Torque And Horsepower In Cars And Their Importance

 In purchasing a car, no one (except the affluent, maybe) would be happy to see a lot of numbers in the price tag. If pockets could speak, they would probably cry out “bankrupt!” However, people especially car buffs would most likely jump out of excitement seeing a car’s bigger power numbers. The dealer then starts explaining the car’s features and specs. He talks about things like horsepower and torques. And you look so innocent about these things that you just nod your head while your eyes feast on the car of your dreams. Don’t frown because some drivers do not even know what their car’s horsepower and torque can do. You’re not alone, dear.

Before you break your piggy bank and crash your bank account for that dream car, you should learn how to choose the car model that suits your needs. One of the things you should know is about horsepower and torques and how these affect a car’s performance. Debates and issues circle around these two for years. Varied and related opinions are gathered to create a more comprehensive definition of the two. Let’s see how different and similar horsepower and torque are and how important are these for your car.

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One can visualize some horses galloping on the plains while stepping on a man. The total of fractures and damages the man gets after is the horsepower. Do disregard this statement.

Remember your physics class in high school which taught you that rate at which the work is done is power. In a car’s engine, the produced power is called horsepower.

A Scottish engineer named James Watt coined the term horsepower and discovered its concept. He studied and enhanced the steam engine’s performance efficiency and was credited for it.

Brief history

To substitute 12 horses, a sawmill ordered an engine from Watt’s business in the year 1782. By using the information from the sawmill, Watt identified that a draft horse in London could labor 22,000 foot-pounds a minute in eight hours of the day. Calculating and estimating, he characterized one horse’s power as the ability to move 33,000 pounds 1 foot per minute, or 550 pounds 1 foot in one second.

To simplify, in Watt’s conclusion, a horse can raise 33 pounds of coal from a 1000 feet coal mine in a minute, or 330 pounds of coal from 100 feet per minute, or 1000 pounds a minute from 33 feet mine. Whatever combination will do as long as its product is equal to 33,000 foot-pounds per minute.

Horsepower can be changed into other units as follows:

  • 1 horsepower is equal to 746 watts

If a 1-horsepower horse is situated in on a treadmill, a generator producing 746 watts could be operated.

  • 1 horsepower is equal to 2, 545 BTU (British thermal units)

746 watts ran through an electric heater in one hour can produce 2, 545 BTU.

  • 1 BTU is equivalent to 1, 055 joules, or 0.252 food calories, or 252 gram-calories

A 1-horsepower horse can burn 641 calories with 100% efficiency in one hour.


In the 2009 New York Auto Show, it was revealed that the new Mercedes has 369 foot-pounds of torque. What does this mean? wrote a comprehensive article about the importance of torque in car performance. It stated that torque’s measurement is pound-feet and signifies the rate of twisting force is at work. In other words, it is the amount of turning power a car possesses. It is the same as turning a wench or removing a cap from the bottle. It is the twisting force applied to an object.

In the new Mercedes having 369 foot-pounds, if a 1-foot long wench is available and you apply a 369 pounds force directly at a 90-degree angle to the wench, you have 369 foot-pounds of torque.

What moves the car in lower speed is the torque. The car’s rate of movement from a complete idle to jumping off the line depends greatly upon the torque it has. As what car enthusiast Jay Leno said, “Horsepower sells cars, torque win races.” Nonetheless, when the car starts moving, it is necessary to have lesser torque and more horsepower to maintain speed and acceleration. This situation illustrates the big difference between bottom-end and top-end power.

Once the torque of an engine is identified, horsepower can be determined by the formula- torque times rpm, then divided by 5, 252. Amidst this formula, torque is scientifically calculated but horsepower is not.

 Horsepower vs. Torque

car engine

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Bear in mind that torque is the amount of twisting force applied to an object while horsepower is the percentage at which it is brought to the object. Basically, horsepower rises up when torque lowers down. The performance of both horsepower and torque depends on the gearing of the engine’s transmission, axel, differentiations, and other aspects. Cars have various rates of horsepower and torque depending on the prioritized specs of the car. Some have more horsepower but lesser torque and vice versa.

Importance of Horsepower and Torque

 Before discussing their importance, let’s take a look at the statements of the following engine experts to guide us:

“Horsepower can sell the car and the engine. But torque can move the car.”-Kevin McClelland

“It will only take torque to get your car moving.”- Dick Miller

“Horsepower is what pulls, pushes, drags and shoves your car towards the friction-filled world…”-Harold Bettes

“Want to run a bit faster? Then, you must know that it is all about the horsepower…”- Judson Massingill

“Torque is the means for you to quickly gain the speed you want; horsepower is what will keep you in there.”- Charles Hubbard

Horsepower or torque-which is which? Let’s review the concepts tackled in this article particularly how horsepower and torque work and how important these are in the car performance.

The rotational force around a point is the torque. It is what pushes people back against the seat during acceleration. This force is generated by the engine and delivered through the system towards the wheels. So, more torque means further acceleration.

Car advertisements boast high horsepower that in, turn attracts people. Horsepower is the power produced by a car engine. It is necessary for the quickness of car movements. Car manufacturers, despite being imaginative regarding their products, need a more specific definition. But in lay man’s term, horsepower is the work completed over time.

Remember that Horsepower is the rate on how quick your car can move while Torque is how fast the speed can be attained. Amidst confusion between the two and the issue of which is more important, bear in mind that both are needed to move a car and that they are related specs. Both need each other to make the work done and satisfy the car owner.  Choose a good balance between both to ensure a satisfying car performance.

Knowing the concepts, difference, and the importance of horsepower and torque is necessary to equip oneself from the variety of car models and brands to be chosen from. Remember, the outside aspects of an auto may be deceiving but the inside features are the ones doing most of the work. So be a wise car buyer. Learn the trade, know the numbers, and pick the best car that suits your kind of speed. Don’t forget to consider the horsepower and torque that make car movement possible.

Picking a car is just like knowing a person inside and outside. Learn to examine the parts in order to ensure a longer and stronger friendship with your car. Drive safe!

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