Well, let me apologize in advance for the novel. This may be the longest post ever posted, anywhere! So I just got done (11:30PM) changing turbos for the eighth time today and I’m just incredibly fuggin frustrated! I need some advice on what direction to go from here. This is not intended to be a bashing session and I’m really just looking for some advice…
About a week and a half ago, one of the resident gurus told me that my truck has a problem, because as he put it… there are over a hundred of this particular turbo, lets call it an “S1”, out there in service so there is absolutely no way that I could have received a bad S1. Hence, my truck must have a problem. He is kind of right about a couple things; first, it has a problem, I keep putting bad turbos on it, and second, I didn’t get one bad turbo, I got four of them!
So lets start this little journey off about a year ago. I ordered one of these S1 turbos for my 06. I was really diggin the advertisements/claims/theory behind them as well as the reviews for the few that had been used by members on here. I was really looking for that little bit extra air and quicker spooling to get rid of the tiny bit of smoke I was getting from my truck (which already smoked less than stock tune since running Matt’s SRL+) and better MPGs. It was going to be a nice bonus having a little bit better performance too! As an added bonus, Mitch let me use his Powermax with Batmowheel so my truck didn’t have to be down while I waited for my stock turbo to be modified. It’s a good thing I had the Pmax because five weeks after I order my S1 finally arrived. The first thing I noticed when I pulled it out of the box was the shaft had significant play in the bearings, so much that the compressor wheel easily hit the inside of the housing. I wasn’t going to put it on but Mitch seemed to think that once it had oil in it the bearings would stay centered. Well that theory proved incorrect. The turbo ran pretty good but was down on power compared to stock. It was pretty close through lower gears and speeds but up top where it needed more air to run, it just wasn’t there. I think that turbo would have been good to go if the bearings weren’t so sloppy. At anything close to full throttle you could here a rattle in the turbo that I knew was the compressor wheel hitting the housing. We pulled the turbo off and sure enough, there were five rub marks around the inside of the housing where the wheel was hitting. That had to have been hurting performance. So the Pmax went back on and the S1 went back to the builder.
The builder was very gracious and was offering all kinds of help, the kind of customer service that so many people had talked about on here. We ended up deciding to go with a different turbo this time, lets call it an “H”. So it took four months to get this H. It arrived the week before Christmas and guess what… I pulled it out of the box and the bearings were not sloppy, they were very tight. Spinning the shaft by fingers, it did not spin freely and was a little crunchy. Again Mitch thought oil would help so we threw it in there and it never performed close to what it should have. The boost was low, about 20 PSI, which Mitch thought we could work out in tuning. Unfortunately we never got around to trying any tunes because I drove it on vacation, put about 2000 miles on it and by the time I got home 10 days later, it was smoking so bad if the smoke was black you would have swore it was a Cummins. The smoke was blue and the builder knew right away why it was smoking, the extremely tight bearings were causing oil to push past the seals and running straight into the exhaust side of the turbo. I was going to take it apart and polish the shaft but the builder said go ahead and send it back, he would fix it. So on went the Pmax again.
The builder was going to take it apart, polish the shaft, reassemble and send it back to me. So a month later I asked him if he had any luck with it and he said it was ready to send out. So two weeks after that I let him know that I hadn’t seen it and he let me know that he held on to it and was going to put one of his new billet wheels in it for me. So I was really diggin that! So I finally get a box about three weeks ago (yes 3 months later), expecting to see the same H turbo and guess what…. I opened it up and there was an extremely used S1 turbo in there. The exhaust side of this particular S1 had gunk caked on the Y-pipe flange and inside the housing. Then I started looking it over pretty good and could see that there were aluminum chips way down in the Y-pipe inlet. I was sitting there quite pissed, and thinking to myself that this was pretty strange considering the exhaust side is cast iron, not aluminum. So I said to myself phukit, and put it on just to see what happens! Well, I put it on after scraping all the chit out and cleaning up the exhaust side of the turbo for over an hour. The intake side looked like brand new and it did have a billet wheel in it. I installed this turbo and it just didn’t run right, it would not boost over 20 PSI at WOT and 26 PSI rolling into half throttle. The boost was down, the mileage was down, the EGT’s were up, took forever and a half to spool up… I know, you’re thinking exhaust leak…. wrong. It didn’t smoke, except for anytime I floored it, then it would smoke hard until it lit. Other than that, you couldn’t make it smoke if you wanted to, not a wisp. So I talked to the builder and he thought it may have a bad VGT solenoid. This time he offered to get a brand new turbo to build me another S1, and told me to keep the used one on my truck until he sends the new one up. I guess so I wouldn’t have to put the Pmax back on.
