• Turbo Kit 101: Get The Basics on Turbos and How They Work

    If you’re looking for substantial gains in your car’s performance, you might want to consider a turbo kit. A turbocharger is essentially an exhaust driven air compressor. Because your engine is basically an air pump, the power output is directly related to the amount of air that can be introduced into the cylinders. A normal engine is fed by atmospheric pressure, which averages less than 15 pounds per square-inch. A turbo kit can generate power by forcing air into the engine at a much higher pressure, increasing power potential.

    Adding a turbo kit to your vehicle is a complicated process. Forced induction conversions (the addition of a turbocharger or supercharger) should be done with the utmost care and with a thorough understanding of the concepts that allow the system to operate smoothly. Here is a basic explanation of the main components that should be included in any basic turbo kit and what they do.


    The turbocharger is the most obvious component of a turbo kit. A turbocharger is actually a powerful-high volume air compressor driven by waste energy from the engine exhaust. You should remember that not just any turbo will do. The turbo’s capabilities should be carefully matched to the engine and the desired performance.


    Virtually all turbocharger systems will require intercooling for them to function properly. An intercooler is a kind of “air radiator” that cools the compressed intake charge after it leaves the turbocharger and before it reaches the engine. Without an intercooler, the pressurizing process heats the air too much, which can cause dangerous pre-detonation.

    Turbo Manifold and Downpipe

    The turbo manifold mounts the turbo on the engine and places the compressor blades in the exhaust stream so that the turbo can operate. The Downpipe links the turbo with the rest of the exhaust piping, seamlessly linking it into the car’s existing exhaust system.

    Intercooler and Intake Piping

    The intercooler and intake piping connect the engine air filter with the intake port on the turbocharger, the compressor outlet to the intercooler and the intake manifold. Turbo piping has to be stronger than stock components to deal with the extra strain of the pressurized intake stream.

    Oil/Coolant supply lines

    Depending on whether your turbocharger is water cooled, coolant lines may or may not be necessary for your turbo kit. All turbos will require oil supply lines to keep their bearings cooled and lubricated.

    Fuel Management

    Many turbo kits will require a fuel controller to make sure the engine is adding the correct amount of fuel for the extra pressure in the intake charge.

    Using this simple list, you can put together your own home-built turbo kit. Just remember that each of these categories should be accounted for in your completed kit.

    There are also vehicle-specific turbo kits commercially available for a wide variety of cars that contain all the necessary components to perform a turbo conversion Your engine should be in excellent condition before installing a turbo kit, and forged pistons and connecting rods along with iron sleeves may need to be installed depending upon the power levels you want to achieve. You can normally gain between 40-120 horsepower, and even more if you install the high-strength pistons and connecting rods.

    If you choose to perform the installation yourself, be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions exactly. If you choose to have the work done professionally, most turbo kit manufacturers can recommend a qualified installer in your area that specializes in these types of performance parts.