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Horsepower and Torque: The Difference

Horsepower and torque: The difference

A vehicle’s two top performance metrics bandied about by car enthusiasts are horsepower and torque. You will find them peppered all over every vehicle’s spec sheet, animated and bolded in every comparison video online, and plastered several times in reviews. But only a handful of individuals truly know the meaning of each metric and the significant differences between them.

Knowing what horsepower and torque stand for is highly essential, whether you’re buying a brand-new or used car. Not understanding the differences between these two metrics can result in poor decision-making when you want to buy your next vehicle.

Horse and torque are part of the metrics that indicate how a car engine or transmission will perform. This alone shows that you shouldn’t take these metrics at face value. Therefore, analyzing them is highly crucial. This is where brushing up on the basics becomes essential.

What is Horsepower?

Horsepower is a unit measurement of power, defined as the rate via which a vehicle engine performs work – as generated by torque. In simple language, horsepower is an excellent indicator of a car’s speed. 

A vehicle’s horsepower depends on its rotations per minute (RPM) and torque. In many cases, your vehicle’s engine won’t be pushed until it accomplishes peak performance. This is why it is very rare for car engines to reach the listed number indicating their total horsepower.

What is Torque?

Torque is the force the rotational movement of your vehicle’s crankshaft generates. It is the primary reason the wheels of your car spin when you press down the gas pedal. It is the precise amount of force you apply to an object in a twisting motion.

As this force acts on an object, it translates automatically to work. Simply put, torque is your vehicle’s ability to perform work or a unit measure of strength.

Differences Between Horsepower and Torque

As you can see, the definitions of horsepower and torque are different, though intertwined. This is because one cannot do without the other regarding the overall performance of a vehicle’s engine. It must also be mentioned that the amount of horsepower and torque a vehicle has significantly affects the overall rate of the wear and tear the vehicle experiences.

They share two similarities: both metrics are essentially byproducts of your vehicle’s engine when you switch on the ignition and press the gas pedal. They are also involved in converting fuel and air within the vehicle’s engine into the energy required for your vehicle to move.

That being said, here are the significant difference between horsepower and torque:

1. Horsepower and Torque Measure Different Things

In simple words, torque is a method of measuring force, as mentioned earlier. But horsepower is all about the power the engine transfers to the vehicle’s wheels. This is mostly based on the weight of the vehicle, the distance the car covers, as well as the time it takes to cover that specific distance.

One of the simplest ways of calculating horsepower is to multiply torque, i.e., force, by rotations per minute.

2. Torque is Crucial for Towing; Horsepower Focuses on Performance

Torque should be your ultimate concern or target if you regularly haul campers, trailers, boats, etc. This is crucial as it helps to minimize strain on your vehicle while contributing positively to pulling the extra load.

Torque helps your vehicle start and even navigate hills. This makes it much more powerful and impactful than horsepower as it keeps your car engine running smoothly while hauling heavy loads. 

Vehicles with higher torques – such as heavy-duty trucks, etc. – may require a bit more time in order to accelerate. However, the low-end power nature of torque is responsible for making haulage possible in the first instance.

On the other hand, horsepower is all about the vehicle’s performance. Cars with high horsepower are primarily designed for car owners who want lots of power and speed under the hood. The higher the rating of a vehicle’s horsepower, the faster it will go relative to its overall size.

For instance, a sports car and a large sedan may share the same horsepower rating. However, the sports car will outpace the other vehicle simply because it is more compact or lighter. Vehicles with lots of horsepower also offer exceptional handling on the roads.

This does not imply that vehicles with higher horsepower ratings don’t need torque. They do; in fact, such vehicles rely heavily on torque. However, most vehicles nowadays are designed such that they have the perfect balance between horsepower and torque, which offers the best driving experience.

3. Horsepower and Torque Work Differently for the Acceleration of a Vehicle

As you press the gas pedal of your vehicle, there is a combination of horsepower and torque. But regarding how your vehicle accelerates, both metrics have unique functions. 

Summed up briefly, the primary job of torque is to ensure your car moves when you initially hit the gas pedal, i.e., accelerate. But when the vehicle is in motion, horsepower is left with the responsibility of getting you up to and efficiently maintaining speed for your drive.

