Turbochargers are a great way to boost your engine’s power and efficiency. If you’re interested in getting into the world of forced induction and wondering- how much does it cost to install a turbo in a car, you’ve come to the right place. Installing a turbocharger is an intricate process that differs from car to car.
Depending on your particular brand and model, installing a turbo can cost somewhere around $500 to $3000 on average with the sky being the limit. Custom turbo setups can easily cost you over ten grand. You’ll find everything you need to know about the installation process and cost breakdown below.
Cost of Installing a Turbo
Installing a turbocharger in your car is no inexpensive process. If you’re installing a new turbocharger in place of an old one, the cost will be relatively low. However, we’ll be focusing on the process of installing a turbocharger in a naturally aspirated car for the purposes of this article.
A turbocharger setup requires a variety of parts. The overall cost for the installation will depend on the cost of the components and labor. So, when setting a budget for a turbocharger for your car, you also have to factor in the cost of turbo manifold, cooling system, engine management system, fuel system, downpipe, intercooler, and piping that go with it.
The main determining element for the overall cost will be the particular make and model of your car. You’ll find several parts in the market for your vehicle at various price points. Since turbochargers tend to wear down over time, you typically want to invest in something durable. Here’s everything you’ll need to install a turbo in your car and the costs associated with them.
The turbocharger is the central keystone for the entire setup.It’s in charge of pushing more air into the engine so it can produce more power, more efficiently. When buying a turbo for your car, you have to keep in mind that not all turbos in the market are going to be appropriate for your vehicle. You should look for a turbocharger that properly matches your engine’s capabilities and is capable of producing your desired level of performance.
You’ve got two options when selecting a turbo for your upgrade. You can either purchase a cheaper option from websites such as eBay or spend more on a name-brand one. eBay turbos are fairly cheap and last a fairly long time but they’re a bit exactly reliable. Moreover, you might run into some issues finding the correct technical specifications of these turbos online. Conversely, you get your extra money’s worth in terms of reliability and performance when purchasing a name-brand turbo.
Depending on your choice, a turbocharger can cost you anywhere from $200 to $1500. Used ones will usually cost a lot less. You should be able to find turbos for as little as $100 if you look hard enough. On the other hand, some top-end turbos can cost you well over thousands of dollars.
When installing a turbo in your car, you’ll have to buy a turbo manifold along with the turbocharger. Cast manifolds are typically recommended for a turbo setup because they’re more durable and generally less expensive than others. Similar to a turbocharger, name-brand manifolds will usually flow better but at a significantly higher cost.
If you’re only looking to reliably turbo your car, you can get away with a relatively inexpensive manifold. However, if you’re looking for the best performance and flow, you’ll need to be prepared to spend more. Turbo manifolds can cost you around $100-$400. Used ones can start from $80. You can also fabricate your own manifold if you want a custom one. You’ll only need to pay for the material and labor in that case.
When choosing a manifold, make sure that you pick one that won’t crack easily and will last a long time. Carefully examine the welds to check if you can notice any flaws.
The ECU is the brain of the car and part of the engine management system. It’s in charge of controlling the engine, giving it enough fuel, and managing the ignition timings. It also allows you to tune it so you can avoid dangerous pre-detonations.
It’s one of the more expensive components of a turbo setup and can cost you anywhere between $300 and $1000 for a decent one. Higher-end ECUs tend to have more fine-tuning capabilities while cheaper ones have less.
Another cheaper alternative is building your own board. It’ll likely save you a couple of hundred bucks if you wire up your own ECU from scratch. On some cars, you might be able to retune your stock ECU to handle the boost. However, this is more of a band-aid fix than a permanent one and you’re better off investing in a proper ECU as soon as possible.
Wideband O2 Sensor and Gauge
The wideband O2 sensor and gauge tell you the air/fuel ratio going through your engine. They’re critical for properly tuning your car. It’s best to not cheap out on these since they’re a crucial part of the engine management system.
The recommended budget for an O2 Sensor and gauge is around $100-$200. You’ll find used ones online for almost half the price.
