Thinking About Adding a Turbo? Here Are 5 Basic Things You Need

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Adding a turbo these days is an easy way to get lots more power, but you have to do it right.

Charles the Humble Mechanic and Jason from Engineering Explained both like fast cars. Both also possess a knack for explaining complex mechanical things at a simple level. That is why they are both internet YouTube stars. Recently they got together to talk about bolting up a turbo kit to a non-turbo car (in this case a VR6-powered VW Jetta) and ran down the five basic things you are going to need (six if you include the car):

  1. Turbocharger
  2. More fuel
  3. Engine-management tune
  4. Improved cooling
  5. Upgraded driveline, chassis, and brakes


5 Things to Know Turbocharger

The Turbo – For his Volkswagen, Charles is using a kit that comes with the ever-popular Garret T3/T4 hybrid. That turbocharger teams a larger compressor with a smaller impeller. That may not be big enough for a Mustang V8 unless you are only going for low boost pressure. A little internet research will help you size it right or just do a Google search for a kit for your car. For a Fox body, here are four suggestions.

More Fuel – You need at least upgraded injectors and most likely a better pump to keep up with the power. Ford sized the system to support about 250 horsepower if we are talking about the 302 cubic-inch/5.0-liter V8. A turbo can make more than 400 horsepower easily.

Engine Management – For real serious power, you want a standalone system that lets you control everything yourself. At the very least, you will need to tweak the factory computer and add wide band CO2 and exhaust gas temperature sensors and gauges. Most Mustang kits —and there are plenty — come with the computer tune.

5 Things to Know Turbocharger

Keeping it Cool – More power makes more heat, so start with a big, thick all-aluminum radiator. The turbo will be lubricated and cooled with engine oil, so a big oil cooler is needed too. If you are just drag racing, you may not need an intercooler, but it is a good idea.

Everything Else – Obviously, more power means you need more grip. Your transmission may need an upgrade. Your brakes that worked great at 90 mph may not stop you so well from 125 mph. On the street or road course, you are going to be entering corners a lot faster, so handling needs an upgrade too.

All these same things apply to the later Mod motor, SN-95, S-197, or S550 too. It doesn’t matter if it’s a four-cylinder, V6, or V8. But, don’t listen to me, take it from two internet gurus on all things cars and mechanical.

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