How to Buy Used Turbochargers and Parts

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How to Buy Used Turbochargers and Parts

Turbochargers are an exciting addition to a car or motorbike that can add loads of performance power when installed. Many car and motorbike enthusiasts use this technology to add to the speed and efficiency of their engines. Turbochargers recycle an engine's power to increase its responsive capacity, and this transforms autos and motorbikes into performance machines. For those in the market for turbochargers and parts, however, the cost of these components can be intimidating. There are, fortunately, used turbos available in the marketplace that provide a more cost-efficient option.

Consumers prepared with an understanding of how to approach the used marketplace, including how to find and purchase serviceable used parts, can easily find the quality components they need to achieve a turbocharger installation. Although local repair shops may be able to offer some insight into where buyers can find used turbochargers locally, their purchasing experience can be further enhanced by learning how to access some of the larger catalogues of used turbochargers available today on the Internet on sites like eBay.

Understanding Turbochargers

Before looking for used turbochargers, it is important for consumers to make sure they understand how these components work and what performance enhancements they can bring to a machine's performance. Understanding turbochargers is not limited to just understanding their technology, but how they interact with engines and what accessory items they may need to perform optimally.

How Turbochargers Work

In an engine that is naturally aspirated, the air needed for combustion is pulled into the engine's cylinders from the natural atmosphere outside the engine and drawn by the movement of the engine's piston. A turbocharger, on the other hand, uses forced induction to make the intake air much denser than it would be naturally. The turbocharger does this by using its compressor to draw in atmospheric air, compress it, and then shoot it into the intake manifold at high pressure.

Superchargers vs. Turbochargers

When shopping for used turbochargers, consumers may come across items listed as superchargers. These components are sometimes mistaken for turbochargers, but they are actually two separate bits of engineering. Superchargers use mechanical means, such as belts, chains, gears, and various engine components, to power their performance. They are typically used with very large engines that do not experience any drag from a supercharger that might serve as a net loss on performance. Turbochargers are driven only by energy the engine does not need, the exhaust, and this makes them more efficient choices for more compact engines.

The Language of Turbochargers

When shopping for a used turbocharger, it can help the purchasing process if a consumer knows certain terminology that goes along with turbochargers. These terms can facilitate communication with a vendor and help a consumer understand the specs of a turbocharger.

Area/Radius Ratio

A turbocharger's area to radius (A/R) ratio relates to the turbine performance of a unit. The rating essentially defines at what point in an acceleration the turbine kicks in and starts rotating. A lower A/R ratio gives a vehicle a more assertive and quicker response time, making it a good match for drag racing or dirtbiking. A higher A/R ratio, on the other hand, provides a steadier and more balanced acceleration after a less responsive start, and this makes it a better fit for machines that need to deliver sustained performance over a longer period of time.


The boost in a turbo defines the amount of pressure above atmospheric pressure the unit leverages. In the States, this is measured as pounds per square inch, or psi. In the U.K., the boost uses the metric measurement of bars (B). Boost relates to the A/R ratio of a vehicle. If boost is slow on the uptake, it is likely that a turbo's A/R ratio is too large. The A/R ratio of a turbo can get so high that a turbo never turns quickly enough to achieve boost. An A/R ratio that is too low can throw a motorbike or car into boost so abruptly that it is almost uncontrollable.

Turbo Lag

Turbo lag is a delay between a throttle change and the initiation of usable boost. It can feel like a halted response in the throttle when an engine is engaged from idle. It is usually related to inertia, friction, or compressor load in the system.

Understanding Accessory Parts for Turbochargers

There are a range of accessory components that can add value to a turbocharger setup. Being familiar with these accessories and their functions can help consumers achieve some clarity when shopping for used turbochargers.

Accessory Part


Additional Notes

Blow-Off or Bypass Valve

Addresses pressure release in sudden throttle changes from high to low throttle

Also known as BOV

Blow-Through System

Leverages throttle blades to facilitate blow-off

Often found in EFI setups


Compresses the intake air

Surges compressed air into engine

Also known as cold-air-into-engine component


Controls temperature

Leverages heat exchange using air-to-air or air-to-liquid method

Leeches heat from compressor

Alternate technology is water intercooler

Ported Shroud

Relief channel that combats surge

Most often found in high-tech compressors


Rotating component

Serves as the exhaust of a turbocharger

Efficiency is defined by A/R ratio


Addresses the flow entering a turbine, as well as air intake to manifold

Best fit with more compact turbochargers

This table provides a general list of accessory items that work with turbochargers. Consumers should research the viability of any accessory part in relation to their particular machine or setup.

Tips for Buying Used Turbochargers and Parts

Consumers who are interested in purchasing used turbochargers should keep a few points in mind to utilise during the purchasing process. These tips can help guarantee that a consumer purchases a quality turbo solution.

Looking for Signs of Damage to a Turbocharger

Good quality, used turbochargers can be found in a wide array of choices, but it is always best to keep an eye out for any used turbos that may be lacking. It is important for consumers to understand the difference between a cosmetic defect and a structural defect. Rust or a ding, for example, can be just surface issues. Rust that seems to be dimpling the surface, however, and does not look as if it can be sanded away may cause problems. Large dents that look as if they occurred from a flying object or as a result of a wreck can also be signs of significant damage. Any damage to the bearings or any signs that an owner has not kept a unit well-lubricated may also cause issues down the road.

Using Effective Communication When Buying a Used Turbocharger

Another great tool for ensuring a seamless experience when buying a used turbocharger is for a consumer to proactively communicate with a vendor and ask relevant questions. Consumers should feel comfortable asking about the usage history of a part to help ascertain its condition and potential for service. Asking questions can also be helpful if a seller is a seasoned handler of turbos. Consumers can consider using these communications to garner information on a unit's viability in a certain setup or even ask about other recommendations for turbocharger parts and accessories.


Purchasing a used turbocharger for a motorbike or car does not need to be an intimidating or cost-prohibitive process. Fortunately, the market is flush with viable used options that can bring a performance advantage to a machine. Moreover, by employing a few helpful tips and ensuring that they are armed with the right information, consumers can easily find an affordable, used turbo for a motorbike or vehicle. Information about the performance features of a turbo, the lexicon that defines turbo discussion, and the parts that can enhance turbo all influence the purchasing process and make it a more pain-free and enjoyable experience.

With this information in hand, consumers can search for items locally or explore Internet retailers, such as the online aggregator eBay, where they can view listings in detail and even communicate with sellers directly. By following all of these steps, consumers can find the perfect used turbo for any motor or motorcycle.

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