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Can You Put a Turbo on an Automatic Car?

Key Takeaways:

  • A turbocharger can be added to either a manual or automatic transmission car. The transmission type does not affect turbocharging capability.
  • Turbocharging an automatic car boosts engine power and performance like it does on a manual transmission.
  • The turbocharger gets mounted directly to the engine, not the transmission, so it functions the same regardless of transmission.
  • Automatic transmission cars may need upgraded transmission components to handle the extra power from turbocharging.
  • Proper turbo sizing and tuning is crucial on an automatic car to ensure drivability and prevent transmission damage.


Turbochargers were originally more common on manual transmission vehicles, but modern automatic transmissions have advanced to where turbos can be added to autos as well. However, some special considerations need to be made when turbocharging an automatic car to ensure proper operation and durability. This article will provide a comprehensive overview of turbocharging automatic transmission vehicles.

The value of this article is that it will enable readers to gain a deeper understanding of how turbochargers function on automatic cars. The methodology involves an exhaustive analysis of technical factors regarding integrating a turbo on an auto, including transmission compatibility, turbo sizing, engine tuning, upgraded components, and specialized installation steps. Readers will discover the key benefits, installation process, and component upgrade recommendations when considering turbocharging an automatic car.

By the end, you will understand the feasibility and process of adding a turbo on an automatic transmission car to significantly enhance its power and performance. Now let’s explore this topic further.

Can You Physically Install a Turbo on an Automatic Car?

Yes, it is physically possible to install a turbocharger on a car with an automatic transmission. The turbocharger mounts directly to the engine, not the transmission itself. It functions to boost the engine’s horsepower by forcing more air into the combustion chambers. This operation is independent of the transmission.

The transmission only connects to the engine to transfer power to the wheels. So whether manual or automatic, the transmission type does not affect the engine’s ability to be turbocharged. As long as there is space in the engine bay, a turbo can be mounted and plumbed to the engine on an automatic car like any other.

Does an Automatic Transmission Limit Turbo Functionality?

The automatic transmission itself does not directly limit turbo functionality or performance. The turbocharger sits on the engine side of the drivetrain and operates independently of the transmission. Where the transmission becomes a factor is in how much power it can reliably handle.

If a large turbo is added that increases engine power significantly, an automatic transmission designed for a lower power output could potentially have durability issues. The upgraded torque capacity and components of a performance automatic transmission may be needed to match high power turbocharged engines.

So the transmission doesn’t affect how the turbo works, but its strength does dictate how much extra power can be built before running into problems. The turbo system and transmission have to be properly matched.

What are the Benefits of Turbocharging an Automatic Car?

Adding a turbo to an automatic car provides similar performance enhancing benefits as on a manual:

  • Increased horsepower and torque output – A turbo allows the engine to produce more power from the same displacement through increased airflow and engine efficiency.
  • Improved throttle response – The turbo spins up quickly to provide a surge of immediate boost when the throttle is pressed. This creates highly responsive acceleration.
  • Enhanced efficiency – The turbine side of the turbocharger harvests waste exhaust heat to drive the compressor. This takes advantage of wasted energy.
  • Elevated engine performance characteristics – In addition to more power, turbocharging can improve other engine metrics like transient response across the RPM range.
  • Added tuning potential – Installing a turbo opens up many tuning options to further refine performance, like boost pressure, fueling, timing maps, etc.

So an automatic transmission car can benefit from turbocharging just like a manual car when done properly. Drivability may need to be tuned more meticulously, but big power gains are achievable.

What is the Installation Process of Adding a Turbo to an Automatic Car?

The process of installing a turbocharger on an automatic transmission vehicle follows the same main steps as on a manual:

  • Select the properly sized turbocharger based on target power goals and engine displacement. A turbo that is too large can cause lag and drivability issues. An experienced tuner should help with sizing.
  • Mount the turbo to the engine block using the appropriate gaskets, studs, brackets, and oil/coolant lines. This usually goes on the exhaust side of the cylinder head.
  • Install the turbo inlet pipe from the intake to the compressor inlet. An air filter is mounted at the pipe’s far end.
  • Connect the exhaust turbine outlet to the exhaust downpipe leading to the muffler/catalytic converter using a turbine housing and transition pipe.
  • Install all oil, fuel, and coolant lines along with sensors that interface with the Engine Control Unit (ECU).
  • Update the ECU programming with a custom turbo tune calibrated for the specific engine and turbo combination. Proper ECU tuning is critical.

The transmission doesn’t factor directly into the installation steps. The process can be done the same way on an automatic car as a manual in most cases.

What Automatic Transmission Upgrades Help Support Turbocharging?

Although the automatic transmission does not affect the turbocharger itself, the transmission does need to handle the increased power output. Some key upgrades to support a turbocharged automatic include:

  • High-stall torque converter – A loose stall converter matches better with turbos to keep the engine in the boost RPM range.
  • Upgraded clutch packs – Multiple clutch disc packs handle extra torque stress without slipping.
  • Steel/Kevlar bands – Improved bands maintain firm gear engagement under high torque loads.
  • Transmission cooler – Larger coolers prevent overheating of transmission fluid from turbocharged power levels.
  • Engine oil cooler – Managing engine oil temps is also important to ensure turbo lubrication and prevent coking.
  • Tuned valve body – Re profiling the shift valve body improves shifting speed and firmness when turbo boost hits.
  • Chassis bracing – The chassis may need extra bracing and reinforcement to handle turbo torque.

With these types of upgrades matched to the turbo output, an automatic transmission can reliably handle the power from a properly tuned turbocharged engine.

What are Some Turbocharged Automatic Car Examples?

