What are disadvantages or limitations of turbocharger?

2019-08-12 16:53:57

Improperly sized turbo for the engine. Either too big or too small for the flow capabilities of the engine. This introduces all kinds of driveability issues. Pretty much no fun to drive at all.

Additional heat in the engine bay and engine. Requires appropriate cooling upgrades (better radiator, maybe an oil cooler, etc.) and heat shielding around the turbine and exhaust components to protect sensitive items. Plus the car can run a little hotter as the cooling system now needs to deal with an added heat generator.

Additional complexity. ECU’s have to be tuned correctly to take advantage of a turbo. Poor or improper tuning can result in anything from bad driveability to a destroyed engine. Also, there are additional parts that can fail (such as boost leaks, turbo bearings, etc.).

Additional oil maintenance. Turbos can heat up oil quite a bit, even if the turbo is water cooled. Heat breaks down oil. Usually oil changes have to occur more frequently, and good quality oil should be used (and is probably required by the manufacturer).

Additional weight. Depending on the location of the turbo, various piping will be needed. Intake air into the turbo, piping to the intercooler if present, piping from intercooler to intake and any additional exhaust piping that might be necessary (e.g. cross-over pipe when running single turbo on a “V” or “H” configuration engine).

Increased fuel consumption. As a turbo builds boost, it uses more fuel. That’s the whole point. If you can keep out of boost then gas mileage doesn’t suffer too badly. But then…what’s the point of a turbo if you aren’t boosting? ;)

Turbo sounds. This one is personal preference. On some setups, the turbo can be heard spooling up. Some love this. Others consider it a nuisance. This is subjective.

It might seem like a lot of disadvantages, but they are all pretty much addressed by modern turbo implementations and are for the most part non-issues. Plus, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages :)

 

Personally, I don’t consider turbo lag to be a disadvantage. It’s just a thing. And every car/turbo combination manifests lag differently. Some have no lag at all. Others have gobs of lag. This “disadvantage” is addressed in point # 1 above. Really though, one just needs to learn how to drive a turbo car properly. It doesn’t act like a big N/A V8 because it isn’t. You don’t drive a Honda S2000 the same way you drive a 1991 Ford Mustang GT. They have different engine characteristics and should be driven as such. A turbo car (with perhaps lag) is no different.

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