Can You Ace This Auto Torque Quiz?

Steven Symes

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

How can you deal with being in the spin zone? Knowing your stuff about the twisty forces that help make cars go can get really technical, since this is the sort of thing automotive engineers think about constantly and debate among themselves.  If you're like most drivers, you're lucky to know that turning the key makes the magic elves under the hood do their thing!

With the coming of more mainstream electric cars, the debate about the virtues of torque has been reignited. Diesel enthusiasts already preached the virtues of having lots of twisting force at low RPMs, which can be a huge advantage. While that certainly can help in different situations, loads of low-end torque isn't everything. 

If you see a car's dyno results, you'll notice the torque and horsepower curves intersect at a certain point. Despite popular legend, that's not always at the same point. If you look at the results for an electric vehicle, diesel truck and gasoline car, those torque and horsepower curves will look quite different from one to the next. In other words, torque is related to horsepower and has a big impact on performance. 

Are you thoroughly confused or do you have this all wrapped up in your mind? Take the quiz now and test your knowledge! 

What is torque?

It might be one of the most misunderstood specs on a car, but torque really is just a measurement of force that causes an object to rotate. If you're not familiar with how cars work, that might leave you wondering what torque has to do with vehicles.

What's a common tool used to apply a specific amount of torque to something like a bolt?

A torque wrench is like a socket wrench, only you can dial in a specific torque setting, using a special mechanism at the end.

When talking about torque, what does Nm stand for?

In countries where the International System of Units is used, people talk about how many Nm of torque a car produces, or how many Nm of torque you need to apply to a specific bolt.

What does high amounts of torque do to help when towing?

If an engine produces loads of low-end torque, you don't put nearly as much stress on the engine, drivetrain, etc. as you tow especially heavy loads.

What is a torque curve?

When measuring the torque output of a car, a dyno will show the torque curve, or just how much lb.-ft. of torque is produced at every RPM. You'll notice the result is a curving line, at least for most vehicles.

How is torque related to work?

In physics, work is when a force moves an object. When talking about torque, the work is how much an object rotates through an angle.

Why can you apply greater torque with a socket wrench breaker bar?

Breaker bars typically have longer handles than other types of socket wrenches, which means you're using a longer lever. Of course, you also need the space necessary to use that lever, which is always a consideration you need to make.

With electric vehicles, when do they usually produce peak torque output?

If you haven't driven an EV before, the feeling of having full torque delivery from a standstill is pretty invigorating, and a little weird.

How do turbochargers usually affect torque?

It really depends on the turbo system, but most don't add extra horsepower and torque until the middle to higher end of the rpm range, thanks to the turbine(s) needing to spool up.

Why do some automakers purposely understate the torque rating for a vehicle?

Automakers will understate not only torque but also horsepower produced by some cars, sometimes to appease safety advocates, keep the cars under the radar from non-enthusiasts, or sometimes because of politics in the companies.

When you see a torque rating listed for a car, what percentage of the total output does it represent?

You probably see torque and horsepower ratings all the time, which are the peak or maximum output for a car.

What is the difference between lb.-ft. and ft.-lb. torque ratings?

Some people write or say lb.-ft. and some prefer ft.-lb. It doesn't really matter which a person uses, because the rating is the same.

Where does torque originate in an engine?

The crankshaft translates the up-and-down movements of the pistons into spinning or twisting, so it's the originator of torque for a car, which then is passed through the drivetrain.

What is the equation for torque?

If you for any reason need to calculate torque and you don't have a machine to do it for you, this equation can come in handy.

When all torques acting on an object total up to zero, what is the result?

The net torque is all the different forces acting on an object's rotation. Rotational equilibrium means there's no net torque being applied to an object, so it doesn't spin.

Why do diesel engines typically make so much more torque?

Thanks to diesel fuel packing more energy per drop, diesel engines running at a higher compression ratio, and diesels often using a ton of turbo boost, they can whip out monstrous amounts of torque.

How does a Roots supercharger impact torque production for an engine?

The way a Roots supercharger is designed, it runs off the engine's belt, which means you get immediate power delivery for great low-end torque.

What is torque loss at the wheels?

Quite a few factors affect the loss of torque produced by the engine and what makes it all the way to the car's drive wheels, something engineers are always trying to improve through various designs.

Why do automakers provide torque specs for bolts on vehicles?

If a bolt isn't tightened to spec, the vehicle can experience a number of difficulties, such as a loss in engine compression, suspension parts separating under load, etc.

What does torque do for off-the-line acceleration?

If your car has excellent low-end torque, you can jump off a starting line quickly. That doesn't necessarily mean you'll win a race, just that you'll have a good start.

Why does torque in an engine peak before horsepower?

Thanks to the nature of how engines produce torque, the output peaks earlier because valves and other mechanicals in an engine lose efficiency and airflow slows, resulting in volumetric efficiency losses.

What does using nitrous oxide do for torque?

As probably anyone would suspect, torque can rise dramatically with nitrous fogged or injected into an engine, because it allows the engine to burn more fuel, resulting in more work done.

What could happen if you only put 30 lb.-ft. of torque on lug nuts that need 50 lb.-ft. of torque?

There's a reason why automakers provide torque specs even for the lug nuts on your car, because it ensures the wheels are on tightly, without causing damage to any parts.

How do you measure the torque output of a car's engine?

A chassis dyno is a type of machine with rollers and other instruments designed to measure the torque and horsepower produced by your car.

What's the general relationship between torque and displacement?

Because big engines with plenty of displacement have bigger components, they can really get the crankshaft spinning, producing more torque. Of course, forced induction can help a smaller engine churn out a surprising amount of torque.

If you want to tow heavy objects with a vehicle, where do you want the peak torque to be?

The hardest part for an engine and drivetrain when it comes to towing is getting that extra weight moving, which is why have low-end torque in abundance is a good thing.

Why does torque output fall between the crankshaft and the drive wheels of a car?

Because the torque made by the engine must be sent through different components, there's a chance for some of that force to be lost, which is why measuring torque at the wheels is important.

How would a centrifugal supercharger affect torque output?

Because centrifugal superchargers have a design that's somewhat similar to a turbocharger, they don't provide the low-end torque boost you get from a Roots supercharger.

What does high levels of torque mean for city driving?

Torque is what you feel really launch a car from a standstill. Considering you stop a lot in the city, having lots of torque will help you get back up to speed easier after pausing for lights, pedestrians, etc.

What kind of torque curve do race cars have?

Motorsports teams tune their cars for the nature of each competition, which includes altering a car's torque and horsepower curves. If there's a small track with plenty of tight turns, plenty of low-end torque could be good for accelerating quickly after slowing, while high-end horsepower is good for long straightaways.

As electric cars accelerate, what happens to their torque output?

Electric cars are unbelievably quick off the line, thanks to the peak torque output being available instantly, but that torque falls off quickly. As a result, EVs aren't great at longer races, like a mile-long drag race.

How is torque related to horsepower?

Without getting too technical, torque creates horsepower, because the faster an engine spins the more power it produces.

Why do off-roaders love lots of low-end torque?

You'll find that most off-roaders aren't the quickest vehicles, but they produce plenty of low-end torque, which allows them to power over obstacles without struggling as much, so they boast greater trail capabilities.

With hybrids, how much torque do you get from a standstill?

Just like electric cars, hybrids boast instant torque delivery from a standstill, but their electric motors are typically smaller, so you won't enjoy quite the same rush.

What must low-torque engines do to accelerate quickly?

Many high-revving engines produce little low-end torque. That means they're not the quickest off the line, but will make up for that in part by pouring on the horsepower at the top end of the rpm range.

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