Many modern high performance sports cars now use a turbocharged engine paired with a sophisticated automatic transmission:

  • Porsche 911 Turbo models make over 500hp through turbo flat-6 engines and advanced 8-speed dual clutch transmissions.
  • The Nissan GT-R produces 600+ hp through its twin-turbo V6 engine and lightning fast dual clutch automated manual gearbox.
  • Chevrolet Corvette Z06 models utilize a 650hp+ supercharged V8 coupled with 8-speed autos designed specifically for high torque loads.
  • Mercedes AMG cars like the C63, E63, and GTR all use beefed up automatic transmissions to handle their large displacement twin-turbo V8 engines making over 600hp.
  • The Godzilla turbo 3.5L V6 in the new Nissan Z car and Infiniti models makes 400hp boosted power through an auto.

These factory turbo autos demonstrate that automatic transmissions are fully capable performance partners when properly engineered to match the engine.

How Does Tuning Differ Between Turbo Manual and Auto Cars?

The most important difference in turbo tuning between manual and automatic cars is in the transmission software:

  • Shift points – Optimal shift points for performance need to be programmed based on the turbo torque curve. Leaving auto shift points stock can result in bogging during boost.
  • Shift firmness – Snappier, more aggressive shifts are needed to handle swift turbo torque onset. Slow shifting can cause drivetrain shock loading.
  • Torque converter – Tuning the stall speed, lockup, and slippage parameters of the torque converter is key for drivability with a turbo auto.
  • Boost onset – Boost threshold and spool rate have to be calibrated to match the transmission and vehicle dynamics. Slow onset boost works best.

The engine tuning side (fueling, ignition, boost control) will also need refinement specific to the turbo setup. Manual cars skip the transmission tuning aspect. But both require expert turbo system tuning for optimal performance and drivability.

What Risks are There in Turbocharging an Automatic Car?

Some key risks to beware of when adding a turbo to an automatic include:

Improper turbo sizing – Too large of a turbo will overpower the stock engine and transmission, causing failure. It needs to be sized appropriately.

Poor transmission cooling – Additional heat from the turbo’s power can burn up the transmission fluid or ruin clutches without proper cooling.

Detuned transmission – Failure to update the transmission’s electronic tuning and parameters to match the turbo can lead to abnormal operation.

Torque spikes – Bad tuning or too quick spooling turbos can stress driveline components with sudden torque spikes. Gentle onset boost is ideal.

Lack of supporting mods – Not upgrading engine internals or driveline components to handle increased turbo power adds risk of failure.

Incorrect installation – Improperly installing oil, coolant, or exhaust lines to the turbo itself can cause turbo bearing failure and coking issues.

When sized and installed correctly, an automatic transmission turbo car can be rewarding to drive. But forced induction does demand thorough planning and tuning.


Yes, turbochargers can absolutely be installed on automatic transmission cars despite some common misconceptions. The transmission type does not limit the ability to turbocharge the engine when done properly. Turbocharging offers the same performance enhancing benefits on an auto car like increased power, responsiveness, and tuning potential.

However, care must be taken to upgrade internal transmission components and thoroughly tune the engine and transmission as a complete system. When matched with the right turbocharger, supporting mods, and expert calibration, an automatic car will operate smoothly, reliably, and exhilaratingly with the added kick of turbo boost.

Frequently Asked Questions About Turbos on Automatic Cars

What transmission types can work with a turbocharged engine?

Both traditional automatics with torque converters and automated manual transmissions like dual clutch gearboxes can work well with turbocharged engines when properly engineered. Advanced 8+ speed autos found in sports cars today are very turbo friendly. Older 4-speed automatics may require extensive upgrades to handle turbo power reliably.

How does turbo lag differ in manual vs. automatic cars?

Manual cars often feel the effects of turbo lag more directly in the form of power gaps between shifts. Automatics can mask lag somewhat by keeping the engine RPM in the boost range. However, lag should be minimized either way through proper turbocharger sizing and tuning.

Does an automatic sap turbo performance compared to a manual?

No, a turbocharged automatic can achieve the same peak power and acceleration as a manual when tuned properly. The automatic transmission itself does not sap any engine power. The key is tuning the transmission to take advantage of the turbo power, not be a limiting factor.

Can any car become turbocharged?

No, you cannot successfully turbocharge every car. Only engines designed for forced induction with forged internals should be turbocharged. The chassis and driveline must also be strong enough to handle the power increase. Turbocharging a weak engine or drivetrain usually ends badly.

Does turbocharging an older car require a modern automatic transmission swap?

Sometimes, but not always. Heavily built, high stall torque converter autos of the muscle car era worked well with turbos. But often a 4+ speed modern auto with electronic control and torque capacity better suits turbocharged engine swaps into vintage cars.

What maintenance is required on a turbocharged automatic transmission?

More frequent transmission fluid changes are advised, such as every 30k-50k miles, to flush any extra heat buildup and debris. Periodic inspection of clutches and bands for proper operation is also recommended. The transmission filter and pan gasket may need replacement more often as well.

Can you turbocharge just one bank of cylinders on a V-engine auto car?

Yes, single bank turbocharger systems are an option on V-configured engines. This provides a progressive boost curve and reduced complexity. However, the transmission still needs tuning to handle the torque response of the single turbo side. Balance and dynamics may be affected.

Is it better to turbocharge an engine with lower compression or higher compression ratios?

Lower compression like 8.5:1 is generally easier and safer to turbocharge. But modern direct injection technology now allows turbocharging high compression engines over 10.0:1. The fueling system, tuning, and materials must manage detonation risks in higher compression turbo applications.

Is the installation process any different with twin-turbo vs. single turbo setups on automatic cars?

The overall installation steps are similar between single and twin turbo systems. The main difference is that twin turbo kits require plumbing, oil and coolant lines for two turbochargers. Tuning and transmission upgrades are required either way to handle the increased power.

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