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Reference: Horsepower And Torque Explained

Discussion in 'Engine Tech / Drivetrain DIY How-To's' started by Jay Jay, Jun 12, 2003.



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  1. Jay Jay

    Jay Jay Administrator Staff Member Registered VIP Registered OG Premium 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    Horsepower and Torque Explained- from canadiandriver.com


    I get asked a thousand times a year - how can I get more power from my car/truck/SUV/motorhome - you name it! What many people really want is better acceleration, or improved fuel economy, or to be able to pull a bigger load. Before putting a pile of money into the engine, we should take a look at what power really is, and how it moves our vehicles.

    Look at almost any automobile review and you will find horsepower and torque listed in the specs. For example, my "Quickmobile" has 200 horsepower at 9000 rpm and 57 ft lbs. torque at 2000 rpm. Is this vehicle really quick, or do numbers sometimes play tricks on us? Well, it has 200 horsepower. What does that mean?

    Horsepower is related to torque, and torque is turning force. Place a lever on the engine's crankshaft and measure the twisting force produced, and you have torque. Note that time is not a factor - torque can be constant over time. Horsepower, on the other hand, is the rate at which the torque is produced.

    Horsepower is a measurement of the engine's ability to do work. One horsepower can lift 33,000 pounds up one foot in one minute. Horsepower is measured over time. The more horsepower a vehicle has, the more mass it can move in the same amount of time, or it can move a fairly constant mass (the weight of the car) in less time. In simple terms, to get a vehicle accelerating quicker, we need to produce torque faster.

    There are many different ways of measuring the power of an engine. Brake horsepower is a common term and refers to the power measured at the crankshaft using a "prony" brake. A prony brake was a simple lever that was connected to the crankshaft with a brake. As the brake was applied, the lever would deflect and power was indicated. Nowadays, computers and strain gauges are used to measure the power.

    Rear wheel horsepower is just what it implies - horsepower applied by the rear wheels. A chassis dynamometer is used to measure the power transferred by the drive wheels onto the dynamometer's rollers. Brake horsepower is much lower than the horsepower specs provided by the manufacturers, because of all the power used by the transmission, final drive, and accessories.

    Gross horsepower is the power measured at the crankshaft without any engine accessories. This includes removing the air cleaner and ductwork, exhaust system, water pump drive, and any other devices driven by the engine. Prior to 1973, horsepower specifications were listed by the manufacturers as gross horsepower. After 1972, manufacturers provided net horsepower specifications.

    Net horsepower is also measured at the crankshaft before it goes into the transmission, but this time the engine is operated as it is installed in the vehicle, complete with accessories and ductwork.

    Occasionally, usually when reading overseas vehicle information, I find reference to taxable horsepower. Taxable horsepower is a simple mathematics calculation used to determine the taxes to be paid on the vehicle. It has very little to do with actual horsepower because it doesn't factor in key elements like compression ratios, cylinder head design, and camshaft specifications. To calculate taxable horsepower multiply the cylinder bore x cylinder bore x number of cylinders x 0.4, and don't forget to pay the tax!

    Many engineering documents and European manufacturers list engine power in Kilowatts. We more commonly use kilowatts to measure electrical power, but it is easy to convert from kilowatts to horsepower. One kilowatt is equal to 1.341 horsepower. While you are converting, you can also change torque measured in Newton metres (Nm) to ft lbs. by multiplying the Nm by 0.737561.

    There are other measurements of horsepower. It can be converted to British thermal units (BTU) or it can be listed in PS. PS is short for Pferdestarke, the term for metric horsepower. Don't ask - I haven't seen it used anywhere either, but if you want to dazzle your friends, one horsepower is equal to 1.0139 PS.

    So back to my Quickmobile. It really isn't very quick. With only 57 ft lbs. of torque, there isn't a lot of twist to turn the wheels. Sure, it has 200 hp, but it comes at a high 9000 rpm so it isn't very useful for normal driving or accelerating from a stop.

    To achieve good performance, operate the engine at its peak torque, and the lower the rpm this occurs, the stronger it will pull from a stop. I see too many "hot-rodded" engines where all they go after is maximum horsepower at high rpm. If you have a light vehicle, steep axle gearing, and are willing to constantly rev the engine high, then high horsepower numbers will make you go fast. Great for racing.

    For most of use however, it is better to have an engine with higher torque ratings and the lower or broader the rpm range it achieves it the better. Torque is what gets your vehicle moving. For everyday driving, I would pick a vehicle with high torque ratings at low rpm over a high horsepower, high rpm one any time.

