Boost controller is a device to control the boost level produced in the intake manifold of a turbocharged or supercharged engine by affecting the air pressure delivered to the pneumatic and mechanical wastegate actuator. A boost controller can be a simple manual control which can be easily fabricated, or it may be included as part of the engine management computer in a factory turbocharged car, or an aftermarket electronic boost controller such as those made by A'PEXior GReddy.
Without a boost controller, air pressure is fed from the charge air (compressed side) of the turbocharger directly to the wastegate actuator via a vacuum hose. This air pressure can come from anywhere on the intake after the turbo, including after the throttle body, though that is less common. This air pressure pushes against the force of a spring located in the wastegate actuator to allow the wastegate to open and bypass exhaust gas from reaching the turbine wheel. In this simple configuration, the spring's springrate and preload determine how much boost pressure the system will achieve. Springs are classified by the boost pressure they typically achieve, such as a "7 psi spring" that will allow the turbocharger to reach equilibrium at approximately 7 psi.
One primary problem of this system is the wastegate will start to open well before the actual desired boost pressure is achieved. This negatively affects the threshold of boost onset and also increases turbocharger lag. For instance, a spring rated at 7 psi may allow the wastegate to begin to (but not fully) open at as little as 3.5 psi.
Achieving moderate boost levels consistently is also troublesome with this configuration. At partial throttle, full boost may still be reached, making the vehicle difficult to control with precision. Electronic systems can allow the throttle to control the level of boost, so that only at full throttle will maximum boost levels be achieved and intermediate levels of boost can be held consistently at partial throttle levels.
A manual boost controller is a simple mechanical and pneumatic control to allow some pressure from the wastegate actuator to escape or bleed out to the atmosphere or back into the intake system. This can be as simple as a T-fitting on the boost control line near the actuator with a small bleeder screw. The screw can be turned out to varying degrees to allow air to bleed out of the system, relieving pressure on the wastegate actuator, thus increasing boost levels. These devices are popular due to their negligible cost compared to other devices that may offer the same power increase.
Generally a manual boost controller will not be accessible from inside the car, though some are designed to be. An installation that allows access from inside the car (as opposed from inside the engine compartment) is more complex, as the tubing must be longer and a hole must be drilled. It is possible and beneficial to use two manual boost controllers at different settings with a solenoid to switch between them for two different boost pressure settings. Some factory turbocharged cars have a switch to regulate boost pressure, such as a setting designed for fuel economy and a setting for performance.
Manual boost controllers do not solve partial throttle/full boost, drivability, and response or lag issues. They can be used in conjunction with some electronic systems.
Electronic boost control adds an air control solenoid and/or a stepper motor controlled by an electronic contr unit. The same general principle of a manual controller is present, which is to control the air pressure presented to the wastegate actuator. Further control and intelligent algorithms can be introduced, refining and increasing control over actual boost pressure delivered to the engine.
At the component level, boost pressure can either be bled out of the control lines or blocked outright. Either can achieve the goal of reducing pressure pushing against the wastegate. In a bleed-type system air is allowed to pass out of the control lines, reducing the load on the wastegate actuator. On a blocking configuration, air traveling from the charge air supply to the wastegate actuator is blocked while simultaneously bleeding any pressure that has previously built up at the wastegate actuator.
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