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Charge of the turbochargers

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The ''turbocharger revolution'' still has a long way to go. Engine engineers, not only in the United States but in all the other automotive capitals of the world, are planning to fit these octopuslike ''blowers'' on additional future automobile engines, and the chances are good that up to one-third of all new cars will be turbocharged in the next few years.

Already, seven American and a dozen imported cars are available with turbochargers for more pep.

Indeed, this significant engineering trend has both advantages as well as minor disadvantages for car buyers of the world.

This engineering trend has significant advantages and some minor disadvantages for car buyers.

Turbochargers are used primarily to provide more engine power, plus a bit more fuel economy, although this can be easily exaggerated. But they also add cost and frequently require more oil changes and more expensive fuel. Also, they can increase repair costs considerably because of the added complexity they bring to an engine.

Turbochargers are not new, of course. They've been around for more than half a century, especially in race cars.

So why, you ask, is the turbocharger bandwagon suddenly rolling into town?

There are several reasons, engine engineers say. The automakers have generally concluded that future automotive power plants must be fuel-efficient, lightweight, small gasoline or diesel engines, even for larger cars.

More recently a significant portion of the American public has concluded that it also wants better performance in its cars, something that has been noticeably lacking in many recent models.

The logical conclusion was: ''Let's go turbocharging.'' It will still permit the use of small, lightweight, and fuel-efficient engines, while providing the very desirable advantage of good acceleration and higher speed, when desired.

The name of the automotive ball game these days is flexibility. The turbocharger permits a manufacturer to use the same engine in either a ''hot'' car or an ordinary performer by simply installing or omitting the turbo.

Basically, a turbocharger is a fan or air pump that's driven by the velocity and expansiveness of the hot exhaust gas. It's also a little solace to the conservation-minded engine designers who have always been somewhat conscience-stricken by the large amount of engine heat that's continually being dumped into the atmosphere through the tailpipe of the car.


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