What is Torque ?


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As soon as there is talk about cars and their performance the terms torque and horsepower are thrown in left and right. Power is definitely the term most often used. Most often wrongly.

The concepts of horsepower and torque, how they relate to each other, and how they apply in terms of automobile performance are not common knowledge. Especially when it comes to descriptions of 4WD systems in modern 4x4 SUV and how torque or power is "distributed" one can find the wildest, creative presentations. Most important to know is, that torque makes a vehicle move - not power. Please read also the paper on torque and power at the bottom of this page.

Here is what torque is:

Torque is
a (rotating) force that tends to rotate or turn things

Torque is
the force that accelerates your vehicle.

Torque is
a force created between a source of energy (ie your engine) and resistance ( ie traction ).

Without resistance there is no torque.


If you grab a broom stick with both hands and twist with the right away from you (engine power) and with the left towards you (resistance or traction) the force created is called torque.

If you loosen the grip of your left (less traction) the stick will start slipping (loss of traction). When you let go completely with your left you are still applying force with your right but there is no more torque because there is no resistance.



measured in lbs at the end of a one foot long lever arm.

and will read like this:

200 lbs / ft

200 foot-pound of torque

In countries following the metric system, torque is measured in Nm (Newton meter) - there of course the lever arm would be 1 meter in length.

1 lb/ft = 1.356 Nm and 1 Nm = 0.737 lb/ft

Here is a more detailed description of torque and horsepower

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Harald Pietschmann