What Is a Turbocharger? Capital GMC Service Corner

What Is a Turbocharger

The 6-cylinder engine is in decline. Fewer and fewer cars and SUVs are being outfitted with inline and V6s in response to tightening fuel economy regulations and cost savings. V8s are even rarer. Across the industry, these gas-loving engines are being replaced by turbocharged four cylinders that offer similar power and better fuel economy. But, for those who have been harangued by an 02’ Civic with a petulant exhaust, the word turbo may connote something obnoxious or inefficient. Let’s take a look at what a turbocharger is and why you shouldn’t worry if you’ve got one under the hood.

How Does an Engine Work?

Here is the simplest (the simplest!) explanation of what’s going on in your engine. In a standard engine, a combination of fuel and air go into the combustion chamber. A spark ignites the mixture and the explosion drives the piston down. The motion of the piston rotates the crankshaft and, for all intents and purposes, “drives” the engine. When the piston is pushed down, exhaust (a wasted byproduct of combustion) is also released from the engine. The piston rises again and the process repeats. But turbocharged engines do not waste the exhaust. 

What Is a Turbocharger?

Instead, the released fumes spin a turbochargers turbine as they leave the combustion chamber. The turbine forces the induction of more air into the combustion chamber allowing the allowing the engine to generate more power with less fuel. A turbocharger is a really simple machine, when you think about it. But how effective is it?

Fuel Economy

Adding a turbocharger to a traditional engine improves its fuel economy by roughly 2 to 6%. That sounds insignificant, but only because we’re now comparing two engines with different amounts of power. It makes more sense to compare a smaller turbo engine to a larger, naturally aspirated engine that generates the same power.

So, if you consider that a turbo four is replacing a traditional V6, the fuel savings are greater. Four cylinder engines are lighter and smaller than their six cylinder counterparts, making the vehicle more fuel efficient overall. This is the main reason we’re seeing turbo fours in the majority of passenger vehicles.

Any Downsides

In the public discourse, turbochargers are associated with short engine life and engine failure. Why? If you take fewer cylinders and force them to complete more combustion cycles they won’t last as long. But this was mostly a problem for engines with aftermarket turbochargers. Considering most manufacturers have common sense, they only pair turbochargers with engines built to withstand extra force. That means lots of high-strength steel.

Another problem of older and aftermarket turbos is cooldown. Turbochargers can spin up to 150,000 rpm and they get extremely hot! If you drive your turbo hard and then shut it off immediately, oil would coke and ruin your turbocharger. But modern engines feature water cooling and cool much more effectively so you usually don’t have to worry about things like idling your vehicle before your shut it off.

Ultimately, the turbocharger is a useful innovation for getting more power and using less fuel. They’re no longer just for modified Civics with race decals, and they won’t destroy your engine.

 

Drive into Spring: Routine Spring Maintenance for Your Vehicle

Spring maintenance

Spring Maintenance

It may not look like it, but spring is nearly here. And now that it’s not -30 °C, you can stand under the hood of your car for more than 30 seconds without suffering frostbite. It’s a good time to inspect your vehicle and see if the winter weather has forced any spring maintenance. 

Tires

Do not wait too long to remove your winter tires. Winter tires are made of soft rubber that remains pliable in extreme cold. But when temperatures warm up, the rubber gets even softer and becomes susceptible to premature wear. But when is the right time to switch your tires?  

You should put your three-season tires back on when the temperature is around seven degrees. That is usually early April, but I don’t want to come back and edit this post when global warming further erodes our average temperatures, so let’s say late March.

If you need new tires for the season, Capital GMC Service can help. We’ve got a massive selection of name-brand tires in all sizes. Use our tire finder to help find the perfect set. You should also consider using Capital GMC’s tire storage service. Our facility is temperature-controlled and low-priced. You don’t have to worry about hauling your tires out of storage, we’ll have them waiting for you when you bring your vehicle in.

Filters & Fluids

Spring is also a good time to make sure that your vehicle isn’t running short on important fluids. With an owner’s manual and moderate savvy you can check your washer fluid, power steering fluid, brake fluid, and coolant. If you let any of these fluids run low, you can put yourself, and your vehicle, in unnecessary danger. If you bring your vehicle for an oil change at Capital GMC Service, we’ll make sure to check your fluid levels as part of our inspection.

Alignments

Over time, driving in any conditions can affect your vehicle’s alignment. And driving on ice and through snowdrifts can make those problems arise even more quickly. An improper wheel alignment causes imbalanced tire wear and will “pull” your vehicle to one side of the road, which is obviously dangerous.

Experts recommend you check your wheel alignment at least once a year, so spring maintenance is the perfect time. Book an appointment and we’ll make sure your vehicle is perfectly aligned. Better yet, bundle your wheel alignment with the rest of your routine maintenance like a spring safety inspection, tire service, or oil change.

Wipers

Do your wipers squeak, drag, skip, or leave huge streaks? It’s probably time to replace them. In fact, you probably should have replaced them before or during winter, but oh well. This is a pretty easy piece of maintenance you can do by yourself. If you’re shopping for wipers on your own, just make sure you measure them beforehand.

Battery

Did your battery die during the winter even though you were running your vehicle regularly? If it’s over three years old and it’s required a boost, you should think about replacing it. Bring your vehicle to Capital GMC Service and we’ll test your battery and show how much longer it can be safely be used before being replaced. Next season, you’ll be at less of a risk of being stranded.