Car owners are constantly seeking ways to increase their engine’s performance. They want speed, and suspension tuning doesn’t guarantee that. There’s been an ongoing debate on whether turbo engines can increase speed in cars that didn’t originally come with one and you might also be wondering can you put a turbo in any car?
You can put a turbo on any car as it doesn’t change how the engine works. Adding a turbocharger to a naturally aspirated engine (and to find out more, check out our guide on what does naturally aspirated mean) will increase horsepower and torque, a reason they are popular on sports cars.
A turbocharger can increase a regular car’s horsepower by quite a bit if tuned properly. A high horsepower translates into speed which is what you want. This article will help you understand how turbocharging works and what happens when you add a turbo to your car.
What Is A Turbocharger
A turbocharger is a forced induction device that uses exhaust gases to spin an impeller, forcing more air into the engine. The result is more power compared with naturally aspirated engines. Turbocharging also reduces exhaust emissions and pollution.
You can add turbochargers to any internal combustion engine — diesel or gasoline —but it’s most common on diesel-powered vehicles. Diesel engines have higher fuel efficiency than gasoline, so adding a turbo makes it even better.
The device is made up of a turbine, a wheel with vanes, which is housed inside an exhaust system housing. A short central driving shaft connects this turbine to the compressor, a similar vaned wheel that delivers air into the engine’s intake.
Turbochargers offer a considerable increase in engine power with only a slight increase in weight. This advantage is particularly beneficial for race cars, where the significant weight increase would be detrimental to performance.
A naturally aspirated engine is an internal combustion engine in which oxygen intake is provided by atmospheric pressure and does not rely on forced induction through a turbocharger or a supercharger. A crankshaft-driven air pump, roots blower, or centrifugal compressor can be used as air pumps to increase the mass of air entering the engine to make more power.
A naturally aspirated engine can be more efficient than a forced-induction engine of a similar design because it eliminates the parasitic power losses of a supercharger or turbocharger.
This is especially true for very high-output engines, such as those currently found in Formula 1 (for more context, check out our guide on Indy Car vs Formula 1), where the rotational speeds (RPM) are so high that any additional loss of power from an added compressor would be difficult to offset.
In contrast, for a given capacity and technology level, a naturally aspirated engine will produce less torque than a forced induction engine at low RPMs but more at higher RPMs.
The fundamental difference between natural aspiration and forced induction is that in natural aspiration, the fuel/air mixture only enters the cylinders through their intake valves. In contrast, fuel and air enter through their respective induction systems in forced induction engines.
A turbo engine is an internal combustion engine fitted with a turbocharger. A turbocharger is a device used to increase the power of an internal combustion engine by forcing extra air into the combustion chamber.
The exhaust gases exit the engine through a separate turbine which also spins at high speed. You can connect the first one to the second one so that they turn in opposite directions and reduce each other’s effect on torque. When the turbine spins, it drives an air pump that compresses air in front of it.
Compressed air is heated by its contact with hot exhaust gases. If the engine contains a carburetor, a set amount of fuel is automatically taken in with the air. The computer control unit is configured to fit the boost pressures if the engine has fuel injection.
The spin of the turbocharger depends on the engine speed. A fast-spinning engine implies a fast-spinning turbocharger and, consequently, greater power or pressure.
Cheap Turbo Cars
- 2022 Volkswagen Jetta: Starting price $20,365.
- 2022 Mini Cooper: Starting price $22,900.
- 2022 Kia Forte GT: Starting price $19,090.
- 2022 Kia K5: Starting price $23,790
- 2022 Jeep Renegade: Starting price $30,595
Turbo installation can be tricky, but the process is much easier with a quality turbo kit. A turbo kit includes the components necessary for turbo installation, including the compressor wheel and turbine wheel. Turbo kits are available for many cars makes and models, allowing you to find one that fits your specific vehicle easily.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: What To Do Before You Turbocharge Your Car
When modifying your naturally-aspirated engine with a turbo, you’ll need to alter the engine’s air and fuel intake. You’ll be increasing fuel combustion in the engine, and for that to happen, you’ll increase the amount of air that flows into the air intake. Fuel supply has to shoot up too. Here are modifications to effect before adding a turbo to your car engine.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #1. The Fuel System
Your factory injectors and fuel pump may not be sufficient for the power boost. You can change both for higher-flow components that can keep up with system tuning.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #2. The ECU
The ECU is responsible for accurately measuring and watching fuel and airflow. Therefore, the engine requires a reworked ECU and updated injectors to keep up with the incoming air. Get a performance ECU that can handle fuel maps that you’ll alter to suit your new turbocharger system.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #3. Exhaust Manifold
Get a good exhaust manifold that can withstand high temperatures and pressures. Some kits include everything you need and are made to bolt-on.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #4. Compression Ratio
Although certain automobiles may permit a minor boost on standard internals, lowering the engine’s compression ratio is necessary. Get some new conrods, a forged crankshaft, and pistons for your engine. These components will help reduce the compression ratio and keep your engine safe.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #5. Intercooler And Water Injectors
Turbocharging an engine increases the strain on the internal parts and raises the probability of premature ignition where gasoline ignites uncontrollably. The result is detonation or knocking. Installing intercoolers and water injectors may help prevent this.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #6. Clutch
The additional power may cause your clutch to wear down more quickly, and your vehicle’s clutch may not withstand it. Upgrade to a performance clutch to prevent it from sliding when you engage it.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: How To Install Turbo
- Take out the old gasket from the exhaust manifold and pipe.
