Complete SUB-$3,000 Single Turbo Swap!

BlueN54

Lurker
Jan 2, 2018
15
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e90 335i
OVERVIEW
Hello, first time posting here, although I have been lurking for some time! This thread is to show people a real-world cost of doing a budget single turbo build. In the end, it ended up costing less than I expected. In the cost analysis, I will include my complete cost, including fittings, fluids, hoses, etc.

So to preface, I would just like to explain what brought upon doing the single turbo swap. Just like many others, my stockers eventually blew. On March 3, 2018, my front turbo blew sending quarts and quarts of oil onto the ground and exhaust. It seems that there might have been turbulent air flow which caused the shaft to wiggle too much or something, I'm not sure. Long story short, I found the exhaust turbine stuck in my secondary catalytic converter!

To start off this turbo replacement, I first had to come up with a budget and consider the pros and cons of going single vs upgraded twins. Again, this is a personal list pertaining to my needs and situation specifically. Being a college student, price and reliability was my biggest concern. My power goals are at a moderate 500-550whp for the time being.

ST PROS
  • Gives some nice eye candy under the hood
  • Very easy to swap a new turbo on, should the original one blow
  • Less OVERALL heat than twins (My temperatures never even hit 240 on aggressive driving)
  • Less oil/coolant lines = less potential areas for leaking
  • More room to upgrade in the future
  • Torque comes on later = easier on transmission *IMPORTANT*
TT PROS
  • Probably cheaper and better suited for my power goals
  • Glorious low-end torque
  • "Stealth"/ Stock look (although this could be achieved with a bottom mount single turbo)

With all this in mind, I set a budget. After all said and done, I would really like to stay under $3,000. I did numerous calculations before I purchased my kit to see if I could get this done in my budget. According to my calculations, it would be very, very close. This was a difficult decision whether to go single turbo or twins because a single turbo would more than likely cost more at the end of the day. But in the end, I'm very happy I chose the ST route.

After determining my budget, there were really only two options: JPWorkz or On3 Performance.
After talking with countless people and having a plethora of Facebook comments to read through, I was scared away from the JP kit due to items never being delivered and terrible customer service reviews.

COST ANALYSIS (YES, THIS IS VERY LENGTHY)
TURBO KIT
After researching and talking with people, I met an On3 dealer, @Tony Vu, who could get me a small discount. I already had the CP/BOV and I ordered a new FMIC recently, so I opted to delete all optional extras and go with the 61mm journal bearing turbo. The total shipped-to-my-door price was $2,605.

RANDOM FITTINGS
When I received my turbo, I noticed the coolant block off plugs were missing (or quite simply not needed). No big deal, picked up two plugs for $1.22 (LINK). For a pressure source, I used a 90º 1/4NPT to 1/4 Barb fitting. I used a 1/4NPT tap and tapped into the compressor housing pre-install. I already had the fitting, but the cost is around $3.

A common issue with this turbo kit is the bulky oil drain. This then forces you to clock the turbo which could result in premature bearing failure and ultimately, turbo failure. I ordered a thinner oil drain from eBay for $10.99 (LINK). Along with the oil drain, I picked up a few feet of 3/4 heater hose for $4 because the supplied oil drain hose in the kit did not fit on the oil drain that connects to the block.

WASTEGATE
Next, I had to source a good wastegate. I was recommended the TiAL 44mm and the PTE 46mm. I chose the 46mm mostly because it was cheaper. I bid on eBay for a brand new one and got it for $310 shipped.

TUNING
I have always preferred a full flash tune, so it was a no-brainer that I had to go the Motiv Boost Box + MAC solenoid route. Total cost shipped was $262. Along with the MAC solenoid and wastegate purchase, I used 1/4in ID vacuum hosing (which I already had). However, the MAC comes with 1/8NPT to 1/8 Barb fittings which would be too small for my pressure source, so I purchased 2x 1/8NPT to 1/4 Barb brass fittings for $9.74 (LINK). As seen in later pictures, a brass 1/4 barb T will also be needed to split the pressure source to turbo and MAC solenoid (which I already had).

MAINTENANCE + INSTALLATION HARDWARE
Since my car had 93,500 miles at the time of this turbo swap, I had a slightly leaking oil pan gasket and valve cover gasket, so I went ahead and did these at the same time, although this was NOT necessary. Additionally, I ordered a new water pipe gasket since I removed the water pipe when removing the stock turbos. I ordered the VCG, OPG + OPG bolts, and water pipe gasket for $76.55 from FCP Euro.

