotive innovation, turbo engines have redefined performance for cars and aircraft since the 1960s. These powerhouses, equipped with turbochargers, leverage exhaust gasses to enhance output, making smaller engines as robust as larger, normally aspirated ones. The allure of turbo engines lies in their efficiency: they maximize power while minimizing weight, boosting fuel economy in modern petrol and diesel vehicles. 

However, navigating the turbocharged experience requires expert advice, considering the trade-offs—enhanced performance versus potential downsides like turbo lag and increased maintenance costs. As an automotive enthusiast, my experience underscores the need to weigh these factors against driving habits and intended usage, offering a guide for enthusiasts seeking the optimal balance between power and practicality.

What is a turbo engine?

A turbo engine, a marvel within automobiles and internal combustion engines, integrates a turbocharger device to harness exhaust gasses efficiently. By utilizing these gasses to power a turbine linked to a compressor, it forces more air into the intake of the combustion chamber, enhancing the efficiency of the combustion process. This innovation enables increased power from a smaller, denser engine, optimizing performance without enlarging the engine size while allowing for the combustion of more fuel to yield greater power output.

How Do They Work?

Turbocharged engines optimize power by ingeniously harnessing otherwise wasted exhaust gasses through a turbocharger—a system consisting of a turbine and compressor housed within a distinctive snail-shaped housing. As exhaust gasses rush out, they spin the turbine wheel, driving a shaft that powers the compressor wheel. 

This symbiotic relationship between turbine and compressor enables the intake of large quantities of air through an inlet port, compressing it before forcing it into the cylinders at high pressure, thereby generating a boost within the engine. To manage the heat generated by high speeds and RPM, an intercooler and an oil cooling system in an engine come into play, ensuring optimal temperature regulation. 

The critical wastegate acts as a balance regulator, preventing the turbocharger from reaching damaging rotational speeds by controlling the excess gas flow, thereby safeguarding the engine. In essence, turbocharged engines capitalize on otherwise wasted exhaust gasses to significantly amplify an engine’s performance, surpassing the capabilities of standard engines reliant solely on natural air pressure intake.

Why are so many engines now turbocharged?

Turbocharging has become the cornerstone of modern engine design, redefining performance and efficiency paradigms. The surge in turbocharged engines, exemplified by models like Ford’s 1.0-litre 3-cylinder EcoBoost, isn’t just about power—it’s about maximizing efficiency and minimizing emissions. 

Through meticulous engineering of turbo pressures and intake systems, these engines, whether petrol or Diesel, amplify air intake, optimizing combustion without compromising fuel economy. This evolution isn’t solely about power but about creating engines that punch above their weight class, delivering more while keeping emissions in check and enhancing overall efficiency.

What Are the Benefits of Turbos?

Turbochargers offer a range of benefits, hence why they’re now so popular on modern cars. Here, we list the main plus points of a turbocharged engine.


When it comes to engine performance, the focus often turns to turbos. These compressed air systems generate more power, making smaller engines perform like larger ones. Unlike naturally-aspirated setups, turbocharged engines use exhaust gases to boost efficiency. In my experience with Ford’s EcoBoost line, these petrol engines deliver impressive power for their size, proving economical while maintaining standard performance.


When it comes to diesel cars, the game-changer is the integration of turbochargers. These components, smaller and lighter than ever, are pivotal in improving the power of engines while simultaneously reducing emissions. How? By optimizing combustion efficiency, they make engines more economical, drastically improving fuel economy.

My expertise in automotive engineering has revealed how these turbochargers are not just about boosting power; they’re about transforming the dynamics of engines. By harnessing exhaust gasses, they compress incoming air, allowing for more fuel to be burnt efficiently.

This process directly impacts the overall economy of the vehicle, making it more efficient in terms of fuel consumption. It’s a fine-tuned balance that brings together power enhancement and a conscious effort towards reducing emissions.

3.Torque and Performance

Navigating through various terrains, the relationship between torque and performance in different engines is a fascinating journey. In bustling towns, cars with small turbocharged engines showcase their quick, nippy response at low speeds, making maneuvers effortless. Yet, on the open expanse of motorways and challenging.

 On roads, the demand for sustained power at higher speeds brings forth the dominance of larger, naturally-aspirated engines, displaying a refined strength across the entire rev range. This harmonious interplay of turbochargers, torque, and diverse engines encapsulates the essence of automotive engineering’s multifaceted prowess.

4.Quiet Engines

Turbo engines are a testament to engine innovation, utilizing refined components within the intake and exhaust pipes. These powerhouses deliver quieter, smoother rides, harnessing air to create unexpected benefits, notably reduced noise. 

The marvel lies in their ability to transform the roar of combustion into a symphony of efficiency, offering a whispering performance that redefines conventional notions of engine power.

And What are the Downsides?

Turbos elevate engine power but often suffer lag in response, impacting reliability and demanding frequent maintenance due to generated heat.

1.Expensive Repair Costs

The complexity of turbocharged engines often leads to expensive repair costs. When these components fail, the impact can be substantial.

Having worked extensively with turbochargers, I’ve encountered a host of problems lurking beneath the bonnet.

Developing an understanding of these intricacies is crucial. Turbochargers can put a strain on the whole system, leading to other issues that have to be addressed.

If faults occur, the repair costs are often significantly higher compared to non-turbocharged engines. This is due to the complexity and interconnectedness of the components.

It’s important to weigh the performance gains against the potential for expensive repairs.

