The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Turbochargers

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The Do's and Don'ts of Buying Turbochargers

While some motorists are content keeping their vehicles as is, others are driven to enhance their vehicles either visually or performance-wise. Sometimes individuals even choose to do both. While there are plenty of enhancements and upgrades available to improve the look of a vehicle or add to its uniqueness, such as spoilers and stylish rims, performance enhancements are usually quite costly and vehicle owners who wish to install these enhancements themselves need the mechanical know-how to do so.

One of the quicker and less expensive ways to boost a vehicle's power is by using a turbocharger. This little addition to an engine packs a powerful punch, but it does not add very much weight to the vehicle, which means it does not increase fuel consumption significantly. When shopping for turbochargers, there are several do's and don'ts prospective buyers should consider. Buyers need to know the various types of turbochargers available, as well as their advantages and other considerations before making a purchasing decision.

Do Know a Brief History of Turbochargers

Shortly after the invention of the internal combustion engine in the latter half of the 1800s, engineers began experimenting with ways to boost performance and fuel economy. This, in essence, was the beginning of the development of the turbocharger. The first true turbochargers were installed on larger modes of transportation, such as ships and aircraft. Early turbochargers were limited to commercial uses only, though the oil crisis that occurred in the 1970s pushed vehicle manufacturers to improve fuel efficiency without sacrificing performance.

During the 1970s and 1980s, some vehicle manufacturers began incorporating turbochargers into their diesel models to increase the initial acceleration and improve overall performance on vehicles with smaller engines. Turbochargers are also used in Formula 1 racing cars and over the last couple of decades have become popular in both diesel and non-diesel vehicles alike.

Do Know the Advantages of Using a Turbocharger

A turbocharger works by forced induction, compressing air as it enters the engine. This allows more air to flow into each cylinder, which results in more power each time a cylinder fires. Comparatively speaking, an engine with a turbocharger produces more power than that same engine without a turbocharger installed. The exhaust flowing out of the engine powers a turbocharger by forcing a turbine within the turbocharger to spin. This turbine causes an air pump to spin at speeds greater than typically achieved by a non-turbocharged engine.

Turbochargers increase power in an engine by increasing the amount of fuel and air that is burned at any given time. While there are other methods to boost speed and engine performance, turbochargers do so fairly efficiently and without requiring too many modifications to the engine and without weighing down the vehicle. Typical turbochargers allow approximately 50 per cent more air into each cylinder, which results in a power boost of between 30 and 40 per cent.

Do Know the Types of Turbochargers

There are several different types of turbochargers currently available for consumer use. Before a prospective buyer can begin shopping for turbochargers, he or she first needs to determine which type of turbocharger best meets his or her needs. The ideal type of turbocharger varies from individual to individual based on what each person is looking to accomplish with the installation of the turbocharger.

Standard Turbocharger

Standard turbochargers are constructed of both aluminium and cast iron or steel. The reason for the two separate types of metal is because aluminium cannot stand up to the high-heat environment experienced by the part of the turbocharger connected to the exhaust. Manufacturers make the portion that does not come into contact with the exhaust out of aluminium so that the turbocharger is as light as possible.

These turbochargers employ investment cast turbines that the manufacturers have tuned to various RPM ranges for optimum performance. The turbocharger's centre shaft joins the turbine blades and is suspended by a solid bearing, which is cooled by engine oil.

Ball-Bearing Turbochargers

While standard turbochargers employ a solid bearing, ball-bearing turbochargers use a ball-bearing mechanism instead. The advantage of the ball bearings is that the turbine blades are allowed to spin more freely. This performs two functions: It reduces the turbo lag that is commonly experienced when using turbochargers, and it increases the turbocharger's performance. Ball-bearing turbochargers also produce less friction, which means that the turbocharger lasts longer because it does not get as hot.

Twin-Scroll Turbochargers

Although these turbochargers are not as frequently used today, there is a possibility that prospective buyers may encounter turbochargers that utilise this design. Twin-scroll turbochargers, as the name suggests, have a divider running down the centre of the scroll, which essentially creates twin scrolls. The purpose of this is to reduce turbo lag.

