What Are Some Basics of Horsepower and Torque?


Quick Answer

A vehicle's torque refers to the amount of turning power it has, whereas its horsepower refers to the amount of power its engine produces. In mathematical terms, horsepower is the amount of power necessary to move 550 pounds 1 foot in one second.

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Full Answer

In most vehicles, a dynamometer measures horsepower and torque. The dynamometer places weight against the engine and checks the twisting force on the engine's crankshaft against a load. Drivers then test the torque at various engine rates per minute. Divide the torque amount and rates per minute by 5,252 to figure out the horsepower of the vehicle.

Torque is easier to measure and is therefore a tool in measuring horsepower. The torque a vehicle produces correlates to the amount of potential power it has. The Society of Automotive Engineers has two standards for determining horsepower: net and gross. The type of horsepower visible on commercials and in show rooms is net horsepower, which is simply the amount of horsepower in a stock vehicle; by contrast, gross horsepower is the amount of horsepower in the vehicle before adding various loads to it, including the engine and emission control system. It is possible to generate torque without moving an object.

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