2.Turbo Lag

In the realm of turbocharged engines, understanding turbo lag involves comprehending the interplay between engine dynamics, throttle response, and the flow of exhaust gas.

When the accelerator meets your foot’s command, the anticipation of an immediate surge encounters a brief hesitation—a delay in throttle response. This brief pause is attributed to the time it takes for the exhaust gas to spin the turbine within the turbocharger.

This delay, known as turbo lag, is an inherent trait, a compromise for the power and efficiency these systems deliver. Engineers continuously innovate, manipulating engine design and refining throttle mechanisms to reduce this lag.

One approach involves altering turbine geometry, favoring larger, more uniform designs to mitigate this delay. Manufacturers are on an endless quest to minimize this pause, aiming for instantaneous power delivery and seamless acceleration.

3.Efficiency vs Driving Style

Navigating the dynamics of a turbocharged engine relies on the driver’s control of throttle, optimizing efficiency while adjusting to diverse driving styles. Understanding the interplay between accelerator, cylinders, and boost facilitates a seamless balance between power and efficiency, shaping the driving experience.

Where Do Turbochargers Come From?

Turbos, while boosting engine power, also come with their drawbacks. One prevalent issue is turbo lag, a term describing the time delay between pressing the throttle and the turbo delivering the extra power. This delay stems from the turbo’s function: it relies on exhaust gasses to spin its turbine, which, in turn, increases its speed. However, a big turbo can exaggerate this effect, as the larger turbine blades take longer to reach optimal speed.

Modern turbos have made strides in reducing lag. Some engines incorporate two more turbos of different sizes, allowing them to operate at different revs, effectively minimizing this issue. Additionally, car makers have developed turbos with electric motors that can spin the turbine even before exhaust gasses reach a certain amount, lessening the unavoidable delay. Yet, even with these improvements, it’s still impossible to eliminate lag entirely.

Engines with turbos are also prone to other issues. One sign is thick, white exhaust smoke, indicating a problem with the turbo. Additionally, loss of power might provide clues that the turbo is not functioning optimally. These issues can arise due to neglect, abuse, or high mileage in engines that aren’t properly maintained. However, it’s important to note that not every problem with a turbo is immediately apparent—some issues might be hard to detect.

How is a supercharger different?

The engine’s prowess is elevated by forced induction systems like turbochargers and superchargers, each harnessing waste gasses or direct engine connection to amplify power. A turbocharger thrives on exhaust-driven turbines, its strength lies in efficiently compressing incoming air, enhancing torque and performance with a characteristic lag. 

Conversely, a supercharger operates via a compressor directly linked to the engine, yielding an almost lag-free response and an amazing surge of power instantaneously, albeit at the expense of some efficiency. The distinctive sound of a supercharged engine echoes its raw, immediate boost, embodying a different facet of performance and response that complements the turbocharged experience.

Will the turbo die out with electric power?

Amidst the evolving automotive landscape where electric power emerges as a dominant force, Porsche’s iconic turbo engines face speculation regarding their future relevance. The renowned Taycan EV signifies a paradigm shift, yet Porsche’s commitment to powerful engines remains unwavering. 

Embracing innovation, the brand envisages a future where electric power and turbo technology converge, creating potent versions that ingeniously utilize hydrogen for unparalleled performance. As a Porsche enthusiast, my experience highlights the brand’s adeptness in navigating these transitions. The turbo’s legacy won’t fade; instead, it will adapt, integrating with electric power to continue defining automotive excellence in the ever-evolving automotive landscape.


The evolution of turbo engines has undoubtedly revolutionized automotive performance and efficiency, ushering in an era of smaller yet more powerful engines. Their utilization of exhaust gasses to optimize output while minimizing engine size remains a hallmark of engineering ingenuity. However, the turbocharged experience is not without its considerations. 

Balancing enhanced performance against potential downsides such as turbo lag and increased maintenance costs necessitates a judicious approach for enthusiasts seeking the optimal blend of power and practicality. Yet, the allure of turbo engines persists, as they continue to define automotive excellence, adapting and integrating with evolving technologies like electric power to carve a path forward in the ever-evolving automotive landscape.


Which is better, a turbo engine or a normal engine?

Besides producing more power, a turbo engine in cars also increases torque, especially at low revs. The useful feature results in excellent initial acceleration in small petrol engines, which do not tend to produce more torque without a turbo.

How does a turbo engine work?

The components are enclosed in a snail-shaped housing, with an inlet and exhaust port. The exhaust gasses produced by the engine enter through the turbo’s inlet port at high pressure. The high-pressure air spins the turbine, and in turn, it spins the compressor wheel.

Does a turbo use more fuel?

Under the perfect scenario, adding boost to an engine can use less fuel. A turbo or supercharger will increase the efficiency of the engine’s abilities to turn fuel into energy. If the driver can then operate the vehicle under these perfect conditions, fuel economy can increase.

Does a turbo make a car faster?

Turbocharging is able to provide faster speed and better performance without comprising the engine’s driving power. Turbocharging is often referred to as “free power” since it can naturally improve how the engine operates rather than draining an engine’s power.

What is the disadvantage of turbo engine?

Cars with turbocharged engines often cost more to insure because they cost more to repair than their non-turbocharged counterparts. They also have more power and speed than a standard engine, increasing the risk of an accident.

Is a turbo engine good for hills?

The general rule is that a naturally aspirated combustion engine will lose 3% of its horsepower for every 1000 feet you climb. That’s why a turbocharger can help you climb hills and mountains by providing a much-needed energy boost.