There are many great things to be found on eBay and the net, but are the bargain BMW Turbo kits many sellers offer in auctions and online stores a good deal?
VAC Motorsports finds out...
Often, these kits are $1500-$2500 or even less... some used kits can be found for as little as $1000! USD, they seem like a great deal...Right?
They include things like: Turbocharger, Blow off valve, exhaust manifold, boost controller, intercooler, piping, and in some cases even more accessories. Many times, they to "include everything you could need" and simply require installation, but even if you paid $500, are they actually a good deal?...
We will present some findings, and let you decide.
1. Seriously inferior-quality parts.
-The past three turbo kits, from various vendors that were brought for installation at VAC all had non-functioning, stuck, knock off or otherwise unsafe blow off valves. These are pirated designs, sharing the cosmetics of the name brands only. They caused huge amounts of turbo-destroying compressor surge that went away when we replaced them with a quality, name brand BOV. They either stuck, chattered or simply leaked.
-Oil lines that are prone to leaking quickly and many times the right ones are not included. Quality lines and fittings will have to be provided to replace the poor quality pieces, & installed by a knowledgeable person or qualified tech.
-Exhaust manifold gaskets prone to leaking after only several hundred miles
-Turbochargers themselves were knockoffs of quality brands and of questionable quality. even so called "Turbonetics" or "Mitsubishi" turbos were phonie clones of the real thing.
-House couplers of poor quality ‘colored rubber’ to imitate a high quality brand, not all necessary hoses and clamps included.
-Nearly all of the kit components fit very poorly, many being of the universal type requiring hours of modification and additional components, brackets, etc. Even though they claimed "direct fit".
Don’t be fooled, just because it looks like name-brand or says so on the product, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.
2. Poorly routed piping.
- Many run a "blow through" MAF setup, often done to eliminate stalling when the BOV vents to the atmosphere. Running air through the MAF sensor after it has been compressed and heated by the turbo can cause build up of contaminates and oil on the delicate sensor internals. This can causing erratic readings and poor running after install. Many people who have turbocharged this way report that there MAF dies every so many months mysteriously in these setups. A Porsche 911 MAF is usaly used to fix most of these issues.
-In many of the kits set up as a “suck through” setup, the BOV (after replacing with a quality unit) is still extremely difficult to recirculate properly. No provisions for this are made and the car runs rich and prone to stalling during every gear change.
-Some top mounted turbo kits left barely any room for any kind of intake filtration. TOP MOUNT KITS ARE ONLY recommended for race cars. Placing the turbo this close to the hood and valve cover will dramatically shorten the safety and lifespan of the engine and even the turbo. This is just one of the reasons a quality exhaust manifold is important
-In many cases, charge piping would need to be modified as it was prone to disconnecting under boost.
3. Lack of adequate boost control.
-Wastegate springs were all 10 pounds or more, so even with any type of boost controller, you are unable to run less than 10 pounds of boost, maxing out factory injectors immediately. That means you can’t just bolt the kit on and drive.
-Boost controllers were again poor quality knockoffs of name brands; they did not deliver consistent results.
-Internally gated turbos many times had slow or poorly actuating wastegates and boost spikes would appear.
4. No fuel injectors included.
-If you bolt on one of these systems and attempt to drive the car in normal use, almost 100% of the time, you will max out your factory injectors and this can cause permanent engine damage!
-Larger injectors must be purchased at additional cost and then chipped or tuned for.
5. No software included, systems must be dyno tuned to run properly.
-None of the cheaper generic systems come with any kind of software, piggyback, or way to program the ECU. You must then provide larger injectors, and the vehicle must be dyno tuned adding greatly to cost. If you don’t have access to a BMW ECU or BMW Chip tuner, then you must run a standalone ECU! This is just one of the reasons a kit might be cheap; software and tuning cost serious R&D time!
-Systems from reputable vendors like TRM, Active Autowerke, CES, Technica, Maximum PSI, Technique Tuning, and more... All typically include software.
-If you don't have software, they you need a tuning solution; OBD I can use this
a Miller Turbo Tuning package that we offer, or Turbo OBDII software that can be flashed in to the ECU. Both are at additional costs on top of parts.
6. Lack of proper exhaust components.
-Without a high quality downpipe, or in some cases no downpipe at all; one must be fabricated before the car can be driven. With a poor quality down pipe, engine destroying boost creep can set in and your car cannot be safely driven, or the downpipe can crack or damage other components.
These turbo kits can be a starting point to get your BMW turbocharged but you need to remember the saying ''you have to pay, to play''. If you don't have fabrication and modification skills, these inexpensive kits are not recommended no matter how good of a deal they seem.
For many enthusiasts, the kit that is more expensive kit at first ends up being a better deal. ''No-name'' kits need much in the way of installation, modification, and professional tuning to even start and run properly, let alone with speed and reliability.
Brand name kits look like a lot of money at first, but you are making an investment in a quality engineered product just like your BMW itself. These kits offer technical support, clear instructions, and the ability to bolt-on-and-drive out of the box! They also keep a large portion of residual value if you ever want to resell them and many don’t alter the resale value of your BMW in a negative way.
Installation and tuning is offered for all Turbo and Supercharger systems at VAC Motorsports. Before choosing any route with you BMW, talk to us no-hassles. The VAC team can help you meet your performance goals and lay out a plan for your BMW.