How to Tune a Turbo

by Alexander Eliot
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turbo image by Elijahu from

Tuning your turbocharged vehicle can substantially increase its performance. Despite being inherently high-performance in stock form, turbo engines are among the easiest to modify for increased horsepower. A simple increase of the turbo's boost pressure along with tuning support can yield a gain of 50 or more horsepower on some engines, even with no other modifications.

Step 1

Tune your turbo vehicle via an ECU reflash if your turbocharger's boost pressure is electronically controlled. As most modern turbo cars' boost levels can be electronically modified, a full retune of the ECU will both raise turbo PSI as well as refine all other necessary engine parameters, such as air/fuel mixture. Most aftermarket companies offer a reflash for stock vehicles, thus making it the only modification needed to tune your turbo.

Step 2

Purchase a manual tuning kit if your vehicle doesn't allow for electronic turbo tuning. The first thing you need is a manual boost controller. This is a screw-type mechanism spliced into your engine's vacuum line. Once installed, you simply thread the controller's knob one way to increase boost pressure, or the opposite way to decrease boost.

Step 3

Modify your engine's fuel tuning to compensate for the manual boost controller's increased airflow. This can be done with various piggyback ECU tuners. These devices plug into your vehicle's ECU and allow you to modify the fuel curves of the stock programming. Turbo tuning should be done by a professional using a dyno machine, as mistuning can lead to failure of vital engine parts.

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