When the Dodge Neon first hit the streets in 1993, there’s very little chance that Chrysler ever expected it to take a hold of the aftermarket tuning community. At the end of the day, it was developed as competition for foreign econoboxes like the Toyota Corolla and Nissan Sentra, albeit with a hint more of a performance focus. The Neon was branded as both a Dodge and Plymouth in the US, with the former sticking in the minds of enthusiasts much more than the Plymouth namesake. There are also two distinct generations of the Neon, the first spanning from 1993-2000 and the second from 2000-2005.
The Neon’s quasi-sporty nature combined with its widespread availability created a perfect storm that invited the tuning community to the table. The 2.0L Chrysler 4-cylinder found in the Neon was already somewhat punchy from the factory, putting out 132 horsepower in SOHC form and 150 horsepower in DOHC form. With the introduction of the 2.4L turbocharged SRT-4 Neon in 2003, the cogs began turning in the minds of 2.0L Dodge SX owners that wanted a piece of the turbocharged pie.
At this point, the 2.0L Neon turbo formula is very established. Enough time has passed since the Neon’s release that enthusiasts have established a solid, tried and true formula for reliably turbocharging the Dodge 2.0L engine. In this guide, we’ll cover the basics of creating a Dodge Neon turbo build.
How Much Power Can A Dodge Neon Turbo Handle?
There are quite a few factors that need to be taken into account when asking this question. There are plenty of reports of turbo Dodge Neons going boom as low as the 300 who mark, while there are other enthusiasts running 600 horsepower on a stock 2.0L bottom end. The difference boils down to tuning and precautionary measures like upgraded fuel systems and piston cooling strategies. If you are looking for a safe number, the 300whp mark is typically the point where precautionary measures need to be considered.
If you intend on sticking with OEM internals, you’ll want to think of ways to keep internal temperatures as low as possible to prevent detonation within the cylinders. One common way of achieving this is by installing a water/methanol injection kit on your Neon. A water/methanol setup will reduce air inlet temperatures while also increasing octane. This decreases the chance of detonation significantly and will even increase horsepower a bit too. Swapping stock Neon spark plugs for colder ones can also help reduce cylinder temperatures.
If you are looking to push more than 8psi of boost, you’ll need to upgrade to forged internals. Pistons and rods will need to be upgraded to handle the extra boost. JE forged pistons are the most common option for the Neon and can be ordered in low-compression spec that offers 8.5:1 compression in DOHC Neons. JE pistons are commonly paired with forged Neon Eagle connecting rods. In combination, forged pistons and rods can handle upwards of 600 horsepower.
Dodge Neon Turbo: SOHC vs DOHC
One of the biggest considerations when it comes to Dodge Neon power potential is the camshaft arrangement. The first generation Neon (1993-1999) was available with either a SOHC or DOHC 2.0L Dodge 4-cylinder engine. The second generation Neon (2000-2005) got rid of the DOHC setup and was only available in SOHC form. The primary difference between the SOHC and DOHC Dodge 2.0L engines is the cylinder head. The pistons are also slightly different between the two, but the performance difference can mostly be attributed to the DOHC’s higher flowing head.
Due to the cylinder head difference, the internal compression ratio is different between the SOHC and DOHC engines as well. DOHC Neons have a compression ratio of 9.6:1 while SOHC Neons have a compression ratio of 9.8:1. When it comes to turbo applications, the lower the compression ratio the better. For that reason, DOHC Neons are better equipped to handle boost with stock internals. However, all is not lost if you have a Neon with the SOHC 2.0L engine. In fact, the ideal Neon turbo setup would be a DOHC cylinder head paired with a SOHC block and internals. That setup provides the lowest compression ratio at 9.3:1. This is the best arrangement for boost, as it allows you to run the highest boost levels with stock internals.
If you have a SOHC Neon and intend on performing this franken-swap, you’ll need to swap out some additional parts. The main parts include a DOHC intake and exhaust manifold, DOHC wiring harness, motor mounts, injectors, and fuel rail.
If you are looking for more detailed information about performing the SOHC to DOHC swap, check out this guide at DodgeForum.com
Dodge Neon Turbo Engine Management
Unlike many other turbocharged cars that rely on either an upgraded engine management system or piggyback tuning solution, the stock ECU is often retained in moderate 2.0L Turbo Dodge Neon builds. With that being said, there are still modifications required to allow a stock Neon ECU to function properly with a turbo installed.
Missing Link / Voltage Clamp
One of the most common methods of circumventing the need for aftermarket engine management solutions altogether is with a missing link or voltage clamp. While they function differently, both devices perform the same task. They both block the factory PCM from registering that boost is present. A missing link is a mechanical part that stops your MAP sensor from seeing boost. A voltage clamp works slightly differently. It is an electrical part that stops your MAP sensor from sending a signal to your PCM that the engine is receiving boost.
