A Garrett turbocharger with integrated wastegate

A Garrett Turbocharger

The turbocharger, or a just simply the turbo, has been around now for more than a century. It was invented by Swiss engineer named Alfred Buchi in 1905 and was first used on the diesel engines of ships and locomotives from the 1920s. It was used on the engines of production airplanes from the 1930s and on truck engines from the late 1940s. But it only found its way onto the car engine of a production vehicle in 1962 when it was used on the Oldsmobile Cutlass Jetfire.

As a forced induction system, a turbo is nothing more than an air pump that is driven by the exhaust gasses of a car engine. It consists of a compressor-wheel and a turbine-wheel that are connected by a common shaft. The compressor increases the density of the air that enters the intake manifold by forcing more air into the intake manifold than what the car would normally ingest. This higher intake air density contains more air molecules and produces more power when combined with the correct amount of fuel. This is similar to the way NOS allows more fuel to be burned by providing extra Oxygen as we explained in our section on Nitrous Injection. The major difference between NOS and a turbo is that the turbo provides a constant supply of extra Oxygen to the car engine while NOS only provides a limited supply.

You've got three options when it comes to turbocharging a car:

  • You can simply buy an OEM turbocharged car such as a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution, a Nissan GT-R, a Nissan 300ZX, a Nissan Silvia spec-R, a Toyota Supra, etc.
  • You can buy an aftermarket turbo kit for your car engine. Here there are many options to choose from. There are Garrett turbo kits, STS turbo kits, Turbonetics turbo kits, and so much more.
  • You can also build your own turbo system, which could be the best approach to car engine turbocharging as it gives you the option to build a system that meets your performance requirements and your objectives.

A complete turbo kit consists of the turbocharger as well as the necessary parts required to bolt the turbocharger onto the car engine. This includes an exhaust manifold, intake runners (plumbing to connect the turbo to the intake manifold), and can include an intercooler as well as cooling and lubrication feed lines for the turbo. When building your own turbo system, selecting the perfect turbo for a particular application can be a real challenge as no one turbo is best suited to all applications.

There are a number of things you need to consider when selecting a turbo. These include:

  • The capacity of your engine.
  • The number of valves.
  • At what RPM to you want the turbo to come in.
  • The type of fuel you plan on using.
  • The turbo boost you plan on running.
  • The amount of horsepower you want.

In this custom-car.us turbo guide, we'll thoroughly explain the mechanics of turbochargers and turbo systems and show you how to design and install your own turbo system. As always, the DIY route is not for everyone and if you'd rather install a turbo kit, we cover that too! For now, we'll start with the turbocharger basics ...