“Turbo” is one of those car buzzwords that many car owners have a vague idea about but don’t quite know what it means exactly. So what is turbo, what does it mean for your car’s engine, and what maintenance does having turbo involve? Here is an in-depth look.

Turbo defined

The term “turbo” refers to a turbocharged engine. A turbocharged engine is an engine that has been fitted with a device called a turbocharger. A turbocharger does not require engine power to run (like a supercharger does); rather, it uses recycled exhaust gases to increase power in your engine.

Benefits of turbo

Many car owners love the punch in horsepower that turbo adds to a smaller engine. A four-cylinder turbocharged engine, for example, will feel very much the same as a larger non-turbocharged engine in terms of acceleration. This can make passing and merging a breeze in a car with turbo. (One thing to keep in mind here, however, is that it can take a moment or two for your turbo to kick in during acceleration.)

Turbocharged engines are also typically more fuel efficient than a regular engine at a given horsepower. This is because turbocharged engines allow you to get more power out of a smaller engine, which uses less fuel to idle. Turbocharged engines run predominantly on exhaust gases, which would otherwise go to waste.

Drawbacks of turbo

Turbocharged engines can be expensive, and they require some additional wiring and tubing to function properly, so you should consider a turbocharged engine an investment for your car. Because of the extra space that’s needed to turbocharge an engine, cars with crowded front ends are not the best candidates for having the engine turbocharged. It’s also important to remember that a turbocharger is another part of your car that could potentially break. So if you’re considering turbocharging your car’s engine, keep in mind that this could mean more car maintenance for you in the future, particularly if you do not hire a well-experienced mechanic to turbocharge your engine.

Turbochargers can also call for some extra attention to your car’s oil levels, as they get very hot and often tap into an engine’s oil supply.

Some car owners also question just how fuel efficient turbocharged engines are. For drivers who tend to drive aggressively and with a heavy foot, a turbocharged engine might actually suck down gas just like a larger engine would.