How to Connect a Turbo Charger

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There a lot more to hooking up a turbocharger than simply bolting it onto your exhaust manifold. Assuming that you've acquired or fabricated a manifold to bolt it to, you still have a bit of work head in plumbing it to the engine and making the whole assembly work and pump air into the engine as it should. Bear in mind that options vary as far as turbo setups are concerned; using twin-turbos, an intercooler, external wastegate and blow-off valve will complicate the installation slightly.

Things You'll Need

  • Basic hand tools
  • Jigsaw with metal-cutting blade
  • Aluminum tubing
  • Silicone connectors
  • Hose clamps or V-band clamps
  • Exhaust tubing
  • Welder and welding supplies
  • Fit the appropriately sized silicone connector to your turbocharger outlet, and insert a tubing adapter sized to fit your throttle body. Slip another silicone connector over the adapter and then slide a length of tubing into the connector. Examine your routing; if the turbo outlet goes right into the carburetor/throttle body, select the combination of tubing bends and straight sections that will get it there.

  • Connect the exhaust system to your turbo's exhaust outlet using a custom-fabricated downpipe. If you're using a pre-fabricated down-pipe, follow your manufacturer's instructions for installing it. Otherwise, the simplest and safest solution is to have an exhaust shop custom build and install a down-pipe out of mandrel-bent (smooth) exhaust tubing.

  • Connect the turbo's oil-inlet line to a high-pressure oil-output line on your engine. Most of the time this will simply require screwing a T-fitting into the oil-pressure sending bung on your engine block, screwing the pressure sensor into one side of the fitting and the oil-feed line into the other. From there, you just screw the other end of the line into the turbo's oil inlet on top of the center cartridge.

  • Install an oil drain line. This step is crucial for turbo longevity, since getting the oil out is just as important getting it in. The universal solution is to drill a hole into the top of your oil-pan, weld a nut onto the pan and screw a hose-adapter fitting into the nut.

  • Connect the fitting on your oil pan to the turbo's oil drain output using the largest-diameter hose possible. You could hypothetically to this with the oilpan on the engine, but it's not worth the trouble or danger considering the difficulty of simply removing the pan and modifying it on a workbench.

  • Plug the boost-sensor line into a vacuum fitting on the intake manifold and plug the other into the wastegate actuator on your turbo. The wastegate actuator uses boost pressure to push on a diaphragm, which pushes a rod that open the turbo's internal exhaust bypass at a given boost pressure. If you're using a manual or electronic controller, install it in the sensor line between the manifold and the wastegate actuator.

  • Disassemble everything, install the hose clamps or V-band clamps onto your silicone connectors and put it all back together. Fabricate any brackets you'll need to keep things where they should be. You need to wait until you have everything together to secure the clamps since custom installs often require a great deal of moving and test-fitting before anything's set in place.

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References

  • "Turbochargers"; Hugh MacInnes; 1984
  • "Turbo: Real-World High-Performance Turbocharger Systems"; Jay K. Miller; 2008
  • "How to Build Supercharged & Turbocharged Small-Block Fords"; Bob McClurg; 2005
  • "How to Tune and Modify Engine Management Systems" Jeff Hartman; 2004
  • Photo Credit Jonathan Fickies/Getty Images News/Getty Images
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