- Plug the turbo directly on the exhaust manifold using the new O ring or gasket.
- Attach the exhaust pipe.
- Put the bolts and nuts to the proper torque.
- Add a new oil drain to the turbo and pour in fresh oil. They shouldn’t be close to heat sources.
- Install the oil feed line.
- Fix the inlet and outlet air hoses on the turbo compressor housing. The connection must be airtight.
Naturally Aspirated Vs Turbo
In a naturally aspirated engine, the motion of the pistons draws the air-fuel mixture into the engine. A turbocharged engine uses a turbine to force air into the cylinders. The main difference between naturally aspirated and turbocharged engines is how they achieve power.
Turbocharged engines produce more energy at higher RPMs and suffer from decreased low-end torque. Naturally aspirated engines have more low-end torque but lack the high-end ability necessary for higher speeds.
Most modern turbocharged engines make their peak power at lower rpm than their naturally aspirated counterparts, so they’re perfect for high-revving sports cars.
There are downsides to turbos, though. First, they are expensive. Secondly, several moving parts can break or wear out over time if not properly maintained.
Thirdly, they require extra fuel delivery equipment (more injectors and lines), and they can create lag when they spool up because the compressor does not use all exhaust gases. There’s still some excess pressure from the exhaust manifold. You need to vent the pressure through an exhaust system.
Best Turbo Cars
- 2021 Karma GSe-6
- 2022 Volkswagen Golf GTI
- 2022 Honda Civic
- 2022 Hyundai Sonata
- 2022 Audi A3
Small Turbo Kit
A small turbo kit is reliable if it’s a quality unit. A poorly built kit can have many problems, including low power output and blowing up. When choosing a small turbo kit, you should consider the manufacturer and the components used in the unit. Small turbo kits have fewer parts than larger ones, but they spool faster.
Small Engine Turbo Kit
You can use a small engine turbo kit to increase the power output of your vehicle. It comprises several components, including a turbocharger and exhaust system. These turbo kits come with the necessary parts you need for installation. Several different types of turbo kits are available, so choose the one that fits your needs.
Turbo For Truck
Turbochargers improve the efficiency of both car and truck engines by increasing the air that can be taken in and mixed with fuel. The result is more power from the same engine. Chevrolet Colorado Duramax comes with a 2.8-liter Turbo-Diesel engine.
Turbochargers cost between $500 to $1,000, depending on the manufacturer and type of kit. Turbocharging is expensive since it requires particular parts like turbos, intercoolers, and piping, as well as modifications like tuning and adding larger injectors or exhaust manifolds (depending on your vehicle).
Aftermarket turbos can sometimes be made with low-quality materials, especially cheaper units, so they’re not reliable as an OEM turbo. Consider buying an OEM turbocharger kit if you plan to modify your engine heavily. OEM turbos should provide years of reliable service with minimal maintenance. Or at the very least, be wary when buying aftermarket turbos, and make sure you pick the right ones for your car. As well as, buying one from a reputable brand and seller.
Most Reliable Turbo Cars
- Audi Sport Quattro
- Saab 900 Turbo
- Porsche 930 Turbo
- Ford Sierra RS Cosworth
- Renault 5 GT Turbo
The specifications you’ll find on a new turbocharger include:
- Inducer and exducer: Their values refer to the turbine wheel and compressor wheel size.
- Trim: The trim refers to the amount of air the compressor can move. You can calculate it from the compressor inducer squares divided by the exducer and square multiplied by 100. A number denotes the trim. The higher the trim value, the more power the turbo will add to your vehicle.
- Area to Radius ratio(A/R): The area to radius ratio is the turbine housing size.
