Ball Bearing Turbo

The ball bearing turbo is becoming the turbocharger of choice for many boost maniacs. These quick spooling turbochargers have less lag and allow us to run bigger units on smaller applications.

If you’ve driven a car with a huge BB turbo you know how much fun they are. There is nothing better than the sound of a spooling turbo. The oncoming power surge pushing you back into your seat is the most fun you can have in a car.

Just a few years back adding a ball bearing system to your turbo meant laying out big bucks. The prices have started to come down, making it an option for more tuners. With the lower prices, more people than ever are searching for a BB turbo for their vehicle. We put together this guide to help you learn more before making a big purchase.

ball bearing turbo guide

What makes it a better turbocharger?

Ball bearing turbos offer unmatched throttle response, spooling up to 15% faster than traditional journal bearings. Ball bearings have less friction for the compressor and turbine to spin on. Thus they are faster to spool. This improved responsiveness equals better acceleration.

Testing done with ball-bearing cartridges show they use half the power of journal bearing systems. The result is faster time to boost makes for better drivability and acceleration.

Ball bearing design reduces the amount of oil needed to provide adequate lubrication. This lower oil volume reduces the chance of seal leakage. It is more tolerant of poor oil conditions lowering the possibility of turbo failure during engine shut down.

Ball-bearing cartridges offer improved control over shaft motion, improving reliability for both everyday and extreme driving conditions. The opposed angular contact bearing cartridge eliminates the need for a thrust bearing. Thrust bearing failure is a common issue with journal bearing turbos.

BB turbochargers spin about 30% faster than a journal and pump out about 30% more air. You can use a smaller turbine for your target horsepower. The smaller turbine has less mass, which results in quicker spool time. A T3 sized turbine with ball bearings can pump more air volume, similar in volume to a larger T4 (which spools slower). Because the bearings allow the turbine to spin faster. Dual bearings make the trade-off of spool time versus max horsepower less of an issue.

There you have it, a quick guide to what makes ball bearing turbochargers awesome. It’s not super in-depth but hopefully, it gives you a better understanding of the differences. If you have any questions or comments please drop us a line.

About Tim Croft

Tim is the lead gearhead at Punishment Racing. He's been in the automotive industry for 20+ years as a technician, fabricator, and shop owner. Twitter