Tag Archives: intercooler

Subaru Turbocharger Explained Part 1

Subaru Turbocharger Explained:

Turbochargers are fairly simple in concept, but adapting the system to modern vehicles can be quite complex. This primer for those new to servicing turbos and review for veterans lays out the function and operation of turbocharging in Subaru vehicles.

Subaru Turbocharger: Starting with 2004 models, the WRX STi incorporates a water spray system to help cool the intercooler, thereby further cooling the intake air.
Subaru Turbocharger: Starting with 2004 models, the WRX STi incorporates a
water spray system to help cool the intercooler, thereby
further cooling the intake air.

The return of turbocharging in the 2002 Impreza WRX marked an absence of nearly a decade for Subaru vehicles. While the new generation has been around for half a decade, not everyone understands the function and operation of Subaru turbocharging systems.

Naturally, everyone knows these blowers are designed to get the maximum power out of engines by packing more air and fuel into the cylinders to get the biggest bang possible. Just how that is accomplished, however, may be a bit of a mystery to you. Here’s a primer on turbocharging and how it applies to Subaru vehicles.

Subaru Turbocharger Explained:

A Brief History of Turbochargers

Turbochargers were originally invented to increase the volume of air pushed into the cylinders of internal combustion engines, and, along with increased fuel, raise the level of energy produced by the combustion process

Historical references indicate that Swiss engineer Alfred J. Buchi adapted the turbines from steam engines to diesel engines as a method to improve air induction, and, therefore, smoother operation in internal combustion engines. In 1905, Buchi’s idea of powering the forced air induction by exhaust flow was granted a patent. Good idea or not, the fairly crude engines of the day could not sustain even or adequate boost pressures. Buchi worked another ten years before he could produce a working model of a turbocharged diesel engine. By that time, other companies had also produced turbocharging systems

The massive building boom of internal combustion engines to supply ships, trucks and airplanes for World War I saw technologies take a giant leap forward. The first turbocharged diesel engines for ships and locomotives appeared around 1920. Shortly thereafter, European car manufacturers began incorporating them into factory race cars and a few sporty luxury models.

The next milestone for turbocharging came with the military build-up for World War II, when turbo systems were fitted to fighter planes and bombers to allow them to fly at higher altitudes where the thinner air could be compacted into the engines to provide sufficient combustion. However, direct-driven superchargers quickly proved more reliable, efficient and more easily controlled, leaving turbochargers by the wayside.

It wasn’t until the mid-1950s when turbochargers started appearing on diesel trucks that modern turbos began to make a dent in the automotive market. Today, the vast majority of truck engines are turbodiesels.

When turbocharged vehicles began to dominate the international racing scene in the 1960s, car manufacturers began to use them in sporty models to appeal to performance-oriented drivers. By the 1980s, turbochargers for cars were a bona fide success, particularly in Subaru vehicles, due to improved metallurgy, intercooling and efficient boost controls.

The main components of a Subaru turbocharger system are a water-cooled turbocharger, an air-cooled intercooler, a wastegate control solenoid valve, sensors and a controller. Let’s review the individual components and the role they play in the system.

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BOV: Blow off Valve Subaru FAQ

BOV: Blow off Valve Subaru FAQ

Term usage: “Blow off valves” go by several names, among them are compressor bypass valve (CBV), air by-pass valve, bypass valve (BPV), blow off valve (BOV), Diverter valve, and possibly a few others. BOV is the common and incorrect term that lumps true blow off valves and bypass valves under the same term. For the sake of correctness, this post will refer to either aftermarket BOV, aftermarket BPV or OEM BPV as these are the most correct terms.

What is the function of a blow off valve (BOV)? To release pressure from the intake tract of a turbo car when the throttle closes. It is a vacuum-actuated valve designed to releases the air to the atmosphere.

What is the function of a bypass valve (BPV)? To release pressure from the intake tract of a turbo car when the throttle closes. It is a vacuum-actuated valve designed to recirculate the air back into the intake before the turbo inlet, but after the airflow sensor.

A stock Subaru BPV (not a BOV).
A stock Subaru BPV (not a BOV).

What is the purpose of a BOV/BPV? When the throttle closes and the intake system is under pressure, the high-pressure air entering the motor will bump into the closed throttle plate, and in the absence of a BOV/BPV, a pressure wave will travel back to the turbocharger. The result is that the compressor wheel will stall (a phenomenon known as “compressor surge”) and slow down very quickly. This is hard on the bearings and decreases the turbo’s lifespan, but it also means the turbo will take longer to spin up the next time the throttle is opened.

Are aftermarket BOVs necessary with Subaru turbos? No. The OEM BPV is perfectly fine up to 20psi of boost. For applications using higher boost levels, an aftermarket BOV/BPV should be considered.

Can I mod my stock BPV to hold higher boost? Yes. I’ll be creating a post giving detailed instructions on how to do so.

Is the STi BPV better than the WRX BPV? No. They are the same. However, the JDM STi BPV will hold more boost as it is physically different than both the USDM STi BPV and the WRX BPV. The specific PSI rating of the JDM STi BPV is unknown, but users have reported it is good up to 25 PSI.

Is an aftermarket BPV better than the stock BPV? No. Unless you are considering an aftermarket BPV solely for the purposes of holding higher boost levels. An aftermarket unit should sound just like the OEM unit.

