Project 7.3L Work Truck: Upgrading The Turbo Without Breaking The Bank

Part 8: Upgrading The Turbo Without Breaking The Bank

To wrap up Vincent Uriah’s 2003 Ford 7.3L Power Stroke work truck project, we decided to upgrade the turbocharger. Rather than install a high-dollar competition-minded turbo, we wanted something fitting for a real-world work truck built on a real-world budget. After speaking with the pros at Swamp’s Diesel Performance in La Vergne, Tennesee, Uriah decided the best plan was to improve his factory Garrett turbo by upgrading to a billet compressor wheel and removing the exhaust backpressure valve (EBV). Swamp’s service manager Matt Vozar and his staff had noticed signs of leaks in the exhaust plumbing, so they decided it would be best to replace them with bellowed up-pipes and new gaskets. The complete upgrade took about seven and a half hours, including slow-downs for our photography and lunch.

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TURBO UPGRADE

Vozar started by removing the air filter, turbo inlet tubing, intercooler boost tubes and intake manifold to access the turbo and pedestal. With the exhaust inlet and outlet disconnected, Vozar removed the turbocharger and its pedestal, since a pedestal designed to work without the EPV would replace the latter.
With the turbo on the workbench, Vozar removed the compressor housing and replaced the factory cast wheel with a machined billet Wicked Wheel2 from Dieselsite, which forms the heart of this upgrade. The fully balanced Wicked Wheel2 is lighter than the factory cast wheel, which allows for faster spooling. It’s also more aggressive than the factory part, using 10 blades in two different lengths in place of the factory’s nine equally sized blades. This design allows it to grab and compress more air on each revolution.

REMOVING THE EBV

With the compressor side of the turbo buttoned up, Vozar flipped it over to remove the outlet flange and delete the EBV flapper. Because the shaft and flapper are positioned in the middle of the exhaust flow, they impede that flow slightly even when open. In a worst-case scenario, the valve can stick in a partially or fully closed position, resulting in excess backpressure and poor engine performance.

1 Parts inventory: The Dieselsite Wicked Wheel2 billet compressor wheel will improve the factory turbo’s responsiveness and boost, while the up-pipes will fix the factory exhaust leaks and the non-EBV pedestal will make it possible to remove the obstruction from the turbine outlet.

2 Vozar removes the air filter, turbo inlet and intercooler boost tubes to get to the turbocharger.

To remove the assembly, Vozar ground away the rivets holding the flapper and then slid the shaft out of the outlet flange. He then used a welder to seal the hole from the shaft before cleaning the mounting surfaces and reinstalling the outlet on the turbo. For owners who don’t have access to a welder, Dieselsite offers a complete non-EBV outlet flange.

STOPPING THE LEAKS

Before the upgraded turbo could be reinstalled, Vozar had to address the leaking up-pipes and collector. The up-pipe kit from Swamp’s includes new installation hardware, and that turned out to be a good thing as all four of the rusty bolts securing the pipes to the manifolds broke when Vozar attempted to remove them.

3 The intake manifold must also be removed before the turbo can be taken out of the truck.

4 Don’t forget to disconnect the EBV linkage (see arrow) while disconnecting the exhaust fittings and unbolting the turbo from the pedestal.

5 Working from a topside creeper makes it much easier to wrangle the turbo out of its home under the truck’s cowl.

With the bolts gone, the up-pipes came out of the truck with almost no effort, even though both were still bolted to their respective collectors. Inspection showed that the donut gaskets had completely failed, allowing serious exhaust leaks. The new up-pipe kit uses bellows to allow for expansion and contraction without stressing the gaskets, as occurs with the factory design. This is one of many examples of aftermarket parts having a superior design compared to what came from the factory, and the new setup should last Uriah much longer than the original did.

6 With the turbo out of the way you can see the up-pipes and collector. Soot stains on the up-pipes (see arrows) are evidence of severe exhaust leaks.

7 The non-EBV pedestal on the left serves the same function as the factory one at right. Both provide a mounting point as well as oil feed and drain for the turbo; the non-EBV pedestal eliminates the EBV actuator and control circuit.

8 Vozar inspects the turbo for play in the shaft that would indicate problems. Uriah’s turbo was in good shape so Vozar was able to proceed with the Wicked Wheel2 upgrade.

PUTTING IT ALL BACK TOGETHER

In order to ease installation, Vozar mounted the passenger side up-pipe to the collector on the workbench, and then lowered it into position from the top side of the engine. He then installed the driver’s side up-pipe and finger-tightened the exhaust manifold bolts from below the truck before tightening the collector hardware. He left the manifold hardware finger-tight until the turbo could be installed and the exhaust inlet and outlet attached in order to allow for any necessary movement.

Before reinstalling the turbo, Vozar bolted in a replacement turbo pedestal without an EBV actuator. The new pedestal from Swamp’s includes four new O-rings to seal the pedestal to the engine and the turbocharger to the pedestal. New O-rings are important, as re-using the old ones could result in oil leaks.