Whenever I do header work, I like to replace all the studs, nuts, and gaskets just to avoid any headache further down the road. That being said, I made an order with FCP Euro. The total cost of 16x header studs, 16x nuts, and 6x gaskets was $46.62 from FCP Euro.
*THE SHORTER COPPER NUTS ARE NEEDED TO CLEAR THE HEADERS IN SOME AREAS*

COOLANT + PS RELOCATION
Fortunately, I had all the necessary fittings and hoses for these relocations.
Obviously, if you have relocated inlets, this step is not needed. Since I didn't relocate these before, I had to do it now. Provided in the On3 turbo kit is a very nice PS reservoir (nice touch). For the PS relocation, I needed 1x 1/2 Brass straight thru barb, and 1/2 heater hose. Fortunately, I already had these items laying around in the garage, but I reckon it would be under $10. For the mounting bracket, I simply made a small bracket on the strut housing. Pictures will be provided later.

Coolant relocation required a 5/8 straight thru brass barb and 5/8 heater hose. Again, I happened to have these items, and again, cost had to be less than $10. I know for a fact the fitting can be had for $5 or less on eBay/Amazon/HomeDepot. For mounting, I found a random piece of scrap metal that happened to line up perfectly. Pictures will be provided later.

Total cost of hoses and fittings = ~ $20

HEAT MANAGEMENT
Heat management is very important for top mount ST swaps. For the turbo blanket, I opted for the cheap but effective ECSTuning T3 turbo blanket for $55 (LINK).

Although not needed, I purchased DEI CoolTube for the turbo feed line because it was dangerously close to the runners for $19.45 (LINK).

I did not wrap my headers, although I probably would recommend others to do so. I was very lazy and just slightly irritated that day so I completely ignored it. I do not have any ill effects of not wrapping it. It's important to get quality wrap like DEI (yes it is kind of expensive). Wrap the downpipe and headers. 2in x 25ft (two of these, so 50ft total). $50 (LINK).

Lastly, I purchased some reflective heat tape. I used a combination of the tape and header wrap to make a sort of "valve cover blanket" to protect the wires and other valve cover components. Total cost was $16.26 (LINK). Upon creating this link, I see the price went to $65. Feel free to choose a different one.

PCV SYSTEM
This is my least familiar part of the car. For the time being, I am using AC Fab valve cover fittings ($70), a -8AN cap/block off on the PCV valve fitting, and a 90º -10AN fitting on the flapper valve fitting, attached to a 5/8 heater hose venting to atmosphere above the transmission. Please leave suggestions for the PCV system as I am not quite sure what to do.
Total cost was $80.

INTAKE FILTER
For the time being, I am just using a basic Spectre intake filter from Autozone until I find something better. Cost was $22.

FLUIDS
Total cost of purchasing all new PS fluid, Coolant, and Oil + filter was ~ $107

TOTAL INITIAL COST: $3,701.83
This was the TOTAL INITIAL COST vested into this turbo build. Fortunately, I was able to sell some stock parts to recoup some of my losses! I still have some parts to sell to this day.

ITEMS SOLD
  • $230 - Turbos
  • $530 - FMIC, DCI, DPs
  • $60 - Boost solenoids
  • $40 - Stock CP/DV
TOTAL RECOVERED: $860

GRAND TOTAL: $3,701.83 - $860 = $2,841.83

Conclusion

Overall, I am EXTREMELY happy with my total cost of this ST build. It was significantly under my budget. So far, I have driven 600 miles with no issues what so ever. It even seems as if the car runs SMOOTHER with the single than twins!

Additionally, I made a 2-part DIY on this turbo install for anyone that has additional questions or simply wants to see what went on!

PICTURES
MAKESHIFT VALVE COVER BLANKET
TscKm9B.jpg


MAC SOLENOID MOUNTING

rUzXpSZ.jpg

Y2AZD2N.jpg

COOLANT RELOCATION
7X8MmXT.jpg


PS RELOCATION

8eD9uwd.jpg


BLOWN TURBOS

GGc2aSS.jpg

Ns39SZH.jpg

BEAUTY SHOTS

8aJ3hBV.jpg

1cFLEvu.jpg

fBW9tdU.jpg
 
Last edited:

Clean WHP

Corporal
Apr 24, 2017
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2010 135i Msport 6MT
Hey man, we talked on youtube but just wanted to say Very good work!! If this isnt balling on a budget idk what is. Super badass for the price you paid and well thought out!
 
