Turbo Kit Tech 101 – Turbocharger Basics

Turbo Kit Tech 101 – Turbocharger Basics


One of the best ways to increase horsepower in your naturally aspirated vehicle is to install a turbo kit. Although turbocharging your car or truck can boost power easily, it requires quite a bit of knowledge and planning to do it properly. When you are considering bolting on a turbo kit, this FAQ guide can help you understand how turbos work. This is part 1 in our multi-part series that will cover turbocharging and what makes it so awesome.

You will find that installing your turbo kit is often the easiest part of the equation. There’s a lot of other factors to think about when planning your turbo install. These considerations can make all the difference in the world, and can prevent disaster. Improper turbo sizing can lead to a car that’s not enjoyable, where as poor parts planning and tuning can destroy your engine. Learn how to plan your turbo kit installation by reading our turbocharger basics below.

How does a turbo kit work?

There are several different components to any turbocharger system. These parts work the same no matter whether you are installing an aftermarket turbo kit or your car was turbo from the factory. For a quick rundown of what makes your turbo vehicle go, check the turbocharger diagram below.

turbo kit 1

Turbo Kit Key : 

A: Turbocharger compressor inlet

B: Compressor air charge

C: Turbo intercooler

D: Engine intake

E: Engine Exhaust

F: Turbocharger turbine inlet

G: Turbo Exhaust

This simple diagram shows what makes a turbocharge go. The basics to understand is that the turbo gets it’s power from the exhaust gases. This is where turbochargers are better than superchargers because it recycles this lost energy to create more power.

The horsepower your engine can generate is based on the simple equation of air and fuel. How much air and fuel you can move is one of the biggest factors to how much power you can make. If you own a small displacement engine and want it to perform like a bigger one, you’ll need to move a lot more air into your engine. Installing a turbo kit can do this for you, but you’ll need to understand what goes into the process first.

The process of turbocharging

If you are wondering what goes into a turbo engine, you can follow along with the diagram above.

A : Air enters into your turbocharger compressor axially through your intake system or piping. This spins your turbocharger and compresses the air which in turn creates boost and increases air density.

B : The compressed air charge exits through your compressor outlet and passes through intake piping. The boost charge will then enter into a cooling mechanism, which is typically an air to air intercooler. There are also other types of intercooling methods, including water to air intercoolers.

C: The intercooler cools the air charge exiting your turbo kit. This condenses the air charge further and lowers intake temperature. The colder the air that enters your engine, the denser and better for reliability and power.

D: Entering into your engine through the intake ports, the compressed air charge increases the amount of air the engine can process. To work in concert with this increased air charge, you will need to deliver the right amount of increased fuel.

E: Combustion of the air charge and fuel mixture occurs, exiting your engine through the turbo kit manifold. The engine’s exhaust stroke then pushes the exhaust gases out and into the turbocharger turbine.

F: The turbocharger turbine provides your engine with backpressure and balance. The increased exhaust pressure spins the turbine which in turns drives the compressor wheel. This is what makes turbocharger systems far superior to superchargers.

What goes into a turbo kit?

There are lots of parts that go into planning your turbo kit. You can safe money by buying cheaper parts from places like Ebay, but it’s almost never a good idea. When entrusting your engine with cheap parts, you are compromising reliability and performance. We aren’t saying it can’t be done, but it’s definitely at your own peril.

Blow Off ValveBlow Off Valve – This is a basic valve that relieves the pressure in your intake piping. Activated by your intake manifold, the BOV is activated when you let off the throttle or shift your transmission.

The operation of the blow off valve is crucial because it allows the built up pressure to escape.

Without proper the right BOV placement and operation, the pressure will charge backwards and slam into your turbo causing stress and compressor surge.

Wastegate – There’s two different kinds of wastegate, and this is one of the most important parts of your turbo kit. Internal wastegates are usually integrated into the Turbosmart Wastegatesturbocharger.

External wastegates are mounted to your exhaust manifold, and require an external egress to route exhaust gases.

Both types of wastegates help control boost pressure by bleeding off the exhaust gases.

People after a high performance turbo kit setup are best served by using an external wastegate.

Boost controllers – No matter what kind of turbo kit you decide on, you need a device to help control boost. This can be done through a mechanical or electronic boost controller. Electronic units can feature fuzzy logic or gear specific boost levels, while manual ones are simple pressure activated valves. They both serve the same purpose, to activate the wastegate and keep boost manageable.

Plumbing – Turbochargers require oil and sometimes even water lines to help keep temperatures down. The plumbing that is involved will require a feed line, and a return line. Although oil and / or water is meant to keep your turbo cool, you should always take some time to cool things down after you’ve had your fun.

When you turn your engine off, your turbo kit will begin to heat soak. This heat soak comes from your exhaust manifold, turbocharger turbine and can cause oil coking which can cause your center cartridge to fail. Devices like turbo timers can help maintain and keep your turbo kit running as strong as the day you installed it.

Have any questions about your turbo kit? Want more information on turbocharging? Head over to part 2 of our turbo FAQ guide for more. Subscribe to My Pro Street to get all the latest in tech tips and DIY guides.