The Difference Between Torque and Horsepower

February 22nd, 2018 by

Have you ever wondered what was the difference between Torque and Horsepower? We’ve developed a simple summary to help you learn more on this topic! Read below to keep yourself informed.

Typically, when purchasing a new or pre-owned vehicle, we are bombarded with information and terms that many of us have heard of but couldn’t actually define. Two of these words are horsepower and torque. Most advertisements depict these as being the same, but in reality they are two different things. They are, however, interrelated, as horsepower is dependent on torque. In layman’s terms torque is what gets a car moving and horsepower is what keeps it moving.

Torque is measured as a rotational force, and it may or may not result in motion. For example, if you were using a wrench to turn a bolt the rotation of the wrench would be torque and this rotation can either result in the bolt turning or staying put.  Since torque can be generated without moving an object, once it does move the object it becomes work. Therefore, the more torque an engine has the more potential it has to work . Defined by Gerry Malloy, an automotive journalist,  “torque is the rotating force delivered by the crankshaft to the transmission and, subsequently, to the drive wheels.” Simply put, torque is what gets the car’s wheels turning.

On the other hand horsepower is what keeps those wheels moving and what gets them to move faster. In mathematical terms, horsepower is the power needed to move 33,000 foot-pounds in one minute and in physics terms, power is the rate of doing work (Baxter,2014). Therefore, as outlined above, torque can become work if it moves the object and the rate of that work is the measurement of power.

So how exactly do the two relate and differ? The relationship between horsepower and torque can be shown in a simple formula; power = torque x engine speed (rpm)/k , where K is a constant number that depends on the measuring system being applied (Malloy, 2014). The two also relate by the fact that no matter how much torque is applied, there is no power unless there is motion. One way that they differ is how they are measured. An engine’s torque can be directly measured but power must be calculated. Another way that they differ, is how they are valued in different models of cars. In a light more speed oriented vehicle you will have more horsepower to get it to the speeds it was crafted for, but in a heavy, truck like vehicle you will have more torque to pull heavy materials.

In summary, torque and horsepower are interrelated but are in fact not the same thing. Torque is the force that gets the wheels of a car turning, and horsepower works to keep the car moving.  Therefore, the next time you are looking to purchase a new or pre-owned vehicle make sure you apply your new found knowledge on the difference of torque and horsepower when deciding on the perfect ride.

Baxter, Eric. (2014). What’s the difference between torque and horsepower? Accessed 3/7/2014 From:

Malloy, Gerry. (2014). Understanding power and torque. Accessed 3/7/2014 From: