Heat Fighter: Reducing Turbo System Heat In A Street Car

A turbocharged street/strip car has to live by a different set of rules in how it deals with heat under the hood — the turbo and hot side radiant heat will rob an engine of horsepower, and if anything touches these parts they’re likely to be damaged. In this article, we’ll delve into why you need to protect the real estate under your hood from turbo system heat and what’s needed to accomplish it.

As Project Red Dragon makes the transformation from nitrous-huffing bird to boosted beast, we needed to address protecting everything under the hood from turbo-related heat. There’s not a lot of room to start with under the hood of a 2000 Trans Am, so all of the electronics and fluids are going to see elevated temperatures after the turbo system is installed. The car will see plenty of 30-plus mile cruises, like any other street car, so keeping the heat in check is critical.

The Huron Speed T6 turbo kit and VS Racing 80mm turbo are going to generate a lot of horsepower, but they're also going to create potentially damaging heat we need to address.

It’s Getting Hot In Here…

The VS Racing 80mm turbo we’re using in Project Red Dragon is a fairly large turbo, so it won’t have any issues at all making plenty of boost, along with an immense amount of heat. A turbo will easily reach temperatures above 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit during normal operation — push it hard during a run at the track and that number will grow.

A turbo blanket is a simple way to fight the heat and protect everything under the hood of your car. Steve Garrett from Design Engineering Inc. (DEI) explains why a turbo blanket is a must for any street/strip turbocharged vehicle.

“A turbo blanket is something you want for two main reasons. First, it holds the heat inside the hot turbo housing and helps the turbo spool faster, increasing performance. Second, turbos get extremely hot and quickly increase under-hood temperatures. These blankets keep the heat from escaping the housing into the engine bay, damaging other components and increasing intake temperatures.”

Photo by Dylan Quisenberry Media

Wiring and lines that carry fluid can only be routed certain ways and they need protection from the turbo along with the manifolds. For Project Red Dragon, we have to run an oil line for the turbo, reroute our O2 sensors, wire up a boost controller, and add more fuel lines under the hood. Fluids can’t do their job if they’re too hot and wires are more susceptible to failure if they’re exposed to excessive heat.

The last thing we want to do is chase electrical issues that are brought on by parts that are failing due to heat. We also want to keep our fuel at a cooler temperature to help performance and prevent vapor lock. To fight all of this heat we plan on using several different heat sleeve products from DEI. These products allow you to route hoses and wiring where you need to without fear of heat damage.

We've got plenty of products from DEI for Project Red Dragon to help protect all of our vital hoses and wiring. Keeping the spark plugs and wires safe is very important since we're trying to make 1,000 horsepower to the tires. The last thing we need is a spark issue wreaking havoc inside the cylinders.

The Huron Speed headers that are part of our turbo system will toss a lot of heat towards the spark plugs and spark plug wires. This can cause a host of issues, so we’re going to do everything we can to protect them from all the heat.

“Protecting things like spark plugs and wires is important because if you don’t have spark, you don’t have a running engine. Heat can break down plug boots and wires. They can burn, crack and even start arcing if they are exposed to enough heat, and that’s dangerous. With simple heat protection, you virtually eliminate these issues,” Garrett says.

The hot side of the turbo system feeds the turbo so it can spin…it also turns into a giant radiant heat source as it funnels those exhaust gasses out of the engine. You need to control the heat and reduce how much of it is unleashed under the hood of your vehicle. If you ever opened the hood on a vehicle that didn’t have the hot side wrapped you know just how much heat is being held under there. The last thing you want on a street/strip car is to have that heat baking everything that’s in between the fenders and heat soaking the engine even more. An exhaust wrap is an affordable way to reduce that radiant heat.

Exhaust wrap helps to protect delicate parts, and it keeps the heat out of the inside of the car so you can experience a more comfortable ride.

“A high-quality exhaust wrap is crucial to protect components and lower under-hood and intake temperatures. By wrapping manifold and header piping, two things happen. One, you reduce the amount of radiant heat coming from hot manifolds and headers by up to 50-percent. This also allows for lower intake temps and less heat soak into surrounding components. Second, wrapping pipes also improves performance by heating up exhaust gasses, allowing them to flow better, in turn making the entire exhaust system more efficient,” Garrett explains.

What You’ll Need To Beat The Heat

There’s an entire universe of heat control products available and that can lead to some confusion — thankfully we’ve done the hard part and narrowed the list down, thanks to our work on Project Red Dragon.

A project car’s success can hinge on how much you pay attention to the details during the build process, which rings true with wiring and plumbing. For a turbo car, you spend a lot of time planning where everything will go to prevent issues, however, that’s not always enough, and you need heat control products. Things like special heat shrouds and various sleeving kits are needed to protect wiring and fluid lines.

There are so many places you can use DEI's various protective sleeves. They help to ensure your fluids don't get too hot and wires are able to function as they need to.

DEI has spent a lot of time doing research and development in different heat control products so they can do their job and be maintenance-friendly.

“We’re car guys and racers ourselves, and we took small things into consideration like not having to detach a fluid line to add heat protection. Many of our sleeve products are developed with a hook and loop fastener so you can just wrap the protection around the line without having to disconnect it. It’s the small things like that help. We use the right materials to develop the right solutions,” Garrett says.

The Titanium Exhaust Wrap from DEI is a perfect choice for protecting your engine bay from hot side heat. There are those who advocate for the use of ceramic coatings, which do function well, but they don’t offer the physical touch protection that a wrap provides. If a wire or fluid line touches a non-wrapped hot side component it will instantly receive a large amount of heat, will stick to the part, and could even catch on fire. A wrap like what DEI offers will prevent instant damage and give you a chance to address the problem.

When you see how tight everything is under the hood it makes sense to use exhaust wrap and turbo blankets for your turbocharged streetcar. Photo by Dylan Quisenberry Media

“We literally take lava rock, pulverize it, make it into fibers, and then create a strong, flexible, high heat-resistant material, which is the DEI Titanium Exhaust Wrap. It is easy to install because it’s very flexible. It can handle up to 1800 degrees of heat. What it does is keep heat inside the exhaust system and pipes. By doing this, under-hood temps are reduced up to 50-percent. That reduces intake temperatures and prevents other component damage. Also, by keeping the heat in the pipe, it allows the gases to flow much better, improving exhaust gas scavenging and promoting greater system efficiency,” Garrett Says.

Controlling the heat in a street/strip turbo car is an important battle that you must win. Not only will you keep critical parts safe, you’ll also help your vehicle perform better since there won’t be as much heat soak. You’ll also increase the reliability of your street/strip machine without worry of parts failing due to heat exposure. Make sure you follow along right here as we continue our boost conversion for Project Red Dragon.

Article Sources

About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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