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BlueN54

Lurker
Jan 2, 2018
15
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e90 335i
Hey man, we talked on youtube but just wanted to say Very good work!! If this isnt balling on a budget idk what is. Super badass for the price you paid and well thought out!
oh yeah, I remember! thanks again for the kind words, it means a lot! can’t wait to see your build!
 
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dyezak

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May 4, 2017
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only 600 miles so far. I have friends that are on their turbo for thousands of hard driven miles though!

I'll be surprised if you make it past a single oil change. But hell, even if you went off and replaced that On3 turbo with a quality piece you'll still be under $4k total which is still awesome. Just get a used journal bearing precision for sub $1k when the time comes.
 

doublespaces

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Oct 18, 2016
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Very nice! But lets make it clear, the upgrade cost $3700. You can sell those items when you buy any other single turbo kit as well.

Also, you may be shocked what the new cast turbo kits coming out will cost based on what I've been told. In fact, I'd wager you could get a JB precision single kit for a good bit less than that soon enough. I realize that is not now so it doesn't count, and I do not mean to diminish what you've done here because this is about as good as you can get at the moment. Great job! Welcome to the ST club :)
 
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BlueN54

Lurker
Jan 2, 2018
15
17
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e90 335i
I'll be surprised if you make it past a single oil change. But hell, even if you went off and replaced that On3 turbo with a quality piece you'll still be under $4k total which is still awesome. Just get a used journal bearing precision for sub $1k when the time comes.
it seems that the On3 turbo is a hit or miss. some have it for years while some have it for days.
 

BlueN54

Lurker
Jan 2, 2018
15
17
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e90 335i
Very nice! But lets make it clear, the upgrade cost $3700. You can sell those items when you buy any other single turbo kit as well.

Also, you may be shocked what the new cast turbo kits coming out will cost based on what I've been told. In fact, I'd wager you could get a JB precision single kit for a good bit less than that soon enough. I realize that is not now so it doesn't count, and I do not mean to diminish what you've done here because this is about as good as you can get at the moment. Great job! Welcome to the ST club :)
I agree. My original plan was to ST in a year or two, but as we all know, tentative plans often take a dump on us when it comes to the N54, lol. This was the best I could do at the time with the resources I had. Can't wait to upgrade to a precision turbo when the time comes, although hopefully not TOO soon, haha.
 
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RSL

Lieutenant
Aug 11, 2017
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This install looks quite clean and not that out of place in the bay, nice job. Too bad they don't sell a hot parts kit, but at least turbo would be easy to swap. I have ST somewhere in the back of my mind for if/when the hybrids go, but always been thinking a bottom mount. Not in a rush, so I'll see what these cast kits are @doublespaces is talking about.
 
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doublespaces

Administrator
Oct 18, 2016
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I agree. My original plan was to ST in a year or two, but as we all know, tentative plans often take a dump on us when it comes to the N54, lol. This was the best I could do at the time with the resources I had. Can't wait to upgrade to a precision turbo when the time comes, although hopefully not TOO soon, haha.

I don't think you can do much better than this price though, so by all means great job. I think there are a LOT of people in your situation, and you decided to make the jump. I suspect with dropping prices, even more will follow suit.
 
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BlueN54

Lurker
Jan 2, 2018
15
17
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e90 335i
This install looks quite clean and not that out of place in the bay, nice job. Too bad they don't sell a hot parts kit, but at least turbo would be easy to swap. I have ST somewhere in the back of my mind for if/when the hybrids go, but always been thinking a bottom mount. Not in a rush, so I'll see what these cast kits are @doublespaces is talking about.
thank you! if i’m not mistaken, I think on3 does sell the hot parts only kit, so you could do that route if you wanted to. given the option to wait, I would so you can make an informed decision regarding the new kits that are coming out. a bottom mount would definitely be cool and in my opinion, better (less piping so slightly better spool perhaps, lower in the engine bay so heat isn’t as big of an issue)
 
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BlueN54

Lurker
Jan 2, 2018
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e90 335i
I don't think you can do much better than this price though, so by all means great job. I think there are a LOT of people in your situation, and you decided to make the jump. I suspect with dropping prices, even more will follow suit.
thank you, I appreciate it! this post was to show people that it really doesn’t cost an arm and a leg for a single swap if you plan it all out!
 
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Itsbrokeagain

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Jan 28, 2018
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you may want to keep an eye on your turbo drain line for a bit. Heater Hose isnt exactly oil resistant and will most likely degrade or start leaking. Change it out for some oil resistant hose when you can.
 

Snowman

Specialist
May 20, 2018
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How is the kit holding up? How many miles have you done and what boost are you at now?