Your turbocharger will work in essentially the same way, whether you drive a Powerstroke, Cummins, or Duramax diesel pickup. While there are differences in designs and applications, turbos haven’t changed all that much over the past century. Now that you know what one is made of, we’ll look at how it works.
As RPM increases, the flow of exhaust through the exhaust manifold does as well. The turbine of the turbo spins faster relative to the exhaust pressure since it’s in the path of the escaping exhaust. The turbine is attached to the shaft which runs through the center housing, with the compressor at the other end of the shaft. Similar to the way the wheel on a watermill works, the flow of exhaust spins the turbine, which spins the compressor on the opposite side of the shaft.
The compressor pressurizes the fresh air coming into the turbo, forcing it into cylinders. As a result, the compression is increased, and more air for combustion enters the engine than the engine would be able to take in on its own. That’s where the horsepower increase comes from. This is also where turbo lag comes in - the turbine spins exponentially faster the higher the exhaust pressure climbs - when there isn’t much pressure, the turbo spins slowly enough you don’t notice a difference.
As the RPM climbs and exhaust pressures increase, the turbo reaches speeds of tens of thousands of RPM, and you feel the power increase as air is forced into the engine. This is, in essence, how every turbo works. There are other components that are part of the system as a whole, that allow the turbo to work as effectively and efficiently as possible.
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