Informational Guide

How Does A Turbocharger Work?

We look closely at how a turbocharger works, what it’s made of, and the benefits you can expect from getting one.

Have you been asking yourself - how does a turbo work? In this guide, we will look at what the turbocharger is, what it is made of, and the benefits you can expect. We will also cover the different types, answering how does a diesel turbo work and how does an intercooler work on a turbo?

  • Lower fuel consumption 
    To produce the same amount of power, an engine with a turbocharger is going to use less fuel. This is because the engine itself can be smaller, allowing up to 20% better fuel economy. Anytime that the engine performance is optimized, you can count on fuel economy gains.
  • Less noise 
    The smaller engine is also going to create less noise. The turbocharger works like a silencer, effectively muffling noise that’s generated better than a naturally aspirated engine.
  • High-altitude performance 
    Engines need air pressure to burn effectively and generate power. When driving at high altitudes, the lower air pressure requires the engine to work harder. However, using a turbocharger helps the engine perform better in these conditions because the turbo increases air density entering the engine.
  • Smaller size and weight 
    Fewer cylinders are required to produce the same amount of power when a turbo is used. This means a smaller engine with a lower weight can be used, making the vehicle more efficient overall.
  • Reduced emissions 
    Because the engine is smaller, it will also burn less fuel than a comparable non-turbocharged engine producing the same horsepower. With a smaller engine, you put less carbon dioxide into the environment.
How Does A Turbo Work

Downsides to Turbocharged Engines

  • Turbo lag 
    Turbocharged engines aren’t nearly as responsive as a naturally aspirated engine. That’s because you need to wait for it to spool up and produce torque. This is one reason people choose a supercharger over the turbo.
  • Engine wear & tear 
    Do turbos hurt engines? The smaller engine uses up less fuel, but adding a turbocharger does build up additional pressure. This leads to consistently higher temperatures, which can create an engine knock and motor damage over time.
  • Excessive heat 
    Additionally, the oil is exposed to higher cylinder temperatures, making it warmer overall. Because the oil can’t cool down, you are also looking at damage to the engine over time.
  • Warranty invalidation 
    If you choose to add a turbo to your vehicle, you might void your warranty. However, the Magnuson Moss Warranty-Federal Trade Commission Improvements Act says the warranty is only void if the part caused the failure. With that said, it isn’t hard to point to engine damage coming from a turbocharger.
  • More expensive to insure 
    Insurance companies are going to add higher premiums to anyone with a faster car. It’s just more risky. If you are buying a car with a turbo, consider the extra money you will need to budget.

What’s the Difference Between a Turbocharger and a Supercharger?

A supercharger is an air compressor component that increases the pressure and density of the air moving through the engine, allowing there to be more oxygen for an efficient, powerful burn. While we discussed the pros and cons of turbos above, here are some to consider with superchargers.

Pros of Superchargers

  • Increased horsepower without turbo lag
  • Cost-effective

Cons of Superchargers

  • Not efficient
  • Creates excessive wear and tear
Difference Between A Turbocharger And A Supercharger

How Does a Turbo Work on a Gas Engine?

How does a car turbo work? In the gas engine, a proper air to fuel ratio is needed to produce ignition. The turbo utilizes the exhaust gases from the vehicle to drive a special turbine. This turbine spins the air compressor that pushes more air and oxygen into the engine cylinders. With more air, the engine can burn more fuel per second, creating more power and an improved throttle response.


The turbocharger is the term used for the entire system. It is created from various parts, as illustrated in the how does a turbocharger work diagram below.


The intercooler is a heat exchange device that improves the volumetric efficiency. It does this by increasing the air-charge density of the intake through cooling mechanisms.


A turbo’s wastegate diverts exhaust gas and keeps it from the turbine, thereby controlling its speed and preventing it from hitting excessive spinning speeds. By preventing this spinning, the wastegate effectively protects the engine and turbo from more damage.

