What it is- A turbo timer is a tiny electronic gadget that will keep an automotive engine running for a specified period of time allowing automatic cool down before cutting off ignition. At least that is what it says it does. This lets you set your timer accordingly as to when you would want your car engine to shut off and leave the vehicle after parking.
What you think it does- It certainly leaves a lot of neighboring chauffeurs bewildered. The car shutting down “by itself” is a rather fascinating episode for the general folks out there in our mundane traffic jungle. But that’s not it. Take your interior for instance- you have yet another electronic device besides your deafening entertainment system and an assortment of after market gauges.
But really, what does it do? As the name suggests, a turbo timer induces your snail to cool down after you drive your vehicle hard. It is imperative for the engine to run at idle speed for a small period of time, allowing the turbo intake and exhaust compressors to cool down. This is enabled by proper oil circulation from the engine that is otherwise not possible if you shut off the motor immediately after parking the vehicle. If you shut off your engine after a hard run, the hot engine oil that is trapped between the turbo compressors breaks down into carbon deposits around the bearing leading to poor circulation in the future, blown seals and eventually scoring and failure of the turbo.
Does your turbo go kaboom if there is no turbo timer? No. The whole point of the turbo timer is to “automatically” keep the engine running for a wee bit so that your engine internals and the turbo can catch a breath and cool down before shutting down. You can opt NOT to have a turbo timer and do the above manually. Even track cars, drift machines and time attack aero monsters sometimes do not have turbo timers ‘cos you do not need them if you can run the engine at low RPMs for a little while or just sit in the cockpit for a minute before cutting the ignition yourself. With an oil temperature gauge around, you’ll notice the dramatic decrease of oil temperature in that short while which is actually helping to cool down the turbo. In reality, you would want your oil pump to keep circulating oil until it all cools down; hence keeping the motor running for that extra 30 or 60 seconds. However, if you are an impatient person and regularly shut off the turbo vehicle as soon as you reach your destination, then yes, your turbo life will be shortened. If you also are a person with some sort of obsessive compulsive disorder who cannot stay put in the driving seat (not possible as you are in that condition most of the time…traffic jams!) and leave the vehicle immediately after parking, then yes, gradually your turbo will start to show OCD symptoms too.
Do non-turbo cars require turbo timers? Erm, no. If you can get away by not having one in a turbo vehicle, why would you need one in a non-turbo car? But it is certainly wise to cool down your naturally aspired high revving sports motor quickly before turning the ignition off. In case of superchargers, a cooling process is also not heavily required, that’s because superchargers do not deal with exhaust gasses and spins relatively at lower speeds, hence heats up way less than a turbo.
Win or fail? Let’s put it this way. A 500 hp Mitsu Evolution with a turbo timer would look cool. A Mitsu Lancer EX with fake intake ducts and a turbo timer is proper fail. Not having a turbo timer and manually cooling it is WIN.