It seems like there are a lot of turbo myths out there surrounding what you can and can’t do with a forced induction engine. Whether your concerns are about safety, fuel mileage or performance, modern technology has changed the game for turbocharged motors, wiping out a lot of the folk “wisdom” surrounding this power adder and making it easier than ever to enjoy the benefits of a turbo.
Check out these three common misconceptions about turbos, along with the reasons you shouldn’t put any stock in naysayers.
1. You Can’t Turn off a Turbocharged Engine Right Away
Remember the old days when you’d walk through a tuner car meet and be greeted by the sound of dozens of fans working overtime to cool down idling aftermarket turbo setups? Flash forward to today in the parking lot of your local big box store, where two or three times as many stock turbocharged cars sit silently and safely, with the ignition switched off. Properly designed cooling systems have eliminated the need to let your turbo cool down before shutting off your motor, striking this worry off the list of turbo myths.
2. Turbos Reduce the Lifespan of an Engine
One of the most common turbo myths is that running boost will damage your engine over time. Again, it all comes down to design. Any improperly designed motor setup, whether it’s due to bad ECU programming, not enough fuel delivery or improperly timed spark, will have a negative effect on a vehicle. However, a properly implemented turbo pushing enough PSI through a motor to produce respectable levels of power won’t strain a motor any more than idling in traffic will. OEM manufacturers, faced with the need to offer years of warranty protection on their new cars, have tested their turbo systems in the most extreme conditions possible before delivering them to the showroom floor.
3. Turbos Are Only for High Horsepower Fanatics
This is one of those turbo myths you’ve probably heard before: The only reason to buy a turbocharged car is an obsession with speed. The modern automotive market clearly demonstrates that this isn’t the case. For every turbocharged sports car out there, there are at least two or three small-displacement turbo four-cylinder engines balancing fuel consumption with respectable performance in a bid to keep emissions and gas costs low for buyers. Turbos are a tried, tested and true way to build little engines that punch above their weight when it comes to acceleration without sacrificing fuel mileage.
The next time you hear one of these turbo myths, remember the advances that automotive technology has made in recent decades.
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Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time. I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.