Petersen's 4 Wheel & Off-Road July 2001
photography David Kennedy
Installation & evaluation of Banks Sidewinder turbo system on a 6.2L diesel Blazer.
|| Anyone can spend their spring break in Daytona Beach or Cancun. Shoot, we’d bet you could have a good old time four-wheeling a rental car in either of those places; Yeah, a week in the sun would be nice but we wouldn’t feel right spending all that time and money away from the office without being on the trail or in the garage. Know what we mean? We could think of a hundred projects that we would rather dump our hard-earned money into instead of spending three days on the beach and two days in jail like we did…or, um…heard about other people doing last year.
We have this 6.2L diesel Blazer that we could barely drive because it was go gutless. Either it needed a new gas engine swapped in or we were going to have to turbocharge that little Detroit Diesel. We looked at swapping in a 350 or a 454, but after pricing a rebuilt engine (complete with all the accessories and brackets), figuring in flushing the fuel system, and modifying the wiring harness, plus keeping it emissions-legal, we changed our minds. So adding a turbo to our stock engine seemed like the way to go. But could we handle that? Sure, we’ve swapped carburetors on the trail, but adding a turbo in our driveway? We called up the folks at Gale Banks Engineering to see what they thought about us force-feeding a diesel engine in the privacy of our own home. They said, “Of course you can.” And so can you.
Naturally we needed to find some “experts” to help us with the install (but we couldn’t find any) so instead we settled for two college kids from the East Coast. Neither of these guys had ever worked on a diesel engine (but they had worked on Volkswagens) so they’d do just fine. We parked the anemic diesel truck in a friend’s driveway for three days (he was in Cancun) and proceeded to wrench.
So How Did It Go?
We did the entire installation without a single air tool, welder, or hydraulic lift. Our specialty tools included a hacksaw, a 5/32” Allen wrench, and a cordless drill. The whole Banks upgrade was pulled off in a single-car driveway in about 2.5 days. We didn’t even have to lift the truck off the ground.
Evidently the Banks Sidewinder Turbo kit is a torque-it-too-tight affair, as the directions give only one torque spec for the whole kit. We called Banks about this and were told we should tighten everything to 30 lb-ft. We would have brought you some rear-wheel horsepower numbers, but in the 45-minute testdrive we took playing with our new Banks-supplied torque we wiped out all but First gear in our truck’s TH700R4. We can tell you this: Turbocharging a diesel engine is a necessary thing. Now the truck drives like it has a healthy 350 TBI engine (but with twice the fuel economy). It pulls much stronger, doesn’t blow black smoke out the back, and has an ever-so-sweet turbo spooling noise. One final word of advice: Following the order of operations in the instructions is very important. If you jump around, you’ll end up bolting parts of the kit in place that will make will make it hard to reach the fuel lift pump and turbo oil drain tube. So unless you have the hands of a 5-year-old, do things in the order you are suppose to.