Horsepower or torque?
For decades, people have disputed which of these characteristics of a car engine's power output is more important, has a greater impact on daily driving, and is more valuable when purchasing a vehicle. So, what's the difference? When your engine is revving strongly, horsepower provides highway passing power, allowing you to drive at high speeds, whereas torque provides low-end power and the ability to move rapidly after stopping. In other words, torque allows you to perform the work, but horsepower allows you to do it quickly. Torque enthusiasts adore big engines' low-end grunt and pull; they're drawn to brawny cars like the upcoming Chevrolet Camaro SS, whose V8 engine produces 408 pounds-feet of torque, providing plenty of pull at a stoplight. Those who prefer the highway acceleration that horsepower provides can consider the Honda S2000, which has 237 horsepower at a very high 7,800 revolutions per minute but only creates 162 pounds-feet of torque, which isn't much.
These automobiles may be fast, but they do not meet the needs of the normal driver on a daily basis. Most of us will never drive our cars on a racetrack or drag strip, and the ongoing instability of petrol costs makes having a lot of horsepower or torque seem downright absurd. Towing, on the other hand, is one scenario where driving with a lot of power might be useful. Whether you're pulling a construction trailer for business or driving your boat to the lake for the weekend, you'll need a vehicle with enough power to comfortably and safely tow your load. So, which is more significant in towing: horsepower or torque? In this post, we'll find out the answer to that question and explain how it affects your truck selection.
Testing Torque and Horsepower
Let's start with the fundamentals. Horsepower is a unit of work that denotes the application of a force to an object and the displacement of that object in the direction of the applied force. What exactly does this mean? One horsepower is equivalent to 33,000 pounds-feet per minute, or the amount of energy required to move a 330-pound item 100 feet in one minute. Torque is a twisting force that turns or rotates an object, such as a wheel. You add torque to a bolt when you use a lug wrench on it. Unlike horsepower, torque can be applied to an object even if it is not moving.
Torque is measured in pounds-feet, which means that a force in pounds acts on the end of a lever in feet. If the lug wrench is 2 feet long and you apply 100 pounds of force to it, you are applying 200 pounds-feet of torque to the bolt. We can quantify horsepower once we can measure torque. The calculation is straightforward: multiply torque by engine speed, then divide by 5,252 to get horsepower at that rpm level. In other words, to determine the horsepower of a vehicle producing 350 pounds-feet of torque at 4,000 rpm, divide (350 X 4,000) by 5252, which equals roughly 267 horsepower. It all boils down to this: torque measures how much work is done, and horsepower represents how quickly that work is done. In the following part, we'll look at the benefits of torque when towing a trailer.
Low-End Power and Torque
Most drivers understand that torque equals low-end power, or the capacity to accelerate a vehicle at low rpm levels. Torque propels the car forward and assists it in climbing steep hills. As a result, a heavier vehicle requires more torque to start than a lighter one. That is why torque is important when towing; torque allows you to pull hefty loads. When you see vehicle commercials on TV, you're more likely to hear about horsepower figures for performance and sports cars, whereas torque is more likely to be mentioned in truck commercials. The towing capacity of a vehicle refers to the amount of weight it can pull behind it.
Modern trucks, such as the Dodge Ram 3500, can tow up to 16,000 pounds, which is more than twice the truck's weight of around 7,000 pounds. That towing capacity is proportional to the torque of the truck engine. The engine in your vehicle generates torque and uses it to turn the crankshaft, which is linked to the transmission. The torque is converted by the transmission gears so that the vehicle can move and tow cargo safely. If you frequently tow, you are aware that you should maintain your vehicle in a lower gear than usual. Towing in fourth gear on a five- or six-speed transmission; third gear on a four-speed typically suffices.
This is because lower ratios have more torque, making it more difficult to accelerate from a stop or pass another car on the highway in the highest gear, regardless of horsepower. Consider pulling a trailer up a steep incline. If you're driving a truck, such as the aforementioned Ram, you'll certainly want to take it slowly up the incline. As a result, you'll keep your engine rpm low. Again, torque comes into play. When you need to haul an object at low rpm, having a lot of horsepower is useless. That need the low-end power that torque gives. You've probably heard of torque, but what about horsepower? What function does it serve in towing? That will be covered in the following section.
Horsepower and top speed
We've established that torque is the twisting force that propels the vehicle forward at low rpm levels. But where does horsepower come into play when towing? As previously stated, horsepower is what you rely on at higher rpm. It is what permits you to overtake another vehicle on the highway. When driving your Honda S2000 and another car ahead of you refuses to move, you can downshift, accelerate, and race past it. That is your horsepower at work. RPM levels grow as you accelerate, and that high-end power comes into play when you pass.
The same is true when towing. When driving your truck while towing another vehicle, you may need to pass the slower drivers in front of you. When you accelerate and pass the other vehicle, you are putting your horsepower to use. In other words, if your engine doesn't have a lot of power, don't expect to be able to accelerate and pass easily when dragging something behind you. Again, torque allows you to accomplish the work; horsepower allows you to do the task quickly. Horsepower enables you to accelerate while already moving and towing something heavy behind you. In the following part, we'll look at various truck engines, how they generate torque and horsepower, and which would be best for your hauling needs.
Maximizing Towing Capacity
It's no secret that diesel engines power the majority of large commercial trucks and certain heavy-duty trucks. Why? The torque produced by diesel engines is greater. Because a diesel engine lacks spark plugs and relies on compressed air to ignite gasoline, the piston must travel a greater distance to compress enough air for ignition. The distance traveled by the cylinder is referred to as stroke, and longer stroke indicates higher torque. Consider the differences between two truck engines. A 6.7-liter Cummins Turbo Diesel engine in a Dodge Ram pickup produces 350 horsepower and 650 pounds-feet of torque. A 5.7-liter Hemi gasoline V8 engine in the same truck produces 383 horsepower and 400 pounds-feet of torque. Can you tell the difference? While the gasoline engine has somewhat more power, the diesel engine's torque fully outclasses it.
While the towing capacity of the two trucks are quite comparable (15,650 pounds for the gasoline engine and 16,350 pounds for the diesel), all that low-end torque means the diesel engine will have an easier time towing items. Remember that the diesel Dodge engine produces so much torque at only 1,500 rpm, which is just above idle. You won't have to crank up a diesel engine to start towing because the power is already there. Diesel engines have greater economy than gasoline engines because they consume more energy-laden diesel fuel, so you can haul for longer periods of time without stopping. At the same time, a truck powered by a gasoline engine will have a lower starting price. Diesel engines are usually always more expensive than gasoline engines because they are constructed to withstand larger stresses from a more potent fuel. Many factors influence a vehicle's towing capacity, including its wheels, tires, suspension, and powertrain.
Generally, the larger the towing job, the larger the displacement engine required. Towing puts a lot of strain on the engine, therefore more torque will save vehicle wear and tear. We've devoted a significant amount of effort and energy to comparing horsepower to torque. What's the final word? Finally, when it comes to hauling, all data leads to torque being more essential than horsepower. Why? The power at low-end rpm given by high torque levels allows you to move large loads with little effort. As previously noted, certain diesel trucks create twice as much torque as horsepower at near-idle RPM levels, allowing them to tow a trailer or a boat with ease. Horsepower is significant since it enables a vehicle to travel faster on the highway and at high rpm. All the horsepower in the world won't assist you if you can't lift that trailer off the ground.