4. Horsepower and Torque Have Different Impacts on the Fuel Efficiency

Everyone who desires to purchase a car will probably make fuel efficiency a vital factor to look out for.

Horsepower and torque have significant impacts on fuel efficiency but in different ways. For instance, the more horsepower a particular vehicle has, the faster it burns fuel, whether under standard driving conditions or on acceleration.

On the other hand, a vehicle with a low-end torque burns fuel slowly, depending considerably on your typical hauling and driving habits. This shows the different impacts both metrics have on any vehicle’s fuel efficiency.

Amp Up Horsepower and Torque for Solid Performance

The importance of horsepower and torque when it comes to the overall performance of a vehicle’s engine cannot be overstated. However, knowing the considerable differences between these two performance metrics will go a long way in helping you make the right buying decision whenever you’re in the market for a new or used car.

This doesn’t imply that everything you know about a vehicle’s performance is all lies. Horsepower still matters a lot and continues to be an incredibly useful metric. The only thing is the disproportionate emphasis most people place on it. When you step on the gas pedal, what you generally feel is nothing but torque.

Shop Torques, Converters, and More at Gearstar

Looking to upgrade or replace your torque? Shop with us at Gearstar. We have a range of torques to choose from for Ford, GM, and Mopar transmissions.

For all other questions, send us a line through our online contact form or by phone. You may also check out our resources and support section for how-tos and more.

Our Favorite High-Performance Transmissions

High Performance Transmissions - Gearstar

Gearstar specializes in high performance transmissions. Find out which are our favorite! Get started with Gearstar and learn what makes us different.

Are you shopping around for a GM high-performance transmission? You are welcome since this is the right place to get one. Gearstar is highly committed to engineer and builds the most satisfactory GM and Chevy high-performance transmissions that are hand-built and customized to handle as much as 1000 ft.-lbs. torque and 1200 horsepower.

Each high performance is put together by one technician – from scratch, i.e., from start to finish – using premium-quality parts on the market today. The transmissions are perfectly engineered and built to the horsepower, rear gear ratio, and torque specs of every engine it will be matched with. 

Every high-performance transmission undergoes a thorough dynamo test for up to 1000 miles to validate its excellent working condition before leaving the Gearstar facility. Each driveline component is built with the highest quality constituents, including the latest updates.

Why Refer to a Transmission as ‘High Performance’?

A high-performance transmission is usually – and much more likely – utilized for engineered and built engines for performance and speed. 

This gear mechanism used to be limited to only vehicles used exclusively for racing on the drag strip or street racing. However, over the years, there has been a lot of blurring of the line.

Many car enthusiasts these days are no longer reserving specific vehicles for those times. They are now outfitting their unique daily drivers to make them versatile enough to conform to numerous roles.

This often implies restoring and modifying their existing muscle automobiles to meet both objectives – i.e., be a reliable daily driver during the day and tear up the street or track by night or on weekends.

Matching the Engine and High-Performance Transmissions

It is vital to match your vehicle’s transmission to its engine; therefore, do not spend too much money on modifying the engine.

This is where high-performance transmission comes on the scene. To fully utilize your car engine, you must get the converter and transmission to back it up. 

High-performance transmissions provide both the speed and power that you need to get or reach peak performance, thanks to your racing engine. This includes other high-performance types of engines.

This is why you need to ensure that your high-performance transmission builder and engine builder agree or are on the same page from the beginning of the project until it is completed. 

When you are crystal-clear upfront about what you expect regarding speed, power, durability, and performance, the two builders can work together and produce the results you need in record time.

This makes Gearstar different, as you will always get the specs you request without any alteration.

