Turbo Inlet Pipe 101: Tuning, Power & Benefits

By July 24, 2021Turbocharger

A turbo inlet is where air flows into the turbo – it’s a connection from your air intake.

An aftermarket turbo inlet is wider, has lesser bends and is less restrictive. Which means additional power and faster turbo spooling.

I am personally a big fan of the turbo inlet. However, I can tell you that an aftermarket turbo inlet only works if you already have an aftermarket intake and downpipe.

Don’t install a turbo inlet on stock parts and expect horsepower gain. It won’t happen to you and it definitely did not happen to me.. I was a disappointed boy for a while. 

Ever since then, I had more experience with turbo inlets and conducted quite a research for myself. Which is why I am writing this article!

Let me share all the things I learned about a turbo inlet so you know what to expect. I will be covering things like turbo inlet benefits, horsepower gains, tuning, costs and whether or not you should install it. 

Shall we get started? Beginning with the basics. What even is a turbo inlet?

What Is Turbo Inlet Pipe & The Benefits

Turbo inlet pipe is a tube which connects an air intake with a turbo – this is where air flows into the air intake and into the turbo.

If you are not that familiar with turbos, here’s a quick summary. A turbo’s job is to compress air (coming from the intake) into a high pressure ball and direct it into the combustion chamber.

Compressed air is more dense, contains more oxygen and can help you gain significant horsepower. 

An aftermarket turbo inlet is wider, and has lesser bending – which makes it less restrictive than stock. 

This means more air can flow into the turbo at once – resulting in more compressed air and faster turbo spool. 

Here is a quick list of benefits from an aftermarket turbo inlet pipe. I will go into more details about each point later. So, don’t worry about it if you are still a bit confused now. 

  1. Aftermarket turbo inlets provide more horsepower. With more air flow, you will have a higher pressure compressed air. Which means more available oxygen in the combustion chamber – resulting in increased horsepower.
  2. Aftermarket turbo inlets decrease turbo spool time. With more air flow, your engine can start creating bigger combustion at lower RPM. Thus, improved turbo spooling time and reduced turbo lag!
  3. Aftermarket turbo inlet improves throttle response. With more air flow, you should feel power delivered more quickly when you press the throttle.
  4. Aftermarket turbo inlet is more durable than stock. Stock inlet pipes are usually made from cheap plastic. They are prone to cracking and do not last as long. 

Related article: Which Is Better: Supercharger Or Turbocharger 

Turbo inlet

Aftermarket turbo inlet vs stock inlet. The aftermarket is wider and has lesser sharp bend.

Horsepower Gain From Turbo Inlet Pipe

Aftermarket turbo inlet pipe provides about 5 horsepower when installed on stock parts and can provide up to 10 horsepower when installed with aftermarket downpipe and air intake.

These horsepower numbers are of course an estimate. They depend largely on the size of your engine and turbo – the larger, the more horsepower you can gain from aftermarket parts. 

Personally, I have installed a turbo inlet on stock parts. Horsepower gain on the dyno was minimal – no horsepower gain on the lower RPM and 5 horsepower on the mid to high RPM. 

However, if you have a less restrictive downpipe and air intake, then the turbo inlet should gain you more power. 

My advice – you don’t buy a turbo inlet when your downpipe and intake are stock. And you don’t buy turbo inlets for horsepower gain. But instead you buy a turbo inlet for the turbo spool!

Let’s talk about this next.

Faster Turbo Spool From Turbo Inlet Pipe

Aftermarket turbo inlet pipe improves turbo spooling significantly. This means your turbo starts providing power at lower RPM and your throttle becomes more responsive.

This is because an aftermarket turbo inlet allows more air flow into the turbo. Which means, the turbo doesn’t have to work as hard to suck the same amount of air as before.

Resulting in more compressed air and more power even at lower RPM – where there’s limited exhaust gases to spin the turbo. 

Personally, I can tell you the turbo spool has improved significantly – it spools way faster than it was before. Even though the peak horsepower didn’t really change.

