Spring Break Diesel Upgrades

Petersen's 4 Wheel & Off-Road July 2001

Installation & evaluation of Banks Sidewinder turbo system on a 6.2L diesel Blazer.

Photo 1
Photo 2With the Banks system, the exhaust from the manifold on the driver side flows forward (towards the radiator) around the front of the engine to meet up with the new passenger-side manifold. This crossover tucks up along the oil pan of the engine so there is no loss of ground clearance.
Photo 3The Banks kit comes with this new 3-inch aluminized steel exhaust to replace the factory dual exhaust. Just cut off whatever is left of the factory stuff (there probably isn’t much) and hang the new plumbing from the original hangers on the passenger side. You’ll never miss your dual pipes because this system flows way better than the stock stuff.
Photo 4On the third day the injection pump was adjusted. The instruction manual makes this sound scary, but if you follow he procedure in the book it is nothing to worry about. Inside the pump is a 5/32-inch Allen screw that you must rotate 1/4 turn clockwise to increase the amount of fuel the pump will deliver. To access the screw you have to remove all those parts that we laid out on top of the airbox. This sounds scary but is very doable. The adjustment screw in our pump was incredibly hard to turn, so we expect yours will be too.
Photo 5Banks recommends a limit of 10 psi of boost and a maximum exhaust gas temperature of 1,100 degrees F. Exceed either of those two numbers and you’ll blow a head gasket (if you’re lucky) or melt some pistons (if you’re not so lucky). Contrary to what you know of gas engines, diesels actually run hotter when you add more fuel, so a turbo can force more air into the engine and cool the combustion temperatures. We have to relocate the gauge pod up high where we can see it better. If the engine begins to approach either limit we can just back off the throttle to cool things down.
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.

Installation kit

Give your parts-chaser the day off, because for the three days we spent in the driveway installing the Banks kit, we didn’t have to make a single run to the parts store. How often does that happen? Everything except the pizza we ate was there in the boxes.


Unlike your gas engine you can’t run a diesel too lean, so the more air you can stuff into your 6.2L the more power it will make. The Sidewinder kit adds additional air-cramming capability with an oil-cooled turbo that’s good for up to 10 psi of boost. The turbocharger bolts to a new passenger-side exhaust manifold, and volleys the exhaust into a 3-inch system that feeds from the turbo.

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.

Forced Induction Facts

The Banks Sidewinder Turbo Kit Includes:

• Oil-cooled turbo and passenger-side exhaust manifold

• Complete 3-inch exhaust system

• K&N air filter and cast aluminum airbox

• Boost and Pyrometer gauges

• Every nut, bolt, hose, and clamp you will need

Banks Performance Claims:

60 hp, 115 lb-ft of torque, and 10 percent better fuel economy, which translates into 190 hp and 355 lb-ft of torque for our truck.

Cost: $2,099

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