The Complete Guide to Buying Turbochargers on eBay

Like if this guide is helpful
The Complete Guide to Buying Turbochargers on eBay

By fitting a turbocharger to an engine it is possible to significantly increase its performance without increasing the engine's capacity and size. Turbochargers can bring improvement in power of as much as 40 percent.

Because turbochargers vary so widely in their design and their use, it is essential to research turbochargers before buying one. This ensures that the buyer chooses the correct model of turbocharger for their needs, thereby avoiding a purchase turning into a costly mistake.

If the buyer is planning to install a turbocharger, it is important to have access to a wide choice of components as possible, to ensure that the parts selected are suitable for the engine and purpose intended. eBay has listings for turbochargers designed for use in a very wide range of applications, as well as a wide variety of individual turbocharger parts. eBay also offers competitive prices on turbochargers. In order to find the correct turbocharger on eBay, it is important to know how to navigate the site's search platform effectively.

What Is a Turbocharger?

A turbocharger is a rapidly spinning device that uses the waste exhaust gases from an engine to increase that engine's performance. It achieves this by compressing the gases and using the gases to force more fuel and air mixture into the engine's combustion chamber. Since the amount of power that an engine produces is determined by the amount of fuel burned, it stands to reason that by burning more fuel, the turbocharger increases the power output of the engine.

Fuel cannot be forced into the engine without adding air, as without enough air the fuel does not burn cleanly. The correct ratio of fuel to air varies depending on the fuel being used, but typically the ratio should be between about 1:11 and 1:15. Therefore, when choosing a turbocharger, it is the device's capacity to move air, its airflow, that is the key factor.

Uses for Turbochargers

Turbochargers are suitable for boats, large horsepower diesel lorries, and motorbike, as well as petrol and diesel cars. Sometimes turbochargers are factory-fitted by the car manufacturer, while other times it is necessary to buy a third party unit and adapt it or just fit it, as the case may be.

Petrol Engines for Cars

Turbochargers are used both to increase performance for a given engine size, and to improve fuel efficiency. For city driving, low pressure turbocharging is the ideal. For performance driving, including motorway and racing, high pressure turbocharging is the preference.

Diesel Engines for Cars

Turbos are extremely popular with owners of diesel cars, as turbochargers provide the performance boost and general liveliness that makes these sometimes sluggish cars more pleasant to drive. Turbos for diesel engines also increase fuel efficiency.


Although there have been production versions of turbocharged motorcycles, they are not that common. It is possible to buy turbochargers for fitting to motorcycles.


Turbocharged diesel trucks and lorries are very common today. As with diesel cars, turbocharging increases the power to weight ratio of the engine and provides the performance boost that makes these otherwise heavy to drive vehicles more manageable on the road.

Factors to Consider when Selecting a Turbocharger

There are certain terms which are useful to understand when shopping for turbochargers. This chart explains some of the most important terms.



Turbo Lag

Delay between pressing the throttle and the boost kicking in


Spinning section where the hot exhaust exits the turbocharger

Wheel Trim

A figure expressing airflow through the turbocharger; the greater the volume, the slower it is to kick in


The extra pressure, and therefore power, the turbo provides


Where cold air is forced into the turbocharger

When choosing a turbocharger, the first thing a buyer needs to do is decide how much horsepower is required. With horsepower in mind, the buyer is able to calculate the size of turbocharger required for any given engine.

The Purpose of the Turbocharger

Choosing the right turbocharger depends on what its purpose is going to be. Is it to pep up a sluggish diesel engine for a family car? Or to soup up a hot rod racer for weekend use? Having decided on the goal, the next thing to work out is how much power, that is to say how many horsepower, the vehicle needs.

This is something which requires careful thought. Although modern engine blocks are built to withstand far higher pressure ratings than the horsepower they ordinarily produce, there is a limit beyond which the engine should not be pushed. The maximum power is also going to affect the turbo lag, and the general handling of the vehicle. It is important to have a vehicle with good low pressure boost.

Size of the Turbocharger

Determining the size of the turbocharger required comes down to using complex equations, but most turbocharger manufacturers produce charts called 'turbo maps' that make the task of determining the correct size much simpler. These charts plot the airflow against the pressure ratio, allowing the buyer to determine the most efficient range of operation.

