The turbo on snowmobiles works in the same way as any regular turbocharger. Simply put, the turbo is designed to feed the cylinders with compressed air, which gives a boost to the engine. The more throttle you apply, the more air the turbo delivers! With the extra air the engine can burn more gas, which results in increased power and better performance.
If you want to learn more about snowmobile turbochargers and superchargers, this post is for you!
What Does a Turbo do on a Snowmobile?
When it comes to snowmobiling, the rule of thumb is: the more power the better! But for more power, you need a bigger engine, which results in more weight.
It could be a huge problem on off-trail sleds, as these should be as light as possible. On the other hand, the increased weight can also be an issue even for trail sleds. It not only results in a worse power-to- weight ratio but also makes the sled more difficult to handle.
This is where supercharged and turbocharged snowmobile engines come in handy.
What does a turbo do on a snowmobile? Simply put, the turbo forces compressed air into the engine, which allows it to burn more gas. Finally, this results in higher performance and much better acceleration, without a significant increase in weight!
Another advantage of superchargers is that they help feed the engine with air at high altitudes. This is important because the atmospheric pressure can’t push enough air into naturally aspirated engines above a certain height. Therefore, they can’t run efficiently.
But as superchargers and turbochargers force compressed air into the engine, high altitude is not an issue for these boosted power sources!
Are you wondering how a turbo works on a snowmobile? Keep reading!
How Does a Turbo Work on a Snowmobile?
The turbo on a snowmobile works the same way as any regular turbocharger. In a nutshell, it has two impellers. One of them is driven by exhaust gases and rotates the other impeller. This latter impeller is called a “turbine wheel” as it compresses the ambient air and forces it into the engine.
If you want to learn more, don’t miss this short animation of how a turbo works:
It also good to know that a snowmobile’s turbocharger system typically consists of various parts. Let’s take a look at these one-by-one.
The turbocharger is arguably the main part of any turbo system. It looks like a nautilus shell but made of metal of course! The turbocharger accommodates two impellers, which are separated into the two housings.
The first impeller is known as the turbine wheel and it’s mounted in the compressor housing.
This part is connected to the exhaust pipe, so the exhaust gases can directly spin this turbine. The general rule is that the turbo needs a certain amount of exhaust pressure to start spinning this impeller.
The other impeller, which is also called the compressor wheel is located in the compressor housing. As its name implies, this unit produces the high-pressure air.
Since they are connected by a shaft, when the turbine wheel begins to rotate, it also starts to spin the compressor wheel. Consequently, this starts to suck in and compress the ambient air, and finally force this air into the engine.
With the extra air, the engine can burn much more fuel, which leads to increased performance.
When the turbo compresses air, it heats up significantly. The hot air does no good to the engine, as it ends in a poor air/fuel charge and less power. Thus, the compressed air must be cooled before reaching the cylinders. That’s why many turbocharged snowmobiles (not all of them!) feature intercoolers. These simple units do the same job as radiators on cars, they cool the compressed air.
The only difference is that snowmobile intercoolers are cooled air or snow instead of liquid coolant.
The intercoolers on snowmobiles are sometimes mounted in the tunnel. When it’s spinning, the track is throwing snow onto the intercooler, which helps keep this unit cold. So finally, the snow cools the intercooler, and the intercooler cools the compressed air.
Another common solution is to mount the intercooler in front of the engine to expose it to cold air. It’s as simple that!
Modified Fuel System
As we’ve discussed, turbocharged snowmobile engines not only consume more air, but more fuel as well.
That’s why these engines require modified fuel systems. On fuel-injected engines this modification typically means installing an aftermarket fuel controller.
The most commonly used units are manufactured by DynoJet and Boondocker.
If you suddenly release the throttle on a turbocharged snowmobile, huge excess pressure builds up in the turbocharger.
This uncontrolled boost could damage the turbo and the snowmobile engine in many ways. That’s why the boost on turbocharged snowmobile engines is controlled by a special unit, known as wastegate.
Simply put, at a certain point this unit releases the excess pressure, which protects the engine from being damaged.
Can You Put a Turbo on a 2-stroke Snowmobile?
Yes, the good news is that it’s possible to turbocharge a 2-stroke snowmobile! Beyond aftermarket turbocharger kits, Sea-Doo introduced the first factory-built turbocharged 2-stroke snowmobile in 2020. The Summit 850 E-TEC Turbo is powered with a turbocharged Rotax 850 E-TEC engine, which offers no less than 165 HP. Thanks to the turbo, this power source puts out 40 HP more compared to the non-turbocharged version.
Don’t hesitate to discover this amazing turbocharged 2-stroke snowmobile!
Does Polaris Make a Turbo Snowmobile?
Unfortunately, Polaris currently doesn’t make any turbo snowmobiles. Many years ago, this manufacturer offered several exciting turbocharged 4-stroke sleds, but in recent years they’ve focused on other market segments. According to Supertraxmag, we probably can’t expect turbo snowmobiles from Polaris in the near future.
