These days, more and more cars are being built with smaller engines. While this does immediately grant such cars with a lower power output, many manufacturers are compensating for this lost power by installing turbochargers.
While turbochargers can be an innovative way of adding additional power to recoup the lost performance, they aren’t without their downsides. One of the most prolific of these downsides comes in the form of “turbo lag”.
You may have experienced this yourself in your own car, where throttle response can be felt as much as 1-2 seconds later than when your foot is applied to the gas pedal. In this article, we’ll take a deep dive into turbo lag, explaining what it is, why it exists, and how you can compensate for it in your own driving.
Turbo lag is a phenomenon drivers can witness through driving a car fitted with a turbocharger.
Turbochargers aim to inject more oxygen inside an engine’s cylinder by reusing otherwise lost exhaust gases, allowing it to produce more power while consuming less fuel.
This process isn’t instant, meaning a delay can be felt from the time in between depressing the accelerator and having the car respond. This delay is appropriately named turbo lag.
The effects of turbo lag are less noticeable at higher speeds, as by this point the engine is releasing a significant amount of waste gases into the atmosphere, which makes your turbocharger’s duties that bit easier.
Turbo lag is mainly caused by low engine speeds. This is most apparent when coasting in traffic, or driving through a built-up, pedestrianised area. The slower your car travels, the less waste gases it emits; the less gases, the more time it takes the turbocharger to capture them.
There are three main symptoms of turbo lag, namely being:
Noticing one of these is the first step to identifying turbo lag, but unfortunately, it is rarely ever rectified.
Rather than being a defect, turbo lag is more of a side-effect of having a turbo charger fitted. This means that the symptoms can’t effectively be eradicated, but they can be dealt with if they’re bothering you.
Take this tip with a pinch of salt, but the best way to overcome the effects of turbo lag is to anticipate it in the first place.
Granted, we can’t predict the future so pre-emptively accelerating is going to undoubtedly cause some issues. However, if there’s a gap in the road or a long stretch of road with no obstructions, you can accelerate a bit sooner to catch up with the speed limits and get to point B a little faster.
It goes without saying that the number one way to ensure your car is operating smoothly is to get it checked out at frequent intervals. This does depend on how much driving you do, but having a car inspected at least once a year is a sure-fire way to ensure it is firing on all cylinders, with a turbo that’s behaving as it should.
Regular servicing reduces wear on key car components like the engine and exhaust system. This reduced wear makes your turbo’s job a little bit easier, potentially resulting in a more reactive system.
It’s clear that as more cars get produced, turbochargers are going to become more and more common. While this can result in more vehicles being made with turbo lag, there are a couple ways to circumvent its impact.
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