By not registering that there is a change in air/fuel ratio, the factory Neon PCM functions as it would normally if a turbo wasn’t installed. Of course, without proper modifications to your Neon’s fuel system, it would run terminally lean. We’ll discuss the proper fueling modifications in the section to follow.
Turbo Dodge Neon Fuel System
Fuel management is one of the most crucial parts of any turbocharged system and it’s no different for the Neon. There are two main paths that you can take when modifying your Neon fuel system for a turbocharged application. We’ll cover those in just a second. First, however, is the matter of an upgraded fuel pump which is a necessity. An in-tank Walbro 225 is the most common fuel pump upgrade for turbo Neons. The 225 can supply an adequate amount of fuel and fuel pressure for most 2.0L Neon turbo builds.
Beyond the fuel pump itself, a Neon turbo system needs a way of regulating fuel flow through the system. One potential route is to modify the fuel pump canister to work with a rising rate fuel pressure regulator. This is often referred to as a “spool-boy” mod in the turbo Neon community. A rising rate fuel pressure regulator allows fuel pressure to change depending on boost pressure. Performing a “spool-boy” mod will circumvent the need for a modern computerized fuel management system in favor of an analog way to regulate fuel pressure. For more information about the Neon “spool-boy mod,” take a look at this guide: Neons.org
The other option is to go the 21st-century route with a computerized fuel management system. Somewhat surprisingly, this is the less common route that turbo Neon drivers take. The largely analog “spool-boy” and RRFPR route works pretty well. With that being said, there are a few advantages to using a computerized system. With an aftermarket Neon fuel management unit, it will handle the fuel injectors’ response to boost. An FMU, like a Megasquirt or AEM, is highly tunable and will allow you to dial in your turbo Neon’s injector response much more accurately than with a rising rate FPR.
Injectors are another crucial component of a turbo Dodge SX fuel system. In standard, low-boost situations, stock 2.0L Neon injectors will work to an extent. Most turbo Neon enthusiasts say that the factory injectors can handle up to 8psi of boost. As we have covered previously, that is about the limit of stock 2.0L internals as well. However, if you are planning on a more extreme turbo Neon Build, you’ll need bigger injectors. The most common injector upgrade for turbo 2.0L Neons is the 577cc injectors found in the SRT-4. If you do end up upgrading your injectors, you’ll either need an aftermarket fuel management system or a rising rate fuel pressure regulator.
Dodge SX Wideband
With a turbo Neon setup running a rising rate fuel pressure regulator, spool boy mod, and upgraded injectors, you’ll need a way to measure the air/fuel ratio so that you can tune your setup. That’s where a wideband O2 gauge enters the picture. With the setup listed above, there’s no way of knowing air/fuel levels without some sort of analog or digital readout. A wideband O2 sensor solves that issue.
Wideband O2 sensors are able to measure air/fuel ratio over a very wide range compared to a stock O2 sensor. In comparison to the stock narrowband sensor which can measure between 14.5:1 and 15.0:1, a wideband can read between 5:1 and 22:1. That range is required when you are dramatically changing fueling characteristics.
Dodge Neon Turbo Oiling
As with most factory N/A engines that are turbocharged after the fact, the 2.0L Neon needs to be properly modified to supply the new turbocharger with oil. The most common method of doing that is to T off of the oil pressure sender using a brass T-fitting. This keeps the factory sending unit in place while also providing another source of oil for the turbo.
You’ll also need to make some adjustments to your Neon’s oil pan to fit the oil return line. You’ll need to find proper fittings and tap the oil pan to allow oil to be recirculated into the system. It is essential that the tapped oil return line fitting has a wide enough diameter to be able to handle the oil flow. If the fitting is too small, it can cause oil to leak out of the turbo and into your exhaust.
If you’re familiar with turbo systems, you’re almost certainly familiar with intercoolers and what they do. Since the 2.0L Neon is naturally aspirated from the factory, you’ll need to install an intercooler to keep air entering into the turbo cool. In the case of most pre-made Dodge Neon turbo kits, an intercooler is an included item. However, if you’re sourcing the components yourself, try to find one with good build quality.
In the case of 2.0L Neon turbo kits, they usually come with a small front mount intercooler with 2.5” piping. The intercooler face itself has to be somewhat small to fit within the constraints of the Neon’s core supports and surrounding bodywork. Since the 2.0L Neon is naturally aspirated from the factory, there aren’t any built-in considerations for a massive FMIC.
Blow Off Valve
While most people assume that a blow off valve is just a vanity part with the sole purpose of making cool noises, it plays a crucial role in managing pressure within a Neon’s turbo system. In basic terms, a blow off valve is responsible for relieving excess pressure within a turbo system when the throttle plate closes. Blow off valves vent this pressure to the atmosphere, which creates that signature fluttering noise. If you want to learn more about blow off valves, check out our guide here.
