How Diesel Engine Turbochargers Work

You want more power in your engine. Well, that's what your turbocharger helps with! You probably haven't put much thought into this vital diesel engine component unless it stops working, but it actually helps you out a lot! Your turbocharger not only boosts your diesel engine's power, but it helps with engine efficiency as well.

A turbocharger takes exhaust and turns it into power for your engine, reducing waste. And newer turbochargers even help keep you compliant with emission regulations!

Check out our video for even more information on how your turbocharger works!



Do you have questions about your diesel engine turbocharger? We have ASE Certified Technicians who can help you figure out what's going wrong!

Give Us A Call!


What's the Purpose of a Diesel Engine Turbocharger? 

As we mentioned, the main goal of a turbocharger is to increase the power of your engine. More specifically, to give you more power without having to increase the size of the engine itself. 

The turbocharger works to bring air into the combustion chamber, which helps to increase the output. It gets this air in by using the exhaust gas to power the turbine. Essentially, it takes waste and turns it into power. 

So if you've ever wondered why you need your turbo, now you knowit gives you more power, increases efficiency, and utilizes exhaust waste.

Want an even more in-depth look at turbochargers? Check out our general guide!


How the Diesel Engine Turbocharger Works

When we talk about a turbocharger, we usually refer to it having two distinct sidesthe exhaust side and the compressor side.

The picture below highlights the exhaust side or the hot side of the turbocharger and we have it indicated in orange.


how do diesel engine turbochargers work exhaust side | Highway & Heavy Parts


So, this is going to be what's called the turbine side of the turbo. The turbine side is going to be driven by the exhaust gas. As the exhaust gas comes through, it's going to turn the wheel, causing the components to spin. 

It has a shaft that goes all the way through to the compressor side (as pictured below):


how-do-diesel engine turbochargers work compressor side | Highway & Heavy Parts


It draws the air into this side, where it gets compressed and turned into this high pressure, high temperature air. It'll then be forced out the outlet. 

This is going to be our oil feed:


how do diesel engine turbochargers work oil feel line | Highway & Heavy Parts


So, this is always going to have oil feed to it, and then this oil will be draining. The oil normally goes down the block itself, and is then fed off of the main oil rifle. The purpose of that turbocharger is just to bring that air in at a higher capacity and at a higher pressure than what could normally be caught naturally aspirated. 

This forces air into the motor, rather than just letting it breathe on its own, which in turn allows for more fuel to get put into the engine. This is what then creates that higher horsepower.


Variable Geometry Turbochargers

For the most part, variable geometry turbochargers function similarly to the traditional turbo. As the name implies, however, there is some variation to it.

Rather than having static turbine vanes, the vanes on a VGT can move depending on the needs of the engine. This can bring air into the combustion chamber even more efficiently. 

The vanes might pivot, or they might slide, depending on the manufacturer, but regardless, the change in position affects how fast the turbine spins, depending on the engine speed. It is therefore better optimized for your engine's performance.

Want to know more? Read our blog on how a variable geometry turbocharger works!

If you're in the market for a new VGT, we have high-quality variable geometry options for you!


So, while it might seem as though this diesel engine component is highly complicated, it actually serves a quite simple function. Your turbocharger brings more power to your engine efficiently. Because of your turbo, you can get the higher horsepower you want without having to continually increase the size of the engine. 

Efficiency and power all in one great component. It doesn't get much better than that, does it?

Need a turbocharger or other replacement parts for your diesel engine! Our ASE Certified Technicians can help! Call us at 844-304-7688, or request a quote online!

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