The original intake manifold boots showed signs of leakage, so Vozar cut and installed new silicon tubing to replace them before reinstalling the intake manifold, intercooler boost tubes, and air cleaner. One last trip under the truck to tighten the up-pipe-to-manifold mounting bolts, and the upgrade was complete.

ON THE DYNO: MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

We wanted to see what kind of numbers our improvements gave us, so we took the truck to Bean’s Diesel Performance for a few runs on their new Dynocom chassis dyno. Ryan Bean strapped down Uriah’s F-350 and made three successive dyno pulls. The truck put an average of just over 370 horsepower and almost 800 lb-ft of torque to the rollers, with peaks of 372.4 horsepower and 795.4 lb-ft of torque measured on one run. When Bean switched to a lower tune, the torque dropped slightly but peak horsepower actually rose.

9 Satisfied that the turbo is healthy, Vozar opens the compressor housing to access the factory wheel. Be careful when disconnecting the retaining clip on the wastegate, as they’re known to go flying across the shop.

10 Vozar and the rest of the crew at Swamp’s use an impact wrench to remove the factory compressor wheel from the turbo shaft. Dieselsite recommends holding the turbine shaft and using a wrench to remove the compressor.

11 & 12 The Wicked Wheel2 (on the left) uses a more aggressive design to increase efficiency over the factory compressor (right).

13 Vozar uses the impact to install the new wheel. The turbo shaft has right-hand threads so it does not need to be torqued down onto the shaft. As long as it is properly installed, it will tighten itself in use.

14 Turning the turbo over, Vozar removes the EBV turbine outlet flange to modify it for better exhaust flow.

15 Even with the valve fully opened, the flap and shaft partially obstruct exhaust flow. If the EBV sticks closed it can completely block exhaust flow out of the turbine.

16 Vozar uses a die grinder to remove the rivets securing the flapper to the shaft. Once the flapper is removed, he slides the shaft out of the outlet flange.

Uriah’s 7.3L Power Stroke was rated at 250 horsepower and 505 lb-ft of torque at the flywheel when it left the factory, which meant that somewhere between 200 and 225 horsepower was actually being put to the ground.

17 After grinding away the surface rust, Vozar welds the shaft hole closed to prevent exhaust leaks. If you don’t want to weld, you can purchase a complete non-EBV outlet flange from Dieselsite.

18 Once the outlet flange is reinstalled on the turbo, the assembly is ready to be reinstalled in the truck.

19 Before reinstalling the turbo, Vozar wanted to replace the leaky up-pipes and collector. When he grabbed the collector, the up-pipes came right off even with the mounting flanges still bolted in place.

20 The new up-pipes use a bellows to allow the pipes to flex rather than leak like the factory pipes. It’s important to use the supplied gaskets when connecting the new up-pipes to the collectors.

21 After replacing the factory O-rings with the new ones supplied with the non-EBV pedestal, Vozar mounts the pedestal to the engine.

22 ­The modified turbo is carefully lowered into position and secured with the factory mounting hardware. The exhaust inlet and outlet were installed with the factory band clamps.

The truck is now making nearly double the power with improved drivability, better towing capability, and increased fuel economy—and this with nearly 150,000 miles on the odometer. We’ve seen 6.7L Power Stroke trucks show 340 horsepower and 650 lb-ft on the dyno, which means that Uriah now has a truck that makes more power than a brand-new Ford, and he hasn’t spent anywhere near the new truck’s $50,000 price tag. Our mission for this project has most definitely been
accomplished. DW

23 Vozar used new silicone hoses to replace the leaking factory intake boots. It’s important to orient the hose clams to provide easy access to the bolts, as shown here.

24 Vozar buttons up the engine by reinstalling the intercooler boost tubes, turbo inlet plumbing and Airaid air filter.

25 Moving under the truck, he tightens the manifold-to-up-pipe mounting bolts.

26 Uriah’s 7.3L Power Stroke engine may look stock, but it sure doesn’t perform like stock anymore.

27 Ryan Bean strapped Uriah’s F-350 down to his Dynocom chassis dyno to verify what we could already tell by driving the truck—it makes a lot more power than it did from the factory, even with 150,000 miles on the odometer.

28 Smooth graphs show an average of around 370 horsepower to the rear wheels. Uriah’s truck may not be a drag racer, but it certainly is a darn fine work truck!

DIY?

Competent DIYers can handle a job like this, but it’s important to exercise caution when working in and around the engine of your truck, especially when dealing with hot components like the turbo and exhaust system. If you plan to tackle this upgrade yourself, be sure to practice safe shop techniques to prevent damage to the truck and injury to yourself. And be sure to give yourself plenty of time to complete the job—you don’t want to be rushed into making a mistake that could potentially hurt you or harm the truck.

SOURCES
Bean’s Diesel
Performance
844-237-7467
www.BDPShop.com

Dieselsite
888-414-3457
www.DieselSite.com

Swamp’s Diesel Performance
866-595-8724
www.SwampsDiesel.com