Can You Install a Turbo in a Naturally-Aspirated Vehicle?

Intakes and exhaust modifications are only two options to increase your car’s horsepower. While tires or suspension tuning can increase speed in corners, it is not possible to make your car go faster. For OEMs and tuners, this is often done via forced induction. Is it so easy to put a turbo on a naturally-aspirated vehicle?


The turbocharger only part of the process

A turbocharger isn’t going to change the engine’s performance. The turbo is spun by the exhaust gases. This allows it to compress more air into its combustion chamber. This allows for a larger boom, which in turn means more power. Although a turbocharger may sound simple, it can be quite complicated in practice. Hot Rod explains that different turbo sizes perform better at different RPM ranges. There are also different vane geometries, CarThrottle reports, and recommendations on where to place turbos.

Turbocharging an engine is more than choosing the right turbo. The turbos heat up as they spin, particularly on the exhaust side, Haynes explains. The incoming air is heated up, which makes it less dense and oxygen-rich, which reduces power output. Intercoolers are used in turbocharged engines to cool the air after it has been compressed. It’s important to ensure that enough air is getting into the turbos. Aftermarket intakes and exhausts are not suitable for naturally-aspirated engines. For forced-induction engines, it’s a completely different story. Additionally, more power means more fuel and more air. It’s the responsibility of the ECU to monitor and properly measure air- and fuel flow. explains that the engine requires a modified ECU with upgraded injectors to keep up the flow of incoming air. A modified fuel pump might also be necessary. Even after all that, there are still possible pitfalls.


What to be aware of during the build


The modifications and parts mentioned above are all about optimizing the efficiency of your turbo. However, the turbocharger can add power but it can also cause damage to your engine or even death if it isn’t used correctly. Your engine’s combustion chambers explode more powerfully, resulting in extra power. Your car’s pistons and valves may not be capable of handling it. It is not unusual, explains, for tuners and mechanics to use larger valves, increased port sizes, stronger pistons, or to compensate. The added power can cause damage to your clutch. If you turbocharge your car, ItStillRuns recommends that you fit an upgraded clutch or racing-spec clutch . There’s also the matter of the boost itself. One simple way for a previously-turbocharged engine to make more power is to crank up the boost settings. This not only puts more stress on the engine’s internal components but also increases the chance of premature ignition. This is the most feared ‘knock’ or ‘detonation. It’s caused by fuel combusting uncontrollably. It can also cause engine damage. Water injection is often available on turbocharged engines to avoid this. It is commonly fitted to rally cars but high-end performance cars only recently have begun receiving it from the manufacturer. This is why the 1994 ST205 Toyota Celica GT4 has one. This makes the air denser and prevents detonation. Read more

Turbocharged cars require higher-octane gasoline to prevent knock prevention. The measure of knock resistance is Octane. The higher the number, it means that there is less chance of detonation.


Care for a turbo

The bottom line is that although you theoretically can add a turbocharger almost to any naturally-aspirated motor, it’s not an easy process. Many parts need to be considered. Some tuning companies have made it easier to take the guesswork out of the process. Flyin’ Miata, a Colorado-based tuning company, offers complete turbo kits that can add 75-85 horsepower without the need for injector upgrades. There are some additional maintenance tips to consider after you have installed a turbocharger and all the necessary hardware. For example, some OEMs will quote less frequent spark plug replacements for their turbos, reports. If your turbocharged engine is R&T reports, you shouldn’t drive at high RPM or lug it around. Turbochargers are also lubricated with engine oil. However, they can be quite hard on it, reports. Turbo failure can be caused by low-quality oil and frequent oil changes. You can also fail to allow the oil to warm up or turn the engine off immediately after driving. This can cause some oil to remain in the turbos’ hot areas, which can lead to it burning up and causing damage.

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