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The difference between torque and horsepower can be a bit confusing and it’s a question our customers frequently ask us.

TORQUE is a measure of how much force acting on an object causes that object to rotate. Torque is a measurement of energy and isn’t impacted by time. In regard to boating, torque represents power in engines or the amount of work that can be done. Boats with more torque mean less time getting up to speed.

If you’re looking to tow a skier or tuber behind your boat then torque is the amount of force it will take to lift someone out of the water without dragging them and/or getting your boat up on plane. HORSEPOWER is another measurement of power. Horsepower is power measured over time, which is what makes it different from torque.

While torque is the amount of power an engine can exert, horsepower is the “speed” at which that work can be accomplished. Horsepower is important because if you’d like to be able to do water sports behind your towboat, you’ll need an engine with a lot of horsepower to pull your favorite skier, wakeboarder, or surfer all day long (duration).

Remember that the amount of torque the engine has will depend on how much you drag in the water, horsepower is what keeps you out on the water all day long.

Barletta Lusso on water

For boaters who want horsepower, but don’t need torque, there are plenty of options for you.

Here’s an example, a pontoon with a 250 HP engine will have the speed you’re looking for without unnecessary torque. On the other hand, a slow-moving tugboat will have a ton of torque to tow heavy objects, but they aren’t exactly the fastest boats on the water.

Now, let’s discuss engine types.

MasterCraft on water with surfer

Which Type of Marine Engine Has More Horsepower and Torque?

Torque = Horsepower x 5252/RPM (rotations per minute) and by following this formula you can see how a 50 HP outboard engine behind a pontoon is going to have far less torque than the 380 HP Ilmor marine performance engine seen in a MasterCraft XStar.

Going back to our previous example, the MasterCraft XStar would be a perfect fit for someone looking to do water sports due to its high amount of torque and horsepower.

While the 50 HP outboard engine is the perfect engine for those looking for a relaxing cruise behind the wheel of a pontoon. For more information about which engine might be best for you click here.

Crest pontoon pulling tuber

Maintain Your Marine Engine for Maximum Horsepower and Torque

Much like car engines, marine engines require general maintenance in order to operate at their peak performance. In order to get the maximum torque and horsepower out of your engine, it’s important to do the following:

  • Change your engine oil every 50 hours (when applicable, see your manual for the most up-to-date information)

  • Replace worn or old spark plugs.

  • Clean flame arrester (boat engine’s air filter) periodically.

  • Get an engine tune-up every 100 hours.

  • Avoid engine overheats as much as possible.

If you’re worried your engine might need service, here are five common signs we see.


Engine Servicing

Enjoy Your Boat

Now that you understand the importance of horsepower and torque, you can decide what is needed for you and your family. You’ll want to outfit your boat with the motor that will allow you to enjoy time on the water for days and days. For more information on horsepower and torque, feel free to contact our experts at all locations. We will be able to answer any questions you may have in your journey to finding the perfect boat. 

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