"Torque Is How Far You Move the Wall" Is a Pretty Bad Explanation of Horsepower vs. Torque

Debunking a gearhead cliche, and better understanding the difference between horsepower and torque.

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Dodge

We've all heard the old saying. "Horsepower is how fast you hit the wall. Torque is how far you move it." It's good for a chuckle, and it tries to explain the difference between horsepower and torque. But it's not really a good explanation.

is here to break down the difference between horsepower and torque, and give you a better understanding of what they actually do in practice. The "how far you move the wall" analogy tries to explain the difference between force and work, but it sort of falls short.

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To illustrate the difference, Fenske does a hypothetical exercise comparing an imaginary torquey diesel engine to a high-horsepower, low-torque imaginary gasser. And then he takes it all the way to the extreme by discussing how a Honda S2000 would compare to a Ford F250 in towing a 5000-lb trailer.

So, sure: Buy that t-shirt with the "torque moves the wall" cliche written on it. It's good for a laugh—but don't think of it as a rigorous explanation of physics.

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