A blow off valve is crucial, as if the pressure within your Neon’s turbo system cannot escape, the compressed air will travel back through the turbo in the wrong direction, potentially damaging or destroying the compressor wheel. Installing a blow off valve will eliminate the risk of compressor surge and will prolong the life of your turbo.
Best 2.0L Dodge Neon Turbo Kits
With all of the considerations above taken into account, there is always the option of purchasing a pre-assembled turbo kit. While some Neon owners choose to go the piecemeal route, a turbo kit is the easiest way to ensure that you have all of the necessary turbo components in one place.
There are a few significant compatibility and performance-related items that you’ll need to pay attention to when ordering a Dodge Neon Turbo kit. For instance, make sure that you are ordering a kit that will work with your 2.0L Neon’s camshaft configuration. Turbo kits made for DOHC 2.0L Neons will not work for SOHC cars, and vice versa. You’ll also want to pay attention to the size and build of the turbo included in the kit.
MMI Speed Shop 420a SOHC Turbo Kit
Purchase Here: mmispeedshop.com
Turbo: T3/T4 Hybrid turbo w/ 0.57 trim compressor wheel
For under $850, there is no arguing that the MMI Speed Shop 2.0L SOHC Neon turbo kit is a very solid budget option. The MMI kit is designed for all Dodge, Plymouth, and Chrysler vehicles equipped with the 2.0L 4-cylinder including the Neon. Despite the kit’s price, it does come with everything needed to get you going.
One of the standout features of the MMI Speed Shop Kit is the inclusion of a T3/T4 hybrid turbo. The T3/T4 blends the exhaust housing of a smaller T3 turbo with the compressor housing of a larger T4 turbo. The result is a turbo that produces the airflow of a larger turbo without the lag. It is an ideal system for the Neon which benefits from immediate throttle response.
In addition, the MMI Dodge Neon Turbo Kit comes with a quality 321 stainless steel turbo manifold. It comes ported and polished and is designed to cope with up to 25psi of boost. A front mount intercooler is also included with the kit, but might need to be modified slightly to be compatible with the 2.0L Neon.
Overall, don’t expect the MMI Neon Turbo Kit to be the cream of the crop as far as turbo kits are concerned. The price is an indication that this kit is made to be a budget-friendly option. With that being said, it will likely work well for those hoping to run a mild 8psi setup without going too far beyond that.
RX Street Demon DOHC Turbo Kit
Purchase Here: ebay.com
Turbo: T3/T4 Hybrid turbo w/ 0.57 trim compressor wheel
If we’re being honest, the market for Dodge Neon turbo kits is looking pretty sparse these days. There truly are only eBay turbo kit options available for both the SOHC and DOHC 2.0L Neons at this point. There were some very solid options available for both in the past, which have since been discontinued. With that being said, take that fact into account when purchasing this kit. While it will likely work well for low-boost applications, it might be a liability in the high-horsepower realm.
The RX Street Demon kit for the DOHC 2.0L Neon is essentially a reworked version of the SOHC kit above. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as both kits have some redeeming qualities. The T3/T4 turbo found in both is a good option that blends power potential with quick response. The 321 stainless steel turbo manifold is also included in this kit, which seems to be a quality item.
There are some extra goodies included in the DOHC RX Neon Turbo kit that aren’t included with the SOHC kit which justifies the higher price tag. For instance, the Street Demon kit comes with a manual boost controller kit that allows you to make adjustments to boost levels on the fly. Other additions include an oil catch can, electronic turbo timer, and battery relocation kit.
Dodge Neon Turbo Upgrade Guide Summary
The 2.0L Dodge Neon is a car that has taken the aftermarket community by storm despite being designed for a more civilian audience. While the 2.0L Dodge engine isn’t the most powerful engine under the sun, it has the potential to be zippy with the addition of forced induction.
The Dodge Neon was offered with either a SOHC or DOHC 2.0L engine. While the first generation can be found with either configuration, the second generation was only available with the SOHC 2.0L. While the DOHC is the better engine for boost, a SOHC Neon can be modified with a DOHC cylinder head. This is the best configuration overall due to the low compression ratio.
Generally speaking, there are two paths to turboing a 2.0L Neon. The first route is piecing together a turbo system yourself by collecting the individual components. The second is to simply order a Dodge Neon Turbo kit. While the former is more time and research-intensive, it will likely be the more solid option. The various engine management, fuel system, and supporting upgrades required for a 2.0L Neon turbo build can be overwhelming, as there is a lot that goes into it. Luckily, the Neon has been around for a long time and has a massive and informative aftermarket community.
While this article is pretty lengthy, it really only scratches the surface in terms of what is required to put together a quality Neon Turbo build.
If you are looking for additional information about turbocharging a 2.0L Neon, the following sources are good places to look:
As always, safe driving!