Turbochargers are rated by how much air they can move at any RPM. A bigger compressor wheel will produce more power than a smaller one, but it will also take more horsepower from your engine just to spin it up to operating speed (turbo lag).
Different Types Of Turbos
There are six different types of turbos used in cars.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #1. Single Turbos
Single-turbos are the simplest type of turbocharger made up of a turbine wheel and a compressor wheel. The turbine wheel is connected to the exhaust manifold on one end, and the compressor wheel is connected to the intake manifold on the other.
Although they add power to cars, drivers frequently feel “turbo-lag” before the turbo starts to perform inside its peak rev range. They also tend to operate optimally within a limited RPM range.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #2. Twin-Turbo
Twin-turbo systems are generally more complex and expensive than single turbochargers; it’s the addition of a second turbocharger to an engine. You achieve this by designating a single turbo to operate with each cylinder bank as in V6 or V8 engines with two cylinder banks. An alternative would be to employ one smaller turbo at low RPMs and a larger turbo at higher RPMs, so they work sequentially.
Twin sequential turbocharging enables a larger working RPM range, improved torque at low revs (reducing turbo lag), and power at high RPMs.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #3. Twin-Scroll Turbo
A twin-scroll turbocharger has two separate exhaust passages that feed into the turbine wheel. With this configuration, exhaust gas is sent to the turbo more effectively, which results in denser, purer air being delivered to each cylinder.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #4. Variable Geometry Turbocharger
A ring of aerodynamically formed vanes is often present at the turbine inlet of VGTs. These vanes revolve in turbos to change the cross-sectional area and the angle of the gas swirl. These internal vanes change the turbo’s area-to-radius (A/R) ratio to correspond to the engine RPM, providing maximum performance.
Low A/R ratios enable the turbo to spool up at low RPMs by boosting exhaust gas velocity quickly. Higher rpm cause the A/R ratio to rise, allowing more airflow producing a wide and smooth torque band and a low boost threshold to reduce turbo lag.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #5. Variable Twin-Scroll Turbocharger
This technology uses a valve that can send the exhaust airflow to only one scroll or, by adjusting the amount the valve opens, enable the exhaust gases to be shared between the two scrolls. The VTS turbocharger design offers a more affordable and reliable alternative to VGT turbos, making it a feasible choice for gas engines.
Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car: #6. Electric Turbochargers
An electric turbocharger consists of an electric motor that spins up the compressor at low rpm and from start to finish until the exhaust volume’s power is sufficient to operate the turbocharger. Their benefits include reduced turbo lag, better fuel efficiency, and lower emissions.
Although there are certain drawbacks, it seems that electronic turbos are the solution to all of the weaknesses of conventional turbochargers.
Turbo VS Twin Turbo
The main benefit of using a single turbo is that it’s less expensive and requires relatively lower maintenance than twin-turbo systems. A twin-turbo setup is more costly and more complicated than a single turbo setup. However, they add more power to the engine.
Turbo Without Intercooler
You can install a turbo on your car without an intercooler. However, we do not recommend it. An intercooler is a heat exchanger that reduces the temperature of the charge air leaving the turbocharger. The air cools and condenses, reducing. When this happens, the quantity of fuel/air mixture delivered to the engine increases, and higher power output is generated.
Turbocharging a Naturally-Aspirated Car: What You Need to Know
- Adding a turbocharger to a naturally-aspirated engine does not fundamentally change how the engine works.
- A turbocharger compresses more fresh air into the combustion chamber, resulting in more power.
- Turbocharging can be complex due to factors such as different-sized turbos, vane geometries, and intercoolers.
- Aftermarket intakes and exhausts do not offer much for naturally-aspirated engines, but for forced-induction engines, it’s a different story.
- To make more power, the engine needs a modified ECU, upgraded injectors, and an upgraded fuel pump.
- Turbocharging can damage the engine if used improperly, which is why larger valves, increased port size, and stronger pistons may be necessary.
- Turbocharged engines require careful consideration when it comes to boosting settings to avoid detonation, which can damage the engine.
- Caring for a turbo involves more frequent spark plug changes, avoiding lugging the engine, and using high-quality oil with frequent changes.
- Turbos can be lubricated by engine oil, but low-quality oil, infrequent changes, or shutting off the engine immediately after driving can lead to turbo failure.
- Tuning companies like Flyin’ Miata offer complete turbo kits that can add power without the need for injector upgrades.