    Want the best of both? Then consider vehicle with a supercharged or turbocharged engine. By packing more air into the engine, torque is increased dramatically, but the engine can still be built for high rpm operation. Who says you can't have your cake and eat it too. Unfortunately, cake costs money, and so do superchargers and turbo's. There is always a catch.
     
    Rnest likes this.
  2. cpforyou

    cpforyou New Member 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    Horsepower = Torque x RPM / 5252

    Torque is bascially the moment of a force, the measure of a force's tendency to produce rotation about an axis of your car.

    Torque is what accelerates the vehicle, not the horsepower.

    However, horsepower is important because torque at higher RPMs moves the car quicker than torque at lower RPM.

    Picture an impact gun. Lets say it impacts the nut at a torque of 100 ft-lbs. Which is better... 1. for it to apply that impact at a rate of 1000 times per minute, or at a rate of 2000 times per minute?

    That's where RPM comes in as far as cars.

    That's why many Hondas are fast, but only at top end. The engine gives low torque, but it's the torque at that high an RPM that makes the top end of Hondas so great.

    Low vs. Mid. vs. Top end power - take your pick.
     
  3. Mark7901

    Mark7901 New Member 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    How would I raise my torque....I have a 93 civic ex (d16z6, sohc, vtec) and it has 104 @ 5400......
     
  4. POWEREDbyVTEC

    POWEREDbyVTEC New Member 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    definalty put this in the archives
     
  5. Mark7901

    Mark7901 New Member 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    you have anything to add "poweredbyvtech"?
     
  6. Dan1220

    Dan1220 I HaVe a CaR! Registered VIP 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    Good info...i luv this site....i have really learned alot!
     
  7. skatistic888

    skatistic888 New Member 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    so what can be done tu increase the torque?
     
  8. ACE4DOOR

    ACE4DOOR Banned

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    Yo you seem to be a pretty intelligent person dealing with performance, tell me how do you think a b20b/b20z with headers, intake, and exhaust would run in a 92 lx 4door.
     
  9. soswank

    soswank Dentist in the making Registered VIP 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    good post. how come we don't shift to the SI system? in germany, they use kgcm2 instead of hp. we are still using pound and foot and inches. while the standard is cm, kg.you know?
     
  10. Mr.Luder

    Mr.Luder SSM EP3 Registered VIP 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    I guess cause it's much easier to understand for most people by using pound and foot and inches. I know it's easier for me. Remember this is the us of a =)
     
  11. nd4sped

    nd4sped Banned

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    I know this post is old but its very information. So Im gonna BUMP it to get the NOOBS attention...Hopefully they will gain some insight after ready this.
     
  12. nd4sped

    nd4sped Banned

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    Ya I still have that issue.
     
  13. PANGES

    PANGES Tree > Skyline 240sx :( Registered VIP 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    why change all our road signs, all the speedometers in our cars and everything jus to be like everyone else? It's only screw up some 2nd grader trying to learn about mph
     
  14. nd4sped

    nd4sped Banned

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    i like metric because its more accurate
     
  15. honda_racer2005

    honda_racer2005 New Member 5+ Year Member

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    i need engine spec. on a d16y7 1.6 from a 96-2000 . ozhonda said it has 106 hp @ 6200 rpms were can i fine more on the d16y7.
     
  16. Steven.

    Steven. Formally Green 91 Registered VIP Registered OG 5+ Year Member 10+ Year Member

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    http://www.clubcivic.com/specs

    where it says "specs" at the top of the site
     
  17. exit341.autoresc

    exit341.autoresc New Member

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    Hi I'm new to this please help..I have a 97 Honda civic I recently added a Turbo to my stock d16y7... now she won't climb hills..and I live on a island that's mainly hills..any ideas?

    Sent from my GT-I9500 using Tapatalk
     
  18. Shaaaft

    Shaaaft FNG Registered VIP 5+ Year Member

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    That's a question for your tuner, not one to post in a 12 year old thread.

    You put absolutely no info about your car, set up or tune if you even had it tuned... How do you seriously expect to get help?
     
  19. exit341.autoresc

    exit341.autoresc New Member

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    Right now it's all stock..even the ecu..

    Sent from my GT-I9500 using Tapatalk
     
  20. Shaaaft

    Shaaaft FNG Registered VIP 5+ Year Member

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    Well then, you don't have a turbo installed if it's all stock.... I doubt you'll get the help you need. Take your car to a tuner in your area or if you do have a turbo, remove everything and let someone else do the install properly.
     
    HeX likes this.


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