The Different High-Performance Transmissions Gearstar Offers

Gearstar offers a wide range of high-performance transmissions that you can select to match your engine. Here are some of Gearstar’s lineup of GM high-performance transmissions highlighted in no particular order:

  • Ford – AOD: Level 2, 3, and 4 transmissions
  • AODE: Levels 2, 3, and 4 transmissions
  • C4: Levels 2, 3, and 4 transmissions
  • C6: Level 4 transmission
  • E4OD: Level 3 transmission
  • 4R70W: Levels 2, 3, and 4 transmissions

You will also find the following high-performance transmissions on Gearstar:

  • GM – Turbo TH350 (Level 2, 3, and 4): Stage 1 TH350 can take up to 450hp. Stage 2 holds up to 550hp. It can take from 300-350 ft./lbs. torque.
  • Turbo 400 TH400 (Level 2, 3, and 4): It can take up to 400-450hp and is rated at 450 ft./lbs. input torque.
  • 700R4 (Level 1, 2, 3, and 4): It is suitable for up to 550hp max but can do as much as 625hp. Its torque varies considerably according to its production year. But it is known to generate a maximum engine torque of about 350 ft./lbs. as well as a maximum gearbox torque of 650 ft./lbs.
  • 200-4R (Level 2, 3, and 4): It can handle up to 350-400hp on the street and 400-450hp on the track, as well as 675 ft./lbs. torque.
  • 4L60E (Level 2, 3, and 4): It is rated 450hp and 425 ft./lbs. torque.
  • 4L65E (Level 2, 3, and 4): It can handle up to 425-450hp. Built solely for Chevrolet, it has a stock torque limit of up to 380 ft./lbs. torque.
  • 4L65E C5C6 (Level 4): It can handle up to 650hp and up to 650 ft./lbs. torque.
  • 4L70E (Level 4): It can handle as much as 375hp and 350 ft./lbs. torque.
  • 4L80E (Level 2, 3, and 4): It is powered with a magnificent 800hp and generates up to 700 ft./lbs. torque.
  • 4L85E (Level 4): It is powered by a whopping 1000hp and up to 460 ft./lbs. torque.

Each Gearstar high-performance transmission is available at different price points. The power your classic vehicle has will determine the horsepower you will need, and much better engines will require a Level 3 transmission at least.

Gearstar makes every high-performance transmission that can ably handle your build with strong parts and premium-quality steel.

Every high transmission needs regular maintenance, repair, or replacement. Transmissions generally wear away every 150,000 to 200,000 miles. If your transmission has reached either limit, it is high time you changed it.

Fortunately for you, Gearstar has several new options available at affordable prices. An industry-leading warranty and thorough inspection heavily back these high-performance transmissions.

High-performance transmissions give profound peace of mind as your classic racer keeps running, and there’s zero stalling on and off the track.

High Performance Transmissions: Conclusion

As you can see, Gearstar has an excellent lineup of premium-quality, high-performance transmissions designed to match any engine of your choice. Every transmission is engineered, custom-built, and optimized – from scratch or start to finish – by a master technician, so there’s zero room for errors.

Every high-performance transmission that Gearstar features is designed and built per the torque, horsepower, and rear gear ratio specs of the particular engine it is created for.

Since every high-performance transmission is dyno-tested for an equivalent of up to 100 miles for best performance metrics, Gearstar’s products are warranted against failure for up to 36,000 miles or three years, whichever comes first right from the date of shipment.

So, what are you waiting for? Order your high-performance transmission from Gearstar today!

Gearstar Sponsored

Annual Car Show

Car Shows while you dreamThe River of Life Church, located in Chagrin Falls Ohio, boasts the annual ROL Car Show every summer.  The cold weather in North East Ohio makes the summer months truly a treasured time. This especially rings true for car enthusiasts.  The weather reports showed rain in the forecast the entire week leading up to the event. Behold, the blessings of warm weather, the sun shining, family, friends, food and most importantly a record number of show quality cars.

Gearstar Sponsored

Gearstar remains motivated in the realm of all things car related and sponsoring a car show sure meets the criteria. A Gearstar sponsored annual car show at The River of Life Church offers a chance to be a part of something more significant. The River of Life Church maintains a worldwide presence in ministry. While the car show had its benefits, the proceeds from the wonderful event are to benefit ROL missions. To think we got to enjoy a day of automotive bliss with friends, family, food and entertainment. Meanwhile, the fruits of our enjoyment ultimately find their way to less fortunate individuals.  Truly a win win situation and definitely a great time. Check out some of the photos and most importantly video footage of the burnouts on exit.


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