A Look at the Diesel Turbocharger
December 21, 2021

A Look at the Diesel Turbocharger

Written By: ProSource Diesel

If you’re new to the world of diesel trucks, you’re probably wondering why turbocharger is such a ubiquitous term when it comes to diesel trucks. Almost all modern diesel trucks have turbochargers. Diesel trucks or other vehicles that don’t have turbos are known as naturally aspirated diesels.

Let’s take a closer look at what turbochargers are and how they work.

What Are Turbochargers and How Do They Work?

Turbochargers, often simply called turbos, are turbine-driven, forced induction devices that increase the power output of an internal combustion engine by forcing more high-pressure air into the combustion chamber. A naturally aspirated diesel uses only the atmospheric pressure to combust fuel. A diesel engine ignites fuel through the use of compressed, high-temperature air, which means that a turbocharger essentially increases that process for more power. The turbocharger runs off of exhaust gasses. This means that the turbocharger does not require any additional fuel or mechanical power to operate–it’s running off a waste product from combustion. A turbo system provides more horsepower without adding weight or using more fuel.

History of the Turbocharger

The technique of forced induction goes back to the late 1800s. Gottlieb Daimler originally patented the technique of using this type of device to force air into an internal combustion engine. Later, a 1905 patent by Alfred Buchi became the official birth of the turbocharger. In the early days, turbochargers were used in large machines like trains and large ships.

In the 1950s, automakers began researching how they could use turbochargers in cars. However, the size of early turbochargers and turbo lag was a major obstacle to widespread use in cars. By the 1980s, turbo technology became more efficient and the use of turbos became increasingly common as a way to reduce fuel consumption. In the present day, most passenger vehicles with diesel engines use turbochargers.

The Difference Between a Turbocharger and a Supercharger

Technically, all turbochargers are also superchargers. Forced induction devices were originally classified as superchargers. However, these days the term supercharger is used to describe forced induction devices that are mechanically driven. This means that a supercharger is driven by the engine, usually with a belt that’s connected to the crankshaft. On the other hand, a turbocharger is driven by a turbine that is in turn driven by exhaust gas from the engine.

Because the turbocharger relies on gas, it tends to be less responsive than a supercharger, and this lack of response is known as turbo lag. However, superchargers place a direct mechanical load on the engine, which can cause many stress-related problems.

Newer superchargers have mostly become electrically driven, which means they can be used mainly at low speeds to compensate for turbo lag. Many modern vehicles use both a turbocharger and an electrically-driven supercharger.

Power Gained From a Turbocharger

Turbochargers work with the exhaust system on your engine and typically provide between 70 and 150 horsepower beyond the engine’s original horsepower rating. A supercharger can provide between 50 and 100 extra horsepower. The extra power without extra weight is primarily why modern diesel trucks use turbochargers. Turbochargers also decrease fuel consumption since they increase power while running only on exhaust gasses.

Turbocharger Cost

As previously mentioned, most modern diesels come with turbochargers right from the factory. However, in time, you may have to replace your turbocharger. Like all parts, they eventually wear out. The usual replacement interval comes between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. If your truck is well-maintained with regular oil changes, you might be able to go even further with your original turbocharger.

The cost of a turbocharger is not cheap, and that’s especially true for diesel trucks. For example, a new OEM turbo for a 2007 Dodge Ram 2500 has an average list price of around $3800. Aftermarket turbochargers can often save you a lot of money while not compromising on quality. Check ProSource Diesel for a wide selection of aftermarket Cummins turbos, Duramax turbos, and Powerstroke turbos as well as turbo parts for all three of the popular diesel engines.

Rebuilding a Turbocharger

If you want to save even more money on your turbo replacement, you can actually rebuild your turbo with a turbo rebuild kit. These kits are widely available and come in a variety of configurations, including those with only the parts you want to change. There are also kits with the entire array of parts you need to rebuild the whole turbo. These rebuild kits can save a lot of money over new ones, and they may even give you a power boost over the original turbo.

Cleaning a Turbocharger

Turbochargers do get dirty. They run off of exhaust gasses, which means dirty particles from the exhaust are constantly running through your turbo. These deposits eventually cause the turbo vanes to stick and revolve more slowly. If you notice a lack of power or increased fuel consumption, your turbo probably needs to be cleaned. Generally, a turbocharger should be cleaned every 25,000 miles or when you notice symptoms like the above. You can completely remove and dismantle the turbo to clean it, but you can also use turbo cleaners that are poured into the fuel tank. These can help keep your turbo operating for longer. However, at some point, you may simply need to replace your turbo.

On a related scheduled maintenance note, we recommend changing your oil every 5,000 miles. You can see all our OE Approved oil change kits here.

We are also carrying a complete line of Liqui Moly products for complete driveline maintenance. Whether you need an engine and diesel fuel system care kit, oil treatment, diesel intake system cleaner or some other diesel maintenance product, we have you covered at ProSource.

You can find all the Cummins turbo parts, Powerstroke turbo parts, and Duramax turbo parts you need at ProSource Diesel. Whether you need to upgrade, repair, or replace your turbo parts, you can count on ProSource Diesel for the best selection of diesel parts.

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