However, it is important for the buyer to be aware of an important trade off which exists when choosing a turbocharger. There is no such thing as the 'perfect' turbocharger, as the choice depends on what the buyer is really after. A smaller turbocharger responds faster, especially at lower pressures. But smaller turbochargers may not have as high a maximum boost capacity. A larger turbocharger with higher maximum boost generally kicks in after a longer lag. Which turbo is better depends on what sort of purposes the turbocharger is put towards.

Turbo Lag and the Wastegate

A wastegate is an electronically controlled mechanism for regulating the release of gases into the turbine. Where turbo lag is likely to be an issue, a wastegate can help reduce it. Most petrol engines should be fitted with turbochargers that have wastegates. Many, but not all diesel engines should, too. An engine without a wastegate, called a 'free floating turbocharger' gives the driver less control over the level of boost achieved.

Available Space in the Engine Compartment

Another variable which needs to be considered when selecting a turbocharger is the amount of space available in the engine compartment. If space is limited, a smaller capacity turbocharger is the only option. Although advanced engineers can remodel the components being installed, this is really only for very experienced engineers who have fabrication facilities available.

Cooling Mechanism

As a turbocharger operates under extreme pressure, it inevitably generates large amounts of heat. The cooling mechanism for a turbocharger is therefore a very important consideration. There are two main options, being air intercooling or water cooling. Which is best depends on the purpose and specifications of the engine.

Pressure and Blow Off Valve

An overly rapid surge in pressure, caused by rapid closure of the throttle, can damage a turbocharger. For this reason, the buyer should consider choosing a turbocharger fitted with a blow off valve on the intake tract, which operates as a pressure relief mechanism. The blow off valve is able to sense when the throttle is closed quickly, and reacts by venting gases from the intake, thereby reducing pressure.

Looking for a Turbocharger on eBay

It is easy to find a turbocharger on eBay. Starting at the eBay home page, type a search term into the search bar, and press enter. A good search term would be something simple like 'turbochargers'. This brings up a list of all the available turbocharging units and parts, which is likely to run to many pages. On the results page you can hone the search by selecting and deselecting various search filters.

Make and Model of Car

eBay categorises turbochargers listed for sale according to the make and model of car. You simply need to select your make and model from the available options. The online search engine then pulls out only those turbos that fit your make and model of car. If your vehicle is not listed, another way is to include a description of your car in the search query. Or, you could contact your car's manufacturer.

Part Manufacturer

You are also able to sort the listings based on the part manufacturer. As not all car manufacturers factory-fit turbos to cars, there are a number of aftermarket manufacturers that design, manufacture and distribute turbochargers. If you have a particular manufacturer in mind, simply select the manufacturer from the list of available options.

The Seller

eBay sellers with the highest feedback scores can generally be counted to be the most knowledgeable about the merchandise they offer for sale. You can sort the results so that only those listings posted by 'Top-rated Sellers' appear on the results page. If you have any concerns regarding compatibility issues, or you feel that you need more information to arrive at a purchasing decision, you can contact the seller by going into the seller's profile page and clicking on the contact link.


Turbochargers increase the amount of fuel and air mixture that is pushed into the combustion chamber of an engine. The result is a boot in power. Turbochargers therefore increase the power to weight ratio of an engine, and can also make it more fuel-efficient. This makes turbochargers good for both diesel engines, where they can help counteract sluggishness, and petrol engines, where they enhance performance. Turbochargers are also widely used in boats, trucks, and lorries.

Before choosing a turbocharger, it is necessary for the buyer to assess their expectations in terms of what power boost they hope to get out of the turbocharger. Buyers should familiarise themselves with such terms as 'turbo lag', 'boost', and 'wheel trim', as these variables need to considered carefully when shopping for turbochargers.

eBay helps to take a lot of the guesswork out of choosing the right turbocharger for a particular vehicle. All the turbochargers listed on eBay are categorised according to the make and model of car. If the buyer has that information, then they are well on their way to finding the right turbo for their car. It is highly recommended that if the buyer is purchasing their first turbo, they should stick to the most knowledgeable sellers on eBay. These sellers are referred to as eBay Top-rated Sellers.

Have something to share, create your own guide... Write a guide
Explore more guides