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3 Basic Steps to Turbocharge Your Car

I'm an auto hobbyist and an enthusiast tinkerer. I love my dog Roxy and riding my KLR650.

The Basics of Turbocharging Your Hatchback or Sedan

The Basics of Turbocharging Your Hatchback or Sedan

A turbo uses exhaust gasses to spin an impeller which creates a low-pressure zone that forcefully inducts air into the engine intake system. This forces air into the cylinder creating a greater air to fuel ratio, increasing the force of combustion. This improves performance.

Hondas and Acuras are great for turbos. Here we'll help you understand:

  1. How a turbo works and what you need to fit your own turbo kit
  2. What to look out for when buying a turbo kit and basic valves and parts necessary for adding a turbo
  3. What to do before starting it up

1) Purchase a Turbo Kit for a Honda or Acura

The first step for putting a turbocharger in your Honda or Acura is by purchasing a comprehensive kit. Be sure to note the following things when looking for a kit:

  • No Fuel Management: Fuel management systems are a waste of money that will most likely get thrown away
  • Turbo Size: Be sure to purchase a turbo that's the proper size for the aimed horsepower.
  • Research the Kit: When looking for a kit, be sure to confirm the kit fits without any modification and problems. Read the reviews and only purchase a kit with a positive reputation.
The "turbo" uses a turbine to force compressed air into the engine combustion system.

The "turbo" uses a turbine to force compressed air into the engine combustion system.

Necessary Parts for a Turbo Kit

The best way to understand how to put a turbo in your vehicle is by understanding what each part does and how it works within the entire system.

  1. Turbo: The turbo is the device that enables induction.
  2. Turbo manifold: A turbo manifold collects exiting exhaust gasses that are sent to a merge collector.
  3. Intercooler: Intercoolers serve as a cooling device for the turbocharger. It sits between the turbo and the engine. Intercoolers cool the air before it makes it to the combustion chamber.
  4. Wastegate: The wastegate redirects exhaust gas away from the turbine wheel.
  5. Blow-off valve: The blow-off valve releases pressure when the throttle is closed. This keeps air from going back into the turbo.
  6. Intercooler piping: Intercooler piping circulates coolant through the turbocharger to keep it from overheating.
  7. Silicone coupling: Silicone couplers are used to join one intake duct to another.
  8. T-Bolt clamps: T-Bolt clamps are used for securing the piping to the manifold.
  9. 2- or 3-bar MAP sensor: BAR MAP sensor measures barometric pressure. For a Honda or Acura, it's important to use a 2 or 3-bar map.
  10. Air filter: The air filter is for keeping dust, bugs, and overall grit out of your turbo.
  11. Oil feed line: The oil feed line ensures oil circulates and lubricates the turbocharger.
  12. Oil return line: The oil return line returns oil to the oil pan for recirculation through the lubrication system.
  13. All gaskets: Gaskets prevent oil, exhaust, and intake leaks from the turbocharger and various other parts.

2) Double Check That Your Kit has all the Parts...And Read About What They Do!

Some "at home" experts will argue you can skip out on certain parts or modify things a certain way, and I'm here to tell you that in my experience that's a bad call. Parts like the intercooler, intercooler piping, wastegates, boost controller, blow-off valve, and exhaust manifold are all crucial and under talked about.

Intercooler

Intercoolers enable you to run the boost safely, and with more horsepower. Cool air is more dense and creates better combustion, thus an intercooler is necessary for the turbocharger! The larger the intercooler, the more you may experience a loss of pressure. An intercooler that fills the bumper, flows the proper cubic feet per minute of air and has aluminum end tanks may work best.

As for the piping, beaded aluminum is light weight, cool, and easy to find. To clamp the intercooler down, use T-bolt intercooler clamps.

Wastegate

The function of a wastegate is to release pressure and mitigate the boost to prevent over-pressurization and seal, gasket, and intake-boot blow out. The flow of the wastegate must be optimized for your boost in order to function properly. Exhaust gasses are let out of a valve via the wastegate spring.

Wastegates come in two flavors: internal and external. External wastegates allow for increased outflow and therefore a more optimized boost, but aren't legal due to smog regulation in some states.

The size of your components is always a function of how much boost you'll run. Get a 35 mm or 38 mm wastegate if you're running between 20 to 25 psi.

Boost Controller

A wastegate spring alleviates the need for a boost controller in many cases. If you do choose to use a boost controller, manual and electric boost controllers work equally well. Electronic boost controllers allow you to moderate boost form inside the car and other neat features.

Reading boost is another story. You could use a boost gauge and exhaust gas temperature gauge to monitor the conditions of your engines. It's important to know if you're running lean or not.

Blow-Off Valve

The blow-off valve is yet another way for the turbo system to release pressure. Boost builds enough pressure to force extra air into the cylinders, requiring another pressure relief system. No one likes compressor surge.

Exhaust

It's important to have a very sturdy exhaust manifold (hopefully with a lifetime warranty!) It's important to choose your exhaust size accordingly. Lots of people have tested a number of sizes; it's up to you to stand on the shoulders of giants to determine your needs.

Timing

Lots of variables dictate the timing of your turbo charged Honda or Acura. Once you get your vehicle tuned it's good practice to have a warning system so if your vehicle goes into overboost the timing cuts. You may as well sacrifice a little horsepower for well-synched timing, because you can't drive the car if your engine is blown am I right?

ECU

Most factory vehicles that are naturally aspirated aren't tuned to work with a turbo, so if you want to install a boost it's important to prepare your vehicle accordingly. This means having a good ECU (electronic control unit) for system regulation and a good tune.

Some people might recommend a piggyback ECU, or an ECU that talks directly to the factory ECU. Whether you choose to find a way to override the stock ECU, replace it with a standalone ECU, or install a piggyback, I recommend taking your vehicle to a professional shop to be tuned or downloading a program from a reputable company to be sure your engine is getting the proper quantity of fuel. We don't need any blown motors!

A Note About Knock Sensors

If your engine already has a knock sensor you may as well use it, but if you're set up is tuned well your engine shouldn't knock. If you have an expensive engine you want to protect you can purchase after-market knock sensors.

3) Start Your Turbo!

Before you start your turbo be sure to check that you have primed the lubrication system and that your ECU has been adjusted to the levels of your new system. Let your car idle after start up to be sure everything is working before taking it for a spin—especially before revving or racing the engine.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

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