ECU Tuning

With performance tuning, you can optimize the way the turbocharger works with the engine. This programming involves changing the spark and timing of the engine components.

How Does A Turbo Work On A Gas Engine

How Does a Turbo Work on a Diesel Engine?

How does a diesel turbocharger work? As you look at how does a turbocharger work on a diesel engine versus a gas engine, you see it's not that much different. There are two main sections, a compressor and a turbine. The turbine is made with a wheel and housing. The housing guides the gases into the wheel. Then, energy from the gases turns the turbine wheel, while the gas exits through an outlet area.

6 Different Types of Turbochargers (Explained)

How does a turbo engine work? It depends on what type of turbocharger you are working with. Here are a few types to consider as you look at how does a turbo charger work?

  • How does a single turbocharger work? 
    This is the basic setup described above when we looked at how does a turbocharger work. Exhaust gas is used to drive a turbine while the air compressor pushes more air into the cylinders for increased power and performance.
  • How does a twin turbocharger work? 
    How does a twin turbo work? With the twin-turbo, you have two turbochargers compressing the intake air. Many setups include identical turbos in parallel, but they can be different sizes. Don't confuse this with a twincharger setup, which includes turbochargers and superchargers.
  • How does a quad turbocharger work? 
    The quad turbo operates just like a twin turbo, except it contains four. These are almost always the same size and reserved for use on V12 or V16 engines.
  • How does compound charger work? 
    The compound turbo has a low-pressure and high-pressure turbocharger. The low-pressure turbo is larger, and the high-pressure is smaller. Air flows into the low-pressure turbo, then to the high-pressure turbo before reaching the intercooler or intake manifold.
  • How does a E-Turbocharger work? 
    With a small electric motor placed between the compressor and turbine housing, the e-turbocharged uses a 48V electrical system to spin the compressor before the exhaust comes in. These turbos reduce the turbo lag.
  • How does a Hot-V turbocharger work? 
    A Hot-V separates the turbine from the compressor, moving them to opposite sides of the motor. This setup reduces the build-up of heat and reduces the load on the intercooler.

Tips to Extend a Turbocharged Engines Life

Do turbocharged engines require more maintenance? Not really, but you should follow these tips.

  • Check the engine oil often and perform regular tune-ups.
  • Keep the pathway of air to the turbo clear.
  • Check the intercooler for damage.
  • Flush the coolant more frequently.

If you can do these things yourself, you reduce the overall tune-up cost.

People Also Ask (FAQs)

What is the difference between a turbo and a hybrid turbo?

How does a hybrid turbo work? The hybrid turbo operates like the others, but it is an upgraded version. It contains a turbo with different parts from various manufacturers to create a high-performing option.

What is a Twin Scroll turbocharger?

The single-scroll turbocharger routes irregular pulses of exhaust air into the turbine, causing them to interfere and collide with each other, which reduces the flow strength. How does a twin scroll turbocharger work? This system gathers the exhaust from cylinder pairs in alternating sequences instead.

Do turbos increase horsepower?

Yes, not only does the turbocharger help the engine run more efficiently, but it also boosts horsepower. You can get the same power from a smaller engine with a turbo that you would with one that is larger.

How much HP can a turbo add?

It depends on what type of engine you have and the turbo you install. Ideally, a turbocharger will increase horsepower gains by 70 to 150.

How many miles do turbos last?

Most turbochargers are designed to last the life of the vehicle, much like the engine. You should be able to get 150,000 miles out of the turbo if you take care of it. However, there are some signs that the turbocharger needs to be replaced sooner. If you notice any power loss, whining engine, or exhaust smoke, you might need to have the turbo checked. A failing turbo can also cause the Check Engine Light to come on.


What is a turbocharger and how does it work? We have answered how does a turbocharged engine work so you can understand the ins and outs of this performance component. While there are many different types and styles, the basic operation remains the same, ensuring your engine gets the air it needs to create more power.