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Setting up Your Silverado for Boost: Turbocharger Edition

Setting up Your Silverado for Boost: Turbocharger Edition)

There are loads of ways to make power - especially with the legendary Chevrolet power plants found in Silverado trucks. Most common modifications work to increase power a little bit at a time. The truth is in most cases, to make significant gains in power, you need to formulate the engine and equip it with a series of modifications that work together to improve particular aspects of the operating system. That is...unless you’re looking at forced induction through turbochargers.2016-5.3l-v8-silverado-with-leveling-kits.JPG

Table of Contents
  1. What is a Turbocharger?
  2. Why Does Boost Create Power?
  3. What's in a Turbo Kit?
  4. Turbocharger Accessories
  5. Why and When to Add an Intercooler
  6. Turbocharger Installation Difficulty
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As far as a horsepower to dollar ratio is concerned, it's hard to go wrong with some sort of forced induction. Tubochargers are a more complicated than their supercharger cousins, but that doesn't make them any less potent. Upgrading your Silverado with one will take the better part of weekend for a mechanic familiar with the process.

Silverado Turbos

What is a Turbocharger?

Forced induction can be achieved in multiple ways. Superchargers use internally driven turbines or fans spun by the engine’s existing pulley system and this causes a parasitic draw on the engine. Turbochargers work much like a supercharger as an internal fan is used to create a boost. The turbine inside is not spun by a pulley like a supercharger. Instead, it uses the exhaust produced by the engine to spin on a turbine mirrored by another turbine on the intake side which draws air into the system creating boost.

Why Does Boost Create Power?

Silverado gas engines are naturally aspirated. This means they rely on a vacuum created by the intake stroke of the pistons to draw in air. The problem is they can only draw in as much air as is available to them. With atmospheric pressures and other natural factors, this results in an engine drawing in a percentage of air volume that keeps it from working with 100% of its displacement. 

A turbocharger works to remove the engine’s dependency on vacuum by forcing air into the chambers. The pressurized system is designed to bring the engine up to and beyond its 100% capacity. This also works to make compression in the cylinders count for more. Both factors paired together will greatly increase horsepower.

What’s in a Turbo Kit?

Unlike superchargers, turbochargers require a major existing operating system to be modified. Installing a turbocharger is much more time consuming and requires more steps. The turbocharger kit will include a long list of parts. In its basic form, you will get a turbocharger, the exhaust header set to match, and the appropriate downpipe. More complete kits may come with an intercooler, fuel injectors, and a computer programmer loaded with a custom tune.

Twin Turbo: Twin turbo kits will mount a turbocharger to both banks of the engine. These kits feature everything a single turbo kit will but will have an additional turbo in the package with a set of headers designed to accommodate a turbo on both sides of the engine.

Turbocharger Accessories

Turbochargers alone will work to increase engine power. Even with low boost, you can expect massive amounts of power. However, increased efficiency and power output will always be on the radar. There is always the option to add bigger turbos to the system but for starters, there are accessories that can be added to optimize your existing system.

Blow off Valve: Turbochargers work by compressing air. Pressurized air is something that can be harmful to mechanical components and even dangerous if not properly maintained. When a turbo spools up as RPM increases it will have a set amount of pressure in the system that will remain even when the throttle is suddenly let off. This pressure needs to go somewhere and can destroy the turbocharger if enough exists in the system. A blow-off valve works to relieve this pressure once the throttle is let off to prevent any issues.

Intercooler: Intercoolers work to cool the compressed air in the turbocharging system. The main body of an intercooler works much like a radiator does and works to achieve the same goals a cold air intake does on a naturally aspirated application.

Boost Controllers: Boost does create power but too much can be detrimental to an engine. Too much can be harmful to internal parts and can lead to issues like detonation in the chambers. Boost controllers work to regulate the amount of pressure that exists in the turbocharging intake manifold and gives users the ability to tune their system to their desire.

Why and When to Add an Intercooler

Cool air is always a good thing for your engine. Even with mild, naturally aspirated engines, power gains can be had but with a turbocharged engine, these gains add up to even more gains. With an existing turbocharger, the addition of an intercooler can head significant gains in power. In any case, where more power is desired, an intercooler is recommended but on high boost applications, it’s an absolute must.

Cooler Air: Intercoolers work to cool the air in a turbocharger system. This cooler air becomes denser and can contain more oxygen than warmer air. When you have compressed air in a system, it means even more air can be stuffed into the chambers, and this is why they can significantly increase power.

Turbocharger Installation Difficulty

Installing a turbocharger system is no small feat and will require a lot of time and skill. Hours or even day’s worth of work can go into setting a Silverado up with a turbocharger system. The more parts there are to a system, the longer the process will take. It’s not a mod many will want to take on alone, especially if your experience is limited. Professional help is highly recommended.

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