With fuel regulations constantly changing, drivers are getting savvy with their best cost-effective methods of tailoring their cars. One of the more common methods of doing so is turbocharging.
When installed correctly and properly maintained, turbochargers are completely safe to use. Below is a breakdown of what to do when turbocharging your car.
What is turbocharging?
‘Turbocharging’ is the act of fitting a turbocharger to a car to increase fuel efficiency. The turbocharger itself is made up of two ports: the exhaust port and the intake port.
The exhaust port receives the hot gas from the car’s exhaust, and with it, spins a turbine. This is connected to the intake port, which sucks in air and compresses it into the engine.
This means that more fuel can be put into the engine as more air is pushed into the combustion changer. And more fuel equals more power in your car.
The highs and lows of turbocharging
So, what are the benefits of turbocharging, and are turbo engines reliable? Let’s review the pros and cons of turbocharging to find out:
So, what does a turbo do? The main reason for adding a turbocharger is the idea of needing less fuel in your car.
It’s important to know that adding a turbocharger on top of your existing engine will not immediately improve fuel efficiency. Rather, the engine must be downsized and then turbocharged to increase its capacity. The new setup would use less fuel than the original engine whilst still performing at the same rate.
A turbocharger might also improve your car’s performance when driving in higher altitudes. Thinner atmospheres typically mean that it’s harder for a vehicle to get oxygen, but the added power of a turbocharger forces the oxygen into the combustion chamber so your car can breathe just fine.
The bumps in the road
When driving at low speeds, the turbocharger might need a bit more time to start spinning, causing a slight delay between engaging your car’s power and feeling its response. Known as turbo lag, this is because at this stage there won’t be enough exhaust gas passing through the turbines before acceleration.
This isn’t dangerous for the car; it just might affect how it feels to drive if you’re tuned in with how your car usually handles.
Depending on what your future intentions are with your car, the only real risk of adding a turbocharger to your vehicle is that it could lower its resale value. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with installing a turbocharger, future buyers may be concerned with unnecessary wear and tear, or strain put on the engine.
Types of turbocharger
There are six main types of turbochargers, each with its own set of benefits and drawbacks. Before jumping in and buying one, it’s important to know which type will be best for your car and the way that you drive.
Single-turbos are what most people think of as a classic turbocharger. Different sizes can achieve completely different effects within the car: bigger ones provide better top-end power and smaller ones better low-end power. They’re generally the easiest to install, however, they tend to have more turbo lag than other options.
A twin-turbo is a simple as being two turbochargers, typically with one assigned to each cylinder bank. The pros and cons here are very similar to single turbos, but the cost and complexity will naturally both be higher.
Using two scrolls rather than one means that the exhaust gas is more efficiently delivered to the turbo, providing purer air for each cylinder. Unfortunately, twin-scroll turbos require a specific pre-established layout, and again can be more expensive due to their complexity.
Variable geometry turbocharger
VGTs are made in limited numbers because of their material requirements. They only require a single turbo and are effective at a wide RPM range, but are typically only used in diesel engines. This is because exhaust gases are lower, therefore creating less heat damage.
Variable twin-scroll turbocharger
This type of turbo combines the perks of both the VGT and the twin-scroll turbo. Essentially the petrol equivalent of the VGT, the addition of twin-scrolls makes this turbo tougher and therefore acceptable for use in petrol cars. It also tends to be more cost-effective than the VGT.
Electric turbochargers are the best option for removing turbo lag, as it doesn’t matter if your car isn’t producing enough exhaust gases to turn the turbines.
Electric turbines are essentially the fix to most traditional turbocharger problems, but it brings with it its own new set. Namely, cost and complexity; keeping an electric turbo cool is more important than ever before due to the added electric motor. Its added battery can also contribute significantly to the weight of your car.
Looking after your turbo engine
As with anything, there are disadvantages of turbocharged engines, so if you do opt for one, it’s important to take care of it. They need more maintenance than a naturally aspirated engine, and could shorten the lifespan of your engine if not looked after properly.
Turbos typically last 150,000 miles, depending on the car. Because a turbocharger makes your engine more complicated, it generally creates more opportunities for malfunction.
Most turbocharger issues are caused by things that are easily avoidable through regular maintenance, so pay close attention to the oil filter, as this is where most complications occur.
When buying a used car with a turbo engine, be sure to check its condition before purchasing. Black deposits under the oil filler cup or on the oil dipstick indicate poor maintenance in the past, and suggest that it may not last too much longer.
Be cautious of overheating
Remember, it’s hot exhaust gasses that turn the turbocharger’s turbines to begin with, so it’s guaranteed to get very hot very quickly. This is why turbocharged sports car often have vents on the body, to funnel cool air into the engine bay.
The easiest way around this is to simply be mindful of your engine’s temperature when driving. For example, don’t fully accelerate as soon as you get in the car, or park immediately after a long time on the motorway. Your engine will need time to warm up and cool down as you’re using it.
Turbocharge your way at findandfundmycar.com
Whether you’re looking for a pre-turbocharged car or would rather do it yourself, we have plenty of used cars at findandfundmycar.com. With cars all over the UK, you’ll be sure to find the car that’s right for you.
*Remember not to modify your car if it’s on finance without confirmation from your car finance company.