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How to Tell if a Car Has a Turbocharged Engine

by Contributor

The turbocharged engine is one of the many measuring sticks that car enthusiasts use to gauge the ability a car has. If you are unable to look under the hood, it can be difficult to decide if that car you have your eye on is really sporting a turbocharger or just a standard, albeit high-quality, engine. Here are some methods that can assist you.

Simply open the hood and look for the turbocharger. The turbine and conical shaping makes it easy to see.

Look at the car on the outside if you cannot open the hood. There may be decals or other details outlining the turbo on the hood. Stock turbos are often prominently featured because of their sales value.

Listen for a whine as a car drives by. This will not always be noticeable, but it is one of the two most recognizable features of a turbocharged engine. This whining, or whistling, should become more audible as the car revs and achieves a higher rpm. For this reason, it can be difficult to hear the turbocharger at low rpm.

Listen for another distinctive when checking for a turbocharged engine. The "blow off" valve creates the sound of a large amount of air being forced out. The difficulty remains in that this dumping sound only occurs at higher rpm.

Research the car. Most turbochargers on the roads today are stock, and therefore simply learning more about specific models will help you to know whether or not a car has a turbo.

Tip

  • It is always easiest just to look under the hood. Test your ears by listening to cars that you can look under the hood of to check if you were right.

Warning

  • Don't be fooled. There are now kits to produce the whistling noise and blow off valve sound in cars that don't actually have turbochargers.

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