VNT vs Wastegated Turbos

Turbochargers play a crucial role in enhancing the performance of modern internal combustion engines, and among the various types available, VNT (Variable Nozzle Turbine) and wastegated turbos are two common designs. In this guide, we’ll delve into the differences between VNT and wastegated turbos, exploring their working principles, advantages, and applications.

Understanding VNT (Variable Nozzle Turbine) Turbos

VNT turbos, also known as variable geometry turbos, feature adjustable vanes in the turbine housing. These vanes can change their angle to control the exhaust gas flow and optimize the turbine’s efficiency at different engine speeds.

Working Principle
VNT turbos adjust the size of the turbine inlet to maintain optimal exhaust gas velocity across a range of engine speeds. This adaptability helps improve low-end torque and responsiveness.

VNT turbos are known for their ability to reduce turbo lag, enhance low-end torque, and improve overall engine efficiency.

Actuation of VNT Turbos

Control Mechanism
VNT turbos are commonly actuated using a vacuum or electronic actuator. The actuator adjusts the position of the vanes in the turbine housing based on signals from the engine control unit (ECU) or a dedicated turbocharger control module.

Vacuum-Operated VNT Turbos
In many applications, especially in older diesel engines, VNT turbos are controlled by vacuum pressure. The vacuum actuator responds to changes in engine load and speed, adjusting the vane angle to optimize turbine efficiency.

Electronic Actuation
In modern vehicles, electronic actuators are becoming more prevalent. These actuators receive signals from the ECU, allowing for precise control of the vane position. Electronic control provides greater flexibility and responsiveness compared to vacuum systems.

Exploring Wastegated Turbos

Wastegated turbos utilize a wastegate, which is a valve that diverts excess exhaust gas away from the turbine wheel when a certain boost pressure is reached. This prevents over-pressurization of the engine and helps regulate the turbocharger’s speed.

Working Principle
The wastegate opens to allow exhaust gases to bypass the turbine wheel, controlling the boost pressure produced by the turbocharger. This regulation helps protect the engine from potential damage due to excessive pressure.

Wastegated turbos are valued for their simplicity, reliability, and the ability to provide consistent boost pressure across a wide range of engine speeds.

Actuation of Wastegated Turbos

Control Mechanism
Wastegated turbos utilise a wastegate actuator to control the flow of exhaust gases and regulate the turbocharger’s boost pressure.

Positive Pressure (Boost) Actuation
The wastegate actuator is typically operated by positive pressure (boost pressure) from the intake manifold. As the boost pressure reaches a predetermined level, the actuator opens the wastegate, allowing some exhaust gases to bypass the turbine wheel. This prevents the turbocharger from producing excessive boost pressure.

Spring-Loaded Actuation
Wastegate actuators often include a spring that helps set the baseline boost pressure. The spring tension determines when the wastegate opens, and adjustments can be made to the spring to achieve the desired boost level.

Comparing Applications

VNT Turbos
Commonly found in diesel engines, VNT turbos are well-suited for applications that require strong low-end torque, such as in heavy-duty trucks and certain passenger vehicles.

Wastegated Turbos
Wastegated turbos are widely used in both petrol and diesel engines and are suitable for a broad range of applications, from compact cars to high-performance sports cars.


Distinguishing Features of Actuation

VNT Turbo Actuation
The actuation of VNT turbos is more dynamic and responsive, allowing for continuous adjustment of the vane angle to optimise performance across a wide range of engine speeds and loads.

Wastegated Turbo Actuation
Wastegated turbos, while effective, operate in a more binary manner. The wastegate either remains closed to build boost or opens to release excess exhaust gases, regulating the boost pressure.


Considerations for Tuning

VNT Turbos
When tuning vehicles with VNT turbos, adjustments to the actuation parameters need to be finely tuned to achieve the desired balance between low-end torque and high-end power.

Wastegated Turbos
Tuning wastegated turbos often involves setting the spring tension and actuation thresholds to achieve the desired boost pressure characteristics.

Selecting the Tight Turbo for your Needs

The choice between VNT and wastegated turbos depends on factors such as the desired power characteristics, engine type, and intended use of the vehicle.

It’s advisable to consult with experienced professionals or turbocharger specialists to determine the most suitable turbocharger for your specific requirements.

In conclusion, the choice between VNT and wastegated turbos involves understanding the unique characteristics and advantages each technology offers. Whether you prioritise responsiveness and efficiency (VNT) or simplicity and reliability (wastegated), selecting the right turbocharger is crucial to achieving the desired performance in your vehicle.