Next up on the list is the intercooler. Intercoolers are in charge of cooling the hot and compressed air that comes out of your turbocharger. Since the intake air temperature is reduced by the time it goes into the engine, you get a bigger boost in terms of power.
Some turbo setups skip intercoolers but it’s highly recommended that you invest in one if you want the maximum performance out of your car. Without proper intercoolers, your intake temperature will be extremely hot which will get in the way of performance and reduce the amount of boost you can run.
Along with the intercooler, you’ll also need couplers and piping. Expect to spend around $100-$250 on the whole thing. You can also find certain intercooler kits that come with couplers and piping included at a similar price.
Now, the blow-off valve isn’t something you have to necessarily worry about if you’re running a lower amount of boost. It changes the way your car sounds and protects from compressor surges when you let go of the throttle.
There have been many debates on whether or not a blow-off valve is worth its cost. If you think it’s something you might be interested in then it’s going to cost you an additional $40-$300. You’ll find the market filled with knockoff ones, so make sure you understand what you’re paying for before your purchase one.
Fuel Management System
When installing a turbo in your car, you also have to upgrade its fuel management system. Depending on your car, you’ll be needing a new fuel rail, fuel pump, fuel pressure regulator, and fuel injectors.
If you intend to use a lot of boosts, you’re going to have to feed more fuel into your engine. This is where these parts come in. You might be able to get some of these parts off of other used cars for a lot less. However, if you’re buying them off the shelf, they are going to cost somewhere around $150-$500 for everything.
Downpipe and Exhaust System
The last thing you’ll be needing is a downpipe and exhaust. The downpipe blows outspent exhaust gases from the back of the turbo to the exhaust. You can make your own or buy a premade one. Premade ones can cost you a couple of hundred dollars, sometimes more. A full exhaust system can also run you quite a bit. It’s recommended that you have a budget of around $60-$500 for both.
Buying a Turbo Kit
If you’re unsure about which individual components to buy, you can buy a turbo kit instead. These kits include all the necessary parts but at a higher cost. Since you’re buying everything together, you can expect the parts to function cohesively.
If you’re thinking about installing a turbo as a DIY project, it might be better for you to buy the parts individually. Doing so would ensure that you reach your desired performance to the point and save yourself quite a bit of money at the same time.
As we mentioned before, each turbo setup will be different based on the car. So, you might be required to buy additional parts for the process. Depending on what kind of setup you want, you might need to buy a wastegate, boost controller, boost gauge, oil filler sandwich, etc.
Other than the cost of additional parts, you will still have to pay for labor and tuning.
Turbo engines need severe wiring and tubing application to function properly. It takes time and the right skills to complete a turbo setup. If you’re confident you know your way under the hood, this cost won’t be a factor for you. However, people without technical know-how are recommended to seek help from a professional for the safety of their investment.
Labor costs typically differ based on location. You can expect to pay around $90-$120 per hour. The duration of the installation process is different from car to car. Usually, classic cars without air conditioning take 6-10 hours for installation while cars with air conditioning take a couple of hours less.
After installing a turbocharger on a naturally aspirated car, you’ll need to have it tuned so the fuel injectors are calibrated perfectly to match the increased flow of air. Some diehard enthusiasts prefer to tune it themselves but it’s best if you leave it to a professional dyno tuner.
Any slight deviation during tuning can cause a massive difference in performance and as such, it’s absolutely necessary that you do it right. It can cost anywhere from $200-$1000 to get your turbocharger tuned after installation.
A turbocharger for your car is quite a costly investment. So, exactly how much does it cost to install a turbo in a car? While the overall cost may vary based on the car, you can expect to spend around $500-$3000 on parts and labor. When it comes to turbos, there really is no upper limit for how much you can spend. If you’re considering getting a turbo and are worried about the cost, your best bet is to take your car to a mechanic for a quote. Once you’ve got an estimate, you can look for the parts on the internet and usually purchase them for a lot cheaper. The general philosophy to remember is that you can typically save a third of your budget if you only know what to look for and source the parts yourself.