Frequently Asked Questions About Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car
Here are some popular FAQs:
How Does A Turbo Work
The pressure from the exhaust gas spins the turbo turbine causing it to turn the compressor wheel attached to it. The compressor draws air from the engine’s exhaust manifold, compresses it, and feeds it back into the intake manifold. Since a turbocharged engine can deliver more air to burn more fuel, it creates more power than a naturally aspirated engine of similar capacity and rotational speed. This improvement over a naturally aspirated engine’s power output comes at the expense of a slight increase in fuel consumption, but not enough to counteract the gain in performance.
How Much HP Does A Turbo Add
A turbocharger can increase the horsepower output by roughly 70 to 150 HP. Forced induction increases the air pressure in the intake manifold, allowing more air to flow into the cylinders. We use turbochargers on gasoline engines or diesel engines, but they are more commonly used on diesel engines because they have higher compression ratios and so need more air to burn fuel.
What Does A Turbo Do
A turbo increases the power output of an internal combustion engine by compressing air that’s forced into the engine. By increasing air in the combustion chamber, more fuel burns, and more power is generated. The forced induction provided by a turbocharger can dramatically improve an engine’s performance at high speeds when compared with naturally aspirated engines.
What Does A Turbo Look Like
The exterior of the turbo looks like a snail. It’s typically made with aluminum or alloys of hard metals like Titanium and Magnesium. The turbocharger consists of the compressor and turbine. The compressor consists of a wheel that compresses air and sends it into the engine.
How Much Is A Turbocharger
The typical cost of a turbocharger is between $500 to $1000, depending on the car type and model. Smaller cars will require minimal horsepower; you may find a turbo for such vehicles at a reduced rate. The labor cost varies by region technician.
Can You Have A Supercharger And A Turbo
You can have a supercharger and a turbo on the same engine. Each device operates differently. A supercharger is an air compressor driven by the engine’s crankshaft, while the turbocharger uses exhaust gases to spin an impeller that compresses intake airflow. The energy needed to turn a turbo comes from exhaust gases rather than directly from the crankshaft. That’s why you should pair turbos with exhaust-driven wastegate valves that regulate how much exhaust gas flows through the turbine wheel.
Can You Turbo An Automatic Car
You can turbocharge both automatic cars and manual transmission cars. The reason most people want to turbocharge their automatic is so they can get better performance and economy from their vehicle. Turbocharging forces extra air into the engine, which increases its power.
Are Turbo Engines Reliable
Turbo engines are reliable, but there have been complaints about the turbocharged engine computer. The reliability of the turbo engine depends on the car brand. Some automakers do their best to design quality engines while others don’t. You may have to read reviews before buying a car with a turbocharged engine.
How Much HP Does A Twin Turbo Add
A twin-turbo can add between 100 to 250 hp to the engine. A twin-turbo consists of two turbochargers connected in series or parallel. A single turbo adds about 70 to 150 hp to the car engine. The combination generates more power than a single turbocharger would.
Can You Supercharge Any Car
You can supercharge any car but be ready to upgrade the fuel injectors and fuel rails. You also need to ensure that your vehicle has the right engine and drivetrain configuration. Supercharging adds about 50-100 horsepower to the engine, so it’s worth it. You can mount your supercharger before or after the throttle body. If you mount your supercharger before the throttle body, it increases pressure by compressing atmospheric air before entering your engine. If you mount it behind the throttle body, it increases pressure by compressing air from inside your carburetor or intake manifold.
What Size Turbo Do I Need
To pick the right turbo size, you’ll calculate the compressor ratio you need. It is the value of the absolute discharge pressure (psi) to absolute suction pressure. Also, consider the size of the engine you’re trying to support. The bigger the engine, the bigger the turbo you need. Some people run small turbos on big engines because they like the powerband and don’t mind sacrificing some top-end power.
What Happens When The Turbo Goes On A Diesel
When a turbo goes on diesel, it’s usually a sign that the engine has some serious problems. The turbo is a delicate part of the engine; if it breaks, you’ll know it immediately. When a turbo fails, the engine can lose power, overheat and even stop running. If you notice any performance issues with your vehicle, have it inspected by a professional mechanic as soon as possible.
How Many Turbos Can A Car Have
Two seems to be the standard number of turbos for vehicles, but there are luxury vehicles with three turbos. The quartet of Bavarian luxury models and Bentley Bentayga are examples of cars with more than two turbos. These vehicles are expensive, and the turbo engine contributes to their high cost.
Conclusion On Can You Put A Turbo In Any Car
Turbochargers can deliver more power to an engine. They work by using an exhaust-driven turbine to compress the engine’s air entering, creating a more dense fuel/air mixture that will burn better. Can you put a turbo in any car? You can turbocharge any car’s engine with a suitable kit. However, it’s complicated and expensive.