So I got the brand new S1 yesterday and went out at 7:30 this morning to swap it in. I got it done and went for a ride. Pulling out of my neighborhood and going up a small hill everything felt sort of normal, but then I happened to glance at the Insight and my EGTs were at 1400 at less than ¼ throttle and I’m thinking that’s pretty strange. I don’t recall ever looking at the EGTs going up that hill right after the computer was reset but I’m sure it was never that high. All the way up to the main road, about 5-1/2 miles the EGT’s were very high, at least 50% above normal, and when I got out on the main road I realized there was an issue and it was getting worse the further I went. It wouldn’t make any kind of boost and would smoke pretty bad if I gave it any throttle, and any throttle at all sent the EGT’s well over 1200. I pulled over and took a quick look under the truck and under the hood just to see, I saw nothing that looked out of the ordinary. Then during the 6 mile trip back to the house at 40 MPH, I had a hard time getting the EGTs to drop below 1000 except for a couple down hill runs where I was off the throttle completely and it wouldn’t go over 14 PSI under any condition and to get it that high I had to roll into it from a stop. At 40 MPH, nailing the throttle resulted in the engine downshifting after maybe 2-3 seconds and boost dropping to nothing. So I got it home and let it cool down for a while then started going over things. I was thinking it must have a leak on the cold side because it wouldn’t build any boost at all. I’ve had exhaust leaks and it was nothing like that. Plus the Y-pipe fell into place and never moved while I was putting the V-band on. So I removed the CAI, and the reseated the CAC boots. I thought I had found an issue in the boot at the intercooler. I thought that the boot may have been pushed up over the plastic stopper on the intercooler. I’m not sure if it was over that, which would have certainly caused a leak, but after reinstalling that stuff, a short ride showed the same results. I figured it would take too long to keep getting it hot and waiting for it to cool down enough to work on again, so I started just power braking in the driveway for future tests. When I got back from that second test drive I tried to powerbrake and it built a whopping ZERO PSI and wouldn’t even attempt to turn the tires. So after it cooled down again I removed everything with the exception of physically taking the turbo out. The Y-pipe was good, the exhaust was good. I put it back together, powerbrake test…. Same results, 0 PSI. Since there was no problem with the installation, I decided to put the Pmax back in. Powerbrake test… boost went quickly into the 20’s and busted the tires almost immediately, and no smoke. Pulled the Pmax and reinstalled the S1, same results as before, 0 PSI. I removed and installed the Pmax and the S1 again with the same results before putting the Pmax on for good and calling it a night at 11:30.
So that was turbo #4. The builder had said that if I wanted to try a billet wheel in Mitch’s Pmax to use the one in the new turbo, that they are the same. I’m not really sure if that is correct because I've read a few times that the Pmax billet wheels were not even available, but I wanted to try it. Instead of using the one out of the new turbo, I was going to use the one from the used turbo, turbo #3. Unfortunately the nut on the exhaust side wheel was so ground away from balancing that it couldn’t hold a socket at all. So I got frustrated and stopped trying to remove that wheel. I didn’t want to remove the wheel from turbo #4 because I was still trying to get it to work. I was getting ready to put the housing back on turbo #3 when I realized that the builder’s VGT solenoid theory was probably wrong… The fuggin O-ring on the housing was pretty much destroyed! I have a feeling that somebody had the surging issue with this turbo, or maybe they just wanted to upgrade to the billet wheel, and maybe the builder sent the wheel to the original owner and he installed it and squeezed the chit out of the O-ring when he put the housing back on over the O-ring DRY. He probably returned this turbo to the builder because he couldn’t get it to run correctly. I could actually see plain as day where the air was leaking half way around the housing. So turbo #3 is probably a good turbo if it gets a new O-ring, and after I spent an hour cleaning the exhaust side and another hour cleaning the crushed O-ring/grit mess from the cold side housing. I don’t have a clue what’s wrong with turbo #4 except I think that it is probably what the builder thought for the previous turbo. In all the times I had the engine running with turbo #4, I never once heard it sweep the veins. I think the veins are stuck. I know, it's new. New doesn't always equal good and wether it's stuck veins or not, the "new" turbo has a severe problem. Every time I put the Pmax in it sweeps with in 5 seconds of startup and keeps doing it if it idles for a while.
So all that to ask this… what should I do now? After four bad turbos (and about a year waiting) from the same builder I’m a quite a bit past pissed off. I still think the theory of these turbos is what I want. The Pmax runs great in my truck. I don’t have any of the issues that most experience, no lag, no dead spots. The only thing I don’t like is it doesn’t have quite the performance that the stock turbo had, but that may just be because I never tuned for that specific turbo. Never felt the need to since I always knew it was not going to be on the truck that long. Should I try another turbo? I haven’t talked to the builder about the latest failure. I could get an O-ring and keep the 3rd turbo, but that was somewhat of an extremely used POS. I don’t know it’s history, but judging what I’ve seen of that turbo, it probably wasn’t good. The Pmax is back in there now and it runs like it always runs, 25 PSI at WOT & 28-29 rolling into it, and that’s on Matt’s SRL+ for stock turbo. But that turbo doesn’t belong to me. I will say, back around Christmas the builder offered to buy the Pmax from Mitch to let me keep it, but I never wanted a Pmax and don’t know that I do now. So, what should I do? What would you do? I’m willing to listen to pretty much anything at this point.