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TMIC basics on a Subaru WRX/STi

TMIC basics on a Subaru WRX/STi:

The primary purpose of a top mount intercooler is to reduce post turbo air temperature prior to entering the combustion chamber via the throttle body.

HP gain is around 15HP. This figure can vary as many TMICs replace the restrictive OEM piping and results can be further enhanced with post installation tuning. This is one modification that is extremely difficult to put a traditional HP figure on as results truly vary from car to car based on tuning and turbo output in terms of CFM.

How much HP can my stock TMIC hold? 300WHP on the WRX and 400WHP on the STi are attainable. That does not mean those power levels are 100% efficient, but that those power levels are attainable with their OEM TMICs. As discussed below though, TMICs are not meant to be HP rated, but rather CFM related, but this is an FAQ so the HP figures are given as a good “bad” answer.

TMIC basics on a Subaru WRX/STi: 04-07 STi oem TMIC
TMIC basics on a Subaru WRX/STi: 04-07 STi OEM TMIC

Which manufacturer is best? This topic is highly debated. There have been no reported consistent “bad” TMICs on the market. Obviously, there may have been bad TMICs sold, but not enough to report as “bad” overall.

I have a 2008/2009 model, any differences? Yes. Your engine bay has an entirely new layout vs. the 2002-2007 models.

TMIC basics on a Subaru WRX/STi: A 2008 STi stock TMIC
TMIC basics on a Subaru WRX/STi: A 2008 STi stock TMIC
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STi intercooler install on a Subaru WRX

You can easily install the upgraded STI top-mount intercooler in your garage using basic tools.

1. Disconnect your battery and make sure you have all the necessary tools. You need a flat bladed screwdriver, a 10mm wrench, and a 12mm wrench. Consider the picture before you in the engine compartment. The parts you’re looking for are centered on top of the engine. You need the new intercooler, an STI Y-pipe and inlet elbow and a new gasket for the bypass or blow-off valve. You also need the STi air conditioning line bracket for the firewall.

This is the stock WRX engine with the stock intercooler on top.
This is the stock WRX engine with the stock intercooler on top.

2. Two 12mm bolts that hold the intercooler to its mounting bracket on either side of the cooler. On the passenger side, note that there’s an open hole in the bracket—this hole is there to accommodate the STI intercooler. Three 10mm bolts hold a metal tube to the front of the intercooler, and two 12mm bolts that attach the bypass valve. Underneath the intercooler on the passenger side, there’s a hose clamp that holds the Y-pipe to the turbo, and there’s another hose clamp in front that holds the intercooler to the throttle body.

Note the extra bolt-hole Subaru thoughtfully placed in just the right spot for an STI intercooler.
Note the extra bolt-hole Subaru thoughtfully placed in just the right spot for an STI intercooler.
You need to undo all these bolts along the front of the intercooler.
You need to undo all these bolts along the front of the intercooler.

3. Loosen the hose clamps first (and hopefully the one under the intercooler is oriented to make this easy) and then undo all the bolts. The intercooler should lift out and take the Y-pipe with it. Leave the bypass valve on the intake manifold—you don’t need to totally disconnect it. You might need to wiggle it loose, but don’t pull too hard.

Carefully lift out the intercooler and the hoses should come free if you’ve loosened the clamps.
Carefully lift out the intercooler and the hoses should come free if you’ve loosened the clamps.
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VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester

VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester:

Swapping a STi VF39 turbocharger onto your WRX/XT is really easy. Find out here the step by step process on swapping a VF39 onto your Subaru WRX/XT.

You can buy a brand new VF39 Turbocharger here:

Subaru 14411aa5729L Turbocharger

A lot of people seem to be getting hung up on the oil return lines and coolant lines. The coolant lines and banjo bolts from the TD04 ARE interchangeable if your vf39 doesn’t have them (mine didn’t). The oil return line is not and must be modified in order to fit the vf39, (mine had it). Or get a new one from the dealer. I will explain in the pictures when I get to these items.

First remove the intercooler, pretty self explanatory there are 2 bolts that it mounts to, 2 on the BPV and the hoses. Done Deal. Next the heat shield. You should be somewhere around here:

VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester: Start removing the head shield and downpipe.
VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester: Start removing the head shield and downpipe.

 

Remove the downpipe:

VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester: Start removing the downpipe.
VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester: Start removing the downpipe.

Then remove the bolt for the oil inlet (top of the turbo), and start removing the coolant lines (2 lines coming off the side of the turbo 1 goes up 1 goes down). Be careful as you will lose coolant during this step be prepared to either catch it under the car or plug the line:

VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester: Remove coolant lines and oil lines.
VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester: Remove coolant lines and oil lines.

Then remove the 3 bolts that hold the turbo to the uppipe. Loosen from the intake remove vacuum lines and anything else attached to the turbo and you should be ready to take it off. The hose that the oil return line fits into is directly under the turbo and you should probably just lift straight out. Try to leave the hose where it is and lift the line out.

Now that the turbo is off you can start swapping out the parts you need from the td04. The coolant lines from the TD04 will fit the VF39 however they are attached and too close together to fit directly on the VF39 see pic:

VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester: changing out oil lines.
VF39 STi turbocharger onto your WRX/Forester: changing out oil lines.
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