Turbocharging Your Cars Requires More Than Just a Turbo

We see all of the movies like the Fast and Furious franchise, and it’s easy to forget just how complex a car’s drivetrain can get. With newer options like fully-electric cars that are simple and require less standard maintenance, we don’t pay much mind to what is under the hood, except for the numbers like fuel economy, 0 – 60 mph time, and sometimes torque. When we think of boosting standard combustion engines, we pick between options like the supercharger and turbocharger, but if you don’t know much about cars yet, you might not be aware that there are quite a few other components that make up these systems.

Your car’s brain

Your car’s engine seems like it runs the whole operation, but if you’re comparing the car to human anatomy, ideas that most people grasp much easier, the engine is more like the heart. Of course, without the engine, your car isn’t really doing much, but it isn’t where the car processes information. The car’s computers referred to as the engine control unit, as well as a combination of several other computers that run various tasks throughout the car, are the brains of the operation. The ECU is responsible for making sure the engine is doing what it is supposed to be doing and can report back to you if there are any problems.

If you install a turbocharger into your car, the stock ECU won’t quite understand exactly what to do with it. There are several ways to go about fixing this problem, and the best solution for it varies by car. Typically, some type of computer needs to be added to the system to integrate the turbocharger, but changes can also be made to the car’s stock ECU as well.

2012 Hyundai Sonata 512-hp turbo motor
2012 Hyundai Sonata 512-hp turbo motor | Gio Lewis

Piping the turbocharger

There is so much going on in the engine bay that, at a quick glance, you might not realize just what every pipe goes to and comes from. Likewise, a professionally installed turbocharger might not look like it requires a lot of additional piping. Still, in order to connect the turbocharger to the engine and exhaust, additional piping must be installed. If you buy a kit that is specially fabricated for your car, it should include all of the required piping, but if you make the mistake of buying the turbocharger as a solo piece, you might find yourself scratching your head with the need for custom fabrication.

Two Two Garrett GTX3582R Gen II turbochargers laid next to each other
Two Garrett GTX3582R Gen II turbochargers | Garrett via Instagram

RELATED: Why Do Similar Turbo Engines Make Different Power Figures?

You could end up blowing it out of the water

Anyone who has ever pushed too much boost into their engine can tell you some of the hilariously dramatic consequences of doing so. Many engines aren’t designed to handle the additional pressure and power provided by a turbocharger, and the more boost you attempt to use, the more you put your car at risk. The final items aren’t necessary for install, but you do need them if you want to ensure the health of your engine. It’s the dread of every car enthusiast’s wallet: forged internals.

Replacing the engine’s internal mechanical components with forged metal helps the engine to handle the boost more efficiently. This is something a lot of people hate doing because it is yet another thing that seems to increase the build budget, but hey, it’s cheaper than rebuilding a blown motor.

Porsche Cayenne Turbo
Porsche Cayenne Turbo | Mark Elias/Bloomberg

RELATED: Can You Put a Turbo in Any Naturally-Aspirated Car?

At first glance, adding a turbocharger to your otherwise naturally aspirated car might seem like a great idea. But, if you are getting the inspiration from movie builds and don’t quite know what you’re getting into, the bill for install can get pretty expensive, especially if you don’t buy a kit that comes with all of the necessary components.