More than the OEM: Know Your Turbo Options
There’s no doubt that the OEM’s designed some pretty decent turbos in their day, and that some especially still do a great job. There’s not anything particularly special about OEM turbos but all in all, getting a replacement turbo from the OEM will serve you pretty well, as long as you have the money for the OE upcharge.
One interesting case to note when talking about OEM turbochargers is Cummins’ turbocharger division. Cummins has a division called Cummins Turbo Technologies, sometimes better recognized by the name Holset. Holset used to be an independent engineering company that specialized in turbochargers, but was bought by Cummins in the 1970’s. Cummins didn’t officially change the name of the division until this century, and the turbochargers produced by the division still have the name of Holset. Holset turbos are known to be great quality parts. Even though they’re a division of Cummins, however, they are still termed an aftermarket turbo and there are Holset turbos made to fit engines that are not manufactured by Cummins.
As if the whole Cummins-Holset thing wasn’t confusing enough, when talking about aftermarket turbos, you may hear terms like “house-brand” and “branded.” In all reality, an aftermarket turbo is an aftermarket turbo, regardless of brand, but we’ll go more into depth on the difference between house-brand and branded turbos.
House-brand turbos are usually turbos designed and manufactured by an engine parts supplier or manufacturer. Sounds like a normal aftermarket turbo, right? Right. The term “house-brand” tends to throw people off because it’s thought of as a lesser quality, which isn’t necessarily the case.
The only downside to house-brand turbos is that, depending on the manufacturer, they can be less optimized. The manufacturers may be great manufacturers, but not specialized in turbochargers. Think of when you go to the grocery store and buy the store’s brand of potato chips instead of the name brand ones. They’re perfectly decent potato chips, but maybe they don’t make one flavor that’s as good as the flavor another major brand is famous for.
The big upside to house-brand turbos is that they are the cheapest you can get. Because the supplier or manufacturer makes it in-house, there’s one less company involved that’s trying to make money, and so one less price increase
When we say “branded,” we don’t mean like cattle. We mean the turbo is made by a well-known brand that’s either specialized in turbochargers or generally popular and known to make great engine parts. A few well-known brands for turbos are BorgWarner, Garrett (Honeywell), and Holset, which we’re including here as well, since it is technically an aftermarket brand even though it’s owned by Cummins.
Turbos made by these manufacturers are popular and sometimes asked for by name. The brands have reputations for quality and consistency. This means you’re almost guaranteed to get a great turbo, but also means you’re going to pay for it; turbos by big brands like these may be cheaper than the OEM, but are still a good bit more expensive than a lesser known brand.
As with everything else in life, keep in mind that items without a name brand can be just a good as items with a well known brand. Instead of going by name alone, get reviews, specs, and warranty rates on the parts you buy. And if you have questions, don’t be afraid to ask experts. Highway and Heavy Parts sells all kinds of aftermarket turbos, from the big brand names to cheaper house-brand options. If you’re wondering what turbo you should get, don’t be afraid to call us at 844-215-3406 orrequest a quote online!
Originally Posted May 21, 2018; Edited July 29, 2019