Alright then, you’ve seen all the fast and furious movies, you love cars and you can’t get enough of them. But then whenever the conversation about cars pop up you always seem to find yourself a bit lost. You hear your buddies toss words like turbocharger, superchargers, spoilers, V8, NOS, carburetor and you just nod your head and smile so as to not look like a complete dork.
It’s understandable though, I did that throughout my engineering. Just nod and smile. You’d be surprised how good that works.
But then if you actually love cars and if you wanna properly engage in such conversations, you need to know your stuff. For that sole purpose, we’ve come out with this series,
Automotives 101: A guide to everything with wheels under it and an engine on it.
This is not gonna be one of those long, drawn-out guides which go in-depth about everything. No, that’s not needed. You’re just tryna know your stuff, not build a supercar. But hey, we don’t discriminate, even if you do wanna build the next supercar this is a damn good place to start. We’re gonna be covering a wide range of automotive stuff, with super quick explanations and by the end of it, you’ll be crystal clear about all the stuff covered here.
Anyway, let’s get started, shall we?
- What are Turbochargers?
Know the pss pss psss pfft sound that fast cars make?
To give you more context, remember when Fast and Furious was about racing and racing only, and it didn’t involve million dollar heists and car flipping cars? Yeah well in most of these races there was this specific pss pss pfft sound that these cars made. Sounds exactly like a guy trying to pass gas in the elevator without people noticing.
This is the Turbocharger.
Why a Turbocharger?
So most people who are into fast cars are always looking for ways to make their car go faster. For cars to go faster, we need more power and hence more fuel to be burned every instant.
I know what you’re thinking, just pump more fuel into the engine, but it’s not as easy as that. Every engine, to be more precise, every cylinder has a specific amount of air it can intake. So even if you do add more fuel, you’ll only get a limited amount of air, and hence it’s impossible to burn more fuel with the current setup.
We could opt for a bigger cylinder, but that only means a bigger and heavier engine, making the car heavier and thus slower.
Alfred Büchi, a Swiss chocolate-eating dude came up with an idea where the exhaust from an engine would be used to drive a compressor which would then feed more air into the cylinders. Thus delivering more power.
Bonkers, I know.
This idea was initially used in aeroplanes. As aeroplanes gained altitude, the air would start getting less dense and thus drastically reducing the power output. This was not exactly optimal seeing how less power would probably mean the aeroplane not being able to maintain flight and thus crashing.
Not very convenient for the passengers. Gradually people decided that hey, this could probably work in my car and make it go faster, and that’s how Turbochargers was born.
How do Turbochargers(Turbos) work?
So a turbo is directly connected to the exhaust pipe of the engine. All the exhaust coming out from the engine goes into the turbo and drives a turbine present inside it.
This turbine then rotates an impeller(blades) which sucks in the air. This air is now fed back into the engine and thus creating more air supply, which can burn up more fuel and thus produce more power. Turbochargers are entirely self-sufficient and do not require any additional support. That’s why they are so sought after and used by car enthusiasts.
Now, wait, we still haven’t figured out where the pss pss pfft sound comes from. Well sometimes the turbos suck in too much air and it can’t be used to burn the fuel. This extra air is then released using a blow-off valve and that’s where the pss pss pfft sound comes from.
Now people figured out a way to use more than one turbo, thus giving way to twin-turbocharged engines.
And nowadays almost all cars come with a turbo. This is especially needed now, seeing how fuel prices are rocketing. Turbos can offer more power while still using a smaller engine, thus improving the efficiency of the car.
- What are Superchargers?
Now when it comes down to it, superchargers perform the same function as a turbo. Then why name it superchargers you ask?
While turbos use the exhaust gas from the engine to drive a turbine and suck in more air, superchargers are mechanically driven by the engine.
Brace yourself as this thing is about to get intense.
So there’s a belt that runs from the engine shaft and is connected across a supercharger. This belt is run by the engine and thus also spins the turbine present inside the supercharger. This turbine thus feeds more air into the engine giving it the ability to burn more fuel.
However, superchargers don’t work well at lower RPMs because the speed generated does not drive the turbine fast enough to feed in a good quantity of air. However once you do reach a certain RPM, the superchargers kick off giving an insane amount of power.
Superchargers in cars
But then with improvement in technology, people have come up with ways to avoid the lag by using other configurations where you use two turbines, referred to as male and female, which interlock each other ( get your mind out of the gutter ) thus making sure that constant air supply is delivered even at low RPM’s
The most popular is the Roots supercharger, which you can probably notice in the Mad Max movie. This was invented by Philander and Francis Roots in 1860 and this was later bought by Gottlieb Daimler of Daimler Benz and was first used in the Mercedes Kompressor Models (1923)
Supercharges are usually accompanied with a hood scoop and this weird looking thing,
- What is NOS?
While Turbochargers and Superchargers force air into it, there’s another way to feed more air into the cylinder, by sneaking air into it. Slowly, steadily, almost like a thief. This is where Nitrous Oxide comes into play.
Yes nitrous oxide is also the laughing gas. But I would not recommend inhaling it from your friend’s car.
What is Nitrous Oxide?
Nitrous Oxide was discovered in 1772 by Joseph Priestly, who was obsessed with gases. We have people obsessed with gases today too, but not the right kind of gases though. But for a while people did not know what to do with it and mainly used it in parties for gags.
Skip to World War 2, where Germans used this in their planes for better performance at high altitude. Hitler was sure onto something back then. Apart from the Holocaust of course.
What is NOS?
NOS is an acronym for Nitrous Oxide System. Before this people tried shooting more oxygen directly into the cylinder causing detonation of the fuel irregularly which is pretty dangerous at 100km/hr.
So now the Nitrous Oxide is present inside a canister and this only releases oxygen once it’s inside the engine cylinder. Thus providing more air at the right moment. The Nitrous inside the canister is delivered to the cylinder either by,
DRY INJECTION : The nitrous oxide is injected into the cylinder by itself.
WET INJECTION : The nitrous oxide is injected along with the fuel.
Sometimes due to pressure difference, some of the gas may get trapped in the lines, which is released by means of a valve. This is why some cars with NOS have a gas blowing out from it, ( looks pretty sick).
NOS makes engine work way more harder that it’s built for, so more stress on the engine. Also it is expensive, so it’s only used in short bursts and mainly in drag racing.
That concludes our first edition of Automotives 101. The world of automobiles has a lot more to it than what’s mentioned above. Stay tuned for our next series to learn more automotive stuff.