This is a good thing – considering a turbo inlet is quite cheap. It can make your car feel more aggressive and alive. Suitable for the daily drivers. 

Quick note about turbo spools that often confuses people. I assume that you already know a turbo is powered by exhaust gases – yes? 

When I say (or people say) ‘turbo inlet makes turbo spool faster’ – this means a turbo inlet helps provide more air into the turbo, so the turbo can provide significant power at lower RPM.

This does not mean that a turbo inlet helps to spin the turbo faster – thus having more power, no. A turbo inlet doesn’t help to spin the turbo faster. 

A turbo inlet improves boost and reduces turbo lag by providing more air. So don’t confuse them. 

Does Turbo Inlet Pipe Require Tuning?

You are recommended to tune your car after installing a turbo inlet but it is not required. 

Most cars should have a map online that supports a high flow turbo inlet – which means the tuning process shouldn’t be that hard. It’s just a matter of flashing the map.

You are not required to immediately tune the car after a turbo inlet pipe. It is recommended but not required – your car will still run properly without getting too lean. 

However, if you want that maximum horsepower gain, then tuning is always recommended. 

If you already have a flashable ECU where you can download maps online and flash them to support an aftermarket turbo inlet, then go ahead. 

If you have a stock ECU that costs more money to tune, then tuning just for a turbo inlet is not necessary. 

My advice is to wait until you install more significant parts like headers, downpipes, headers or intercoolers – then only should you tune your car. 

Does Turbo Inlet Pipe Improve Turbo Sound?

An aftermarket turbo inlet does not improve the sound of your turbo or engine. Don’t expect to hear better sounds from the turbo inlet.

A turbo inlet is a very small device that is not significant enough in the sound department. 

Some people say it improves power while most people say no. Personally, I did not hear any sound change by installing a turbo inlet. 

If you want an improved sound, there are many other parts to look into. A turbo inlet is not one of them!

Related Article: 5 Ways To Make Car Louder For Cheap

How Much Does Turbo Inlet Pipe Cost?

A turbo inlet from cost ranges from $50 to $300 depending on the material used and branding. 

Most typical high flowing turbo inlets are made of silicones, whereas most expensive ones are made from aluminum. 

Personally for me, the silicone turbo inlets are good enough. They are cheap and do a good job in improving the turbo spool.

Just make sure the turbo inlets fit your turbo and intake. You should take measurements of your intake and ask the seller about fitting. You also need specific turbo inlets for the cars. 

I installed a silicone turbo inlet on my car for about $50 and it was good enough for me.

How To Install Turbo Inlet Pipe?

Installing a turbo inlet pipe can be quite difficult – depending on the turbo placement. On many cars, the turbo is deep inside the engine bay – which makes it hard to reach. 

You may need to unscrew and unbolt other components surrounding the turbo in order to reach it and replace the turbo inlet – that’s the hard part.

When you are able to reach the turbo, it’s just a matter of disconnecting the stock inlet and replacing it with your aftermarket turbo inlet. 

It’s easier to see how it’s done than me describing it. So here’s a great YouTube video I found from ECS tuning that shows you how to install a turbo inlet.

Should You Install Turbo Inlet Pipe?

If you ask me, you should definitely go for a turbo inlet pipe – it’s quite cheap and can improve your turbo spool significantly. 

Just make sure you don’t expect a lot of horsepower gain from this. You can definitely get it when you also have aftermarket intake and downpipe. 

My advice if you are on stock parts right now is to first install an intake, downpipe, turbo inlet and then only bring it for a tune.

Do not tune your car each time you get a new part – that’s expensive and unnecessary. Instead, accumulate all the parts first, then bring it to a tune altogether. 

During this tune, you can go all in with adjusting air/fuel ratio, removing rev limiter, updating turbo boost settings and even updating engine torque map. 

The end result and overall horsepower gain should be jaw dropping. Trust me!

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Ifandi L.

Ifandi L.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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