Variable Geometry Turbochargers

A variable vane turbocharger employs a level system to electronically change the angle of the turbine blades. This allows the engine to take advantage of the various turbine blade positions to create a more effective turbocharger that reduces turbo lag and enhances overall turbocharger performance.

Do Understand Turbo Lag

Because turbochargers require turbines and an air pump to spin, they require some time to get these devices spinning fast enough to make a difference. This is what the user experiences when he or she puts a foot to the petal, and there is a lag before the turbocharger kicks in.

There are a couple of different ways individuals can reduce or eliminate turbo lag. The first option is selecting a smaller turbocharger. Smaller models require less energy to get started, which means the lag is less than that of a larger turbocharger. Other options include incorporating a smaller intercooler, using a twin turbocharger, which is essentially two turbochargers in parallel, or putting an anti-lag system into place.

Type of Anti-Lag Method


Smaller Turbocharger

Reduces but does not eliminate lag

Twin Turbocharger

Reduces but does not eliminate lag

Smaller Intercooler

Reduces but does not eliminate lag

Anti-Lag System

Eliminates most lag

While anti-lag systems may be better at reducing lag than other methods, prospective buyer need to keep in mind additional factors, including cost, size, and mechanical ability needed to install these devices. This information could play a role in which method of reducing turbo lag, if any, is employed.

Don't Opt for a Larger than Necessary Turbocharger

As previously discussed, larger turbochargers require more energy to get started than smaller turbochargers. It is, therefore, in the consumer's best interest to purchase a turbocharger that is the right size for his or her vehicle or even one that is slightly smaller than would normally be used. This allows individuals to keep the turbo lag down as much as possible. In addition, larger turbochargers weigh more than smaller turbochargers, so installing one that is larger than needed adds unnecessary, additional weight to the vehicle.

Don't Install a Turbocharger Without the Proper Knowledge

Working on the engine of a vehicle without the proper knowledge is not advisable for several reasons. The first is that taking an engine apart and installing additional parts without knowing the inner workings of a vehicle's engine could result in engine damage if the new parts are not installed properly or the existing parts are not put back in correctly.

Additionally, driving a vehicle that has not been reassembled correctly could lead to an accident and injuries to the driver, passengers, or other motorists. Installing parts incorrectly could damage both the parts themselves and potentially other parts of the engine, which could result in expensive repairs.

Buying Turbochargers on eBay

While it may be possible to find some turbocharger models locally, they are not a commonly purchased item, so most auto parts stores do not carry them. Individuals who want to explore all of their options and find the best possible turbocharger should look to the Internet when shopping for turbochargers. eBay and other online retailers offer many listings for a wide range of turbochargers, which makes it fairly easy for prospective buyers to find the perfect turbocharger for their vehicle.

If you want to look at the listings for turbochargers on eBay, go to the site's homepage and type your search phrase into the box. You can use the filters on the search results page to narrow down your results by a number of criteria, including price, turbocharger manufacturer, and shipping options. If you know which model of turbocharger you are looking for, like Chargers or Fusions , you could end up eliminating valid listings from your search if you are too specific.

Before making a purchasing decision, buyers should read through the listings carefully to determine exactly which type of turbocharger is being sold. Individuals who are unsure of compatibility should confirm that the turbocharger is compatible with their vehicle model. Prospective buyers should also take a look at the seller's return policy to determine whether the turbocharger can be returned if the buyer is not satisfied with it or if it is not compatible with their vehicle.


Individuals who want to boost their vehicle's power without spending a fortune or completely overhauling their engine should consider installing a turbocharger in their engine. Relatively speaking, a turbocharger is an inexpensive way to increase a vehicle's power, which means motorists may find that the turbocharger satisfies their need for power, and no additional modifications are needed. Those who feel that the turbocharger does not improve the performance of their vehicle enough can then add additional enhancements to further improve their vehicle's performance.

Before purchasing a turbocharger, prospective buyers should consider several factors, including determining the power requirements of their specific vehicle. This helps buyers make the right decisions when purchasing their turbocharger, so they get the power they need without increasing turbo lag or vehicle weight unnecessarily. Knowing the do's and don'ts of buying a turbocharger helps prospective buyers make the right decisions and can help them find the perfect turbocharger on eBay.

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