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Part 02 - Turbo Brake


The second part of the series on our 2000 Project Truck will cover the installation and use of the Western Diesel Turbo Brake.


The Western Diesel Turbo Brake is an exhaust brake that uses the stock exhaust back pressure valve (also called warm-up valve) that is already installed on your truck. If you aren't familiar with it's operation, we'll give a brief description. The Power Stroke has the exhaust warm-up valve immediately after the turbo on your engine. The Powertrain Control Module uses the measured back-pressure, ambient air temperature, oil temperature, and engine load to determine the position of the valve. Basically, when the engine is cold, the valve closes to put more back-pressure on the engine for a faster warm-up. Western Diesel's Turbo Brake adds a control box so that you can control the closing of the valve yourself. Closing the valve will put back-pressure against the engine to help you slow down.

Installation of the Turbo-Brake is very simple. I installed this one in about 30 minutes even accounting for the time to take pictures for this article. The box will contain:

You have a control box, two wiring harnesses, a control switch, and several electrical connectors and tie wraps. All electrical connections are made without any splicing of the factory wiring.

You begin installation by placing the control box against the firewall behind your pedals:

You then make connections to the idle validation switch on the accelerator assembly, 12V power from the main harness, and a ground circuit. The idle validation circuit is tapped into to enable the automatic mode of the brake. You can leave the toggle switch on all the time (except when using Cruise Control, see below). When you let off the pedal, the Turbo Brake will come on about 2-4 seconds later. No need to keep flipping it off and on as you are driving.

Always read the directions of course:

Using the stock factory knock-out in the firewall, you feed the engine comparment wiring harness from the engine into the passenger compartment. Under the hood, you make connections to the brake pressure switch and the exhaust back pressure valve itself. The only tricky part is getting the factory harness from the back pressure valve out enough to make your connections. The circuit to the brake pressure switch is used to prevent you from using Cruise Control at the same time as the Turbo Brake. The Turbo Brake senses when you are accelerating by the idle validation switch on the pedal. If you are using Cruise Control, it bypasses the accelerator pedal. To prevent the Turbo Brake from coming on while Cruise Control is accelerating, the Turbo Brake tells the PCM that the brake pedal is being used (cancelling Cruise Control). For this reason, you can't use Cruise Control while the Turbo Brake is engaged.

Making the underhood connections (This shot is for Mark Craig of Western Diesel. Apparently, someone posted pictures of him in the same position from the Texas rally. I didn't want him to feel all alone.):

Mount the control box to the firewall insulation using the provided screws. The control box should sit flat against the firewall. The screws are only to keep it from moving around. Don't screw them in really tight as the insulation will strip out if you aren't careful.

Finally, mount the toggle switch to the immediate left of the steering column. Be careful when drilling the plastic and don't go too fast. The toggle switch has a small green LED in it that matches the factory lighting, a nice touch:

The install is easy to do, even for just one person. I did need a little help getting the harness fed through the firewall. I wrapped the ends with electrical tape to keep them from separating and then fed them through all at once.

Hopefully you'll be able to find better help than I did:

Driving Impressions:

I've had the Turbo Brake on for two weeks now and wouldn't do without it. I am really impressed with the braking power available from it.

Around town, you can leave it on all the time. If you let off the pedal early enough, you won't have to hardly use your brakes at all. The Turbo Brake will begin slowing you down after you let off the pedal. Downshifting to a lower gear causes even more braking. It's a strange feeling to slow down without touching the brakes, but you'll get used to it quickly.

The real impressive part happens when you are towing or hauling a heavy load. I tow a 24 foot enclosed car hauler through the Appalachian mountains every weekend. The trailer weight is about 7000 lbs fully loaded. That added to the truck's weight plus crew plus supplies gives me a gross weight of about 15000 lbs or more. Some of the grades in this area are fairly steep. Without the Turbo Brake, I would find myself using the brakes quite often on the downhill grades to keep the truck and trailer from running off. With the Turbo Brake, I only have to touch my brakes on the steepest descents. In OD (my truck is a 6-speed manual), the Turbo Brake will keep the truck from gaining speed on descents. In 5th gear (1:1), the Turbo Brake will actually slow the whole load on most descents. We all know that going down the mountains is much more dangerous than going up them. Having the extra braking ability from the Turbo Brake really helps give you peace of mind when tackling those descents.

You can find out more about the Western Diesel Turbo Brake from the following sites:

The next installment will cover the Fumoto oil drain valve.

Index to all articles on the 2000 Project Truck

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