Hence, if you stick to Polaris but want to ride a turbocharged sled, your options are to buy a used model or install a turbo kit on one of their newest sleds!
Snowmobile Supercharger vs. Turbocharger
Just like turbochargers, superchargers are also commonly used to boost the performance of snowmobile engines.
But when it comes to the snowmobile supercharger vs. turbocharger debate, it seems the ultimate winner is the turbocharger, as it fits better on snowmobile engines. Although both of them do the same job, there is a big difference in their design. While turbochargers use the energy of the exhaust gases to compress the air, superchargers are driven by the engine.
Although turbochargers are more popular among sledders, superchargers also have many advantages. Let’s take a closer look at these!
Pros of Snowmobile Superchargers
- No turbo lag – faster response
- Simpler design
- Easier to install and tune
- Less chance to damage the exhaust headers
- More reliability
Many riders say that the biggest advantages of superchargers are their higher reliability and faster response.
As a rule of thumb, turbochargers always have a slower response, which is also called “lag.” Simply put, the lag on a turbocharged snowmobile refers to the short time that the exhaust gases need to spin up the impeller.
In these short initial moments, the turbocharger doesn’t start working effectively, leaving the engine without any boost.
Unlike a turbocharger, the supercharger is mounted to the crankshaft. This means it doesn’t have any lag, as its impeller is continuously driven by the engine. Finally, it results in a big boost at a very low RPM!
Another big advantage of superchargers is that they are much easier to install. While you can easily mount a snowmobile supercharger kit, turbo kits can usually only be installed by a professional mechanic.
Cons of Snowmobile Superchargers
Let’s face it, beyond their advantages, snowmobile superchargers have many disadvantages over turbos. The main cons are as follows:
- Lower performance, especially at high elevations
- Higher fuel consumption
- Much louder
The biggest claim against snowmobile superchargers is their lower performance.
Experts say that if you are looking for some extra horsepower, you can be happy with a supercharger, but if you are looking for a real boost, the turbo is the only way to go!
Additionally, snowmobile superchargers are much louder and less fuel-efficient than turbos.
Snowmobile Turbo Kits
If you want to own a supercharged snowmobile, you basically have two options. You can purchase a factory-built turbocharged snowmobile, or you can install a turbo kit on a naturally-aspirated model.
Many say that the best snowmobile turbo kits are made by OEMs, but you can also find some reputable aftermarket manufacturers on the market. The best-known kits are arguably the Silber and the Boondocker snowmobile turbo kits.
When it comes to installing a turbocharger kit on a snowmobile, all manufacturers recommend getting it done by a professional. Keep in mind that installing and tuning a snowmobile turbo requires a lot of skill and the right tools!
Therefore, you can save yourself headaches in the long run if you let professionals do the installation.
As a rule of thumb, a snowmobile turbocharger kit can increase engine performance by 30-50 percent. But for racers and performance-minded owners, special kits are also available that can increase the power level by 100 percent, or even more!
This means that an average turbocharger kit can increase the sled’s performance by 30-50 HP depending on the model.
For the best performance, beyond the turbocharger you have to install many other parts like an intercooler and a modified fuel system. If you want an extreme increase in power, you should consider other modifications like more durable aftermarket pistons, rods, and so on.
Unfortunately, the stock engine internals are not able to handle the boosted performance in some cases! This is one more reason why you should consult with a professional before you do any modifications on your sled.
If you want to keep an eye on the pressure, you can find special snowmobile turbo boost gauges on the market.
Let’s move on and look at some turbo kits for some different snowmobile brands.
Snowmobile Turbo Kits for Polaris
Snowmobile Turbo Kits for Arctic Cat
Snowmobile Turbo Kits for Yamaha
Snowmobile Turbo Kits for Ski-Doo
Snowmobile Turbo Reliability
Finally, let’s talk about the reliability of snowmobile turbochargers. As a rule of thumb, turbochargers are usually less reliable compared to superchargers. Turbo systems feature more parts, its bearings tend to blow up because of the heat, and frequently crack the exhaust headers.
Another problem with snowmobile turbochargers is that if the engine is turned off immediately after a hard ride, the turbo can “burn itself out.” This is because turbocharged engines should be allowed to idle to cool its turbocharger down after a large load.
Missing this simple step can lead to costly repairs!
The first turbocharged snowmobile engine was the T660, which was introduced by Arctic Cat in 2004. Now, a majority of the main manufacturers offer turbocharged snowmobiles, or you can choose from many aftermarket or OEM snowmobile turbo kits.
Turbochargers have one single goal for every snowmobile: to boost its performance!
How does it work?
The turbocharger is driven by exhaust gases and features two impellers. The first impeller is rotated by the gases while the other compresses the air and forces it into the engine. The engine can then consume more fuel, which results in increased performance.
Just like turbochargers, superchargers are also commonly used to increase the performance of snowmobiles.
The main difference between their design is that turbochargers use the energy of the exhaust gases, while the supercharger is driven by the crankshaft (usually with a belt).