Which Aftermarket Turbo is Best for My Duramax?

Steve Gadd

Steve Gadd

One of the most common upgrades done on Duramax trucks after tuning and supporting modifications have been done is a turbo upgrade. To reach power levels above above 530 to 540 RWHP this is one of those necessary evils; but I promise you, it is one of the most satisfying feelings once you jump in the seat and take it for a drive.

One of the most common topics we talk about with customers is “Which turbo or turbo kit should I choose for my truck?”

The answer is more complex than a one product answer so I will break it down into the following three groups:

  • Drop-in turbos (Stealth 64 or similar)
  • Compound turbo kits (S400 over stock)
  • Single Turbo kits (S400 or S300 Kits)

Drop-In Turbo

Turbos in this category are Turbos such as the Stealth 64 series turbo. This is one of my favourite recommendations for customers because of they typically fit in right where the factory turbo previously was with no modifications and the vehicle should have the same low end response your factory turbo offers but it will offer hell of a lot more top end power.

Who benefits from drop-in turbos?

This turbo category fits the majority of our customers. This is a great option for guys that use their truck as a daily commuting vehicle, tows on the weekends, and is looking to make up to ~640 RWHP.

A lot of people think this turbo category might limit them as far as horsepower; realistically, by going with some large single turbo setup you are likely limiting your self in terms of drive-ability. A drop-in turbo such as a Stealth 64 will give you the best balance of drive-ability, power, and EGT management.

Compound Turbo Kit

This category is probably one of the most popular options for Duramax trucks. The typical setup is a S475 over the factory turbo. Aside from the “Aww Effect” when you pop your hood the best part of this setup is maintaining factory turbo spool up while having a never ending supply of boost up top. While these kits do offer it all they come with a price tag that is typically at least $1000 more than a drop-in turbo.

Who benefits from compound turbo kits?

Due to the wide variety of turbo pairings that you can choose from this category can satisfy just about anyone. For vehicles that are constantly towing or towing very heavy on a regular basis a S475 over stock turbo kit is what we strongly recommend because of the low end response and the kits ability to keep EGTs incredibly low.

The same kit will work well for people who use their truck as a daily commuter or light duty towing. For fully built trucks looking to push past the upper 700 RWHP mark a compound kit with a drop-in charger like the Stealth 64 in the valley and a S480 or S488SXE will get you to your desired number (with the proper fueling).

Single Turbo Kit

In the past years these turbo kits haven’t been the most popular but the many LML owners have decided to go this route with their vehicle. Over the past few years turbo technology has come a long way and S300 and S400 turbos now spool better than they have in the past. This turbo group consists of fixed geometry turbos that go in place of the factory turbo in the valley.

The most popular turbos used in this category are S366, S369 SXE, S472 SXE, ect. While this turbo category can drive nicely with the proper fueling additions, torque converter match, and tuning; it can severely compromise drive-ability and curb how you use your vehicle.

Who benefits from single turbo kits?

This is not what we recommend for someone who tows on a regular basis or someone who does a lot of daily commuting unless they have driven a big fixed geometry turbo on a past vehicle but for someone that sled pulls on the weekend or someone who competes with their truck in a particular class with their truck this would be the right match.

For those who love the look and sound of doing a single turbo and will be doing some towing and commuting the recommendation is to go with an S366 or S369 SXE turbo if you are not modifying your injectors.

It is important to thoroughly think through what you use your truck for and what characteristics you value in how your vehicle performs now. Think about what your goals are with your truck and what power level you will be satisfied with and make sure you are being realistic with yourself.

We deal with clients that do the opposite on a daily basis and end up spending double what they needed to because they didn’t match their truck up with a turbo that suited their needs.

Steve Gadd

Steve Gadd

Steve is the owner and general manager of Motor Ops and has been involved in the diesel pickup truck tuning space for over 10 years.

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