How to Increase Boost on Your Turbo Engine

by Alexander Eliot

Turbocharged cars offer the economy and drivability of a small displacement engine while providing the horsepower and performance of a sports car. However, to maintain smoothness and maximum reliability, factory turbo cars are often conservatively tuned with low boost, lessening power output. If you want to get the maximum performance out of your turbocharged vehicle, raising the boost can be a simple solution to make substantial horsepower gains.

Figure out what sort of turbo system your specific vehicle is equipped with. Most factory turbocharged cars since around the year 2000 have electronically controlled boost systems. To increase the boost of the turbos on these engines, all that's needed is an ECU reflash, also known as a performance chip. Various aftermarket companies make plug-in software that remaps your vehicle's ECU tune, including boost and fuel curves. These can be installed by a simple upload via laptop to your vehicle's ECU.

Purchase a manual boost controller if your vehicle does not have an electronically controlled turbo system, or if you wish to increase the boost on your electronically controlled turbo manually. These are simple screw-type mechanisms that are spliced into the engine's vacuum lines. Once installed, you simply thread the knob inward to decrease boost, and outward to increase it.

Install some type of tuning software. Increased boost means more air is being forced into the engine, thus a richer fuel map is needed to compensate. The ECU reflashes described in Step 1 incorporate revised fuel maps with their boost programs. If you're using a manual boost controller though, you'll need either a piggyback system or fully tunable ECU to edit fuel curves in accordance with added boost.

Monitor engine parameters via some type of data-logging software. This is paramount if you're manually increasing boost, as it lets you fine-tune boost pressure and fuel mapping by recording ECU data such as air/fuel ratio and engine knock. It is also a good idea to data-log even if you go with a professional ECU reflash, as it allows you to monitor the way your vehicle is responding to the added boost pressure.

Warning

  • close Be sure to read up on turbo specifications for your vehicle if using a manual boost controller, as over-boosting a turbo will hurt performance and/or damage the turbocharger and other vital engine parts.

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About the Author

Alexander Eliot has been a professional writer since 2006. He holds a B.A. in English literature from the University of Cincinnati. His academic background allows him to write articles in all fields of education, as well as science and philosophy. Eliot once worked for a performance auto center, an experience he draws from to write informative articles in automotive theory, maintenance and customization.

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