The turbo is an important part of the engine, helping you accelerate faster and reach top speed in important situations. If you are interested in knowing the faults that your car could manifest due to common turbocharger failures , read this post until the end.
The turbocharger gives you that boost when you want to overtake on the highway, quickly and safely. In some cars, you can even hear a satisfying noise as the turbo kicks in, forcing air into the engine. If your turbo stops working properly, your engine can become inefficient and you could suffer from poor performance. Do you want to know what are the signs that your turbo is failing?
How does a turbocharger work?
The turbocharger pushes more air into the engine, enhancing combustion and raising top levels of performance. To do this, it uses the exhaust gases from the engine to turn an air pump, which means that the turbo extracts power from the engine , taking advantage of the kinetic energy supplied by the expulsion of the exhaust gases. This air pump then pushes additional air into the engine, increasing power.
Why do turbos go bad?
There are several factors why your turbocharger could fail and here we bring you some of the most common causes:
1- Lack of oil and lubrication
The turbo needs a good flow of clean oil to keep it working properly. It can suffer from a buildup of carbon deposits and contaminants that reduce its effectiveness , and can even cause it to break down completely over time.
2- Foreign objects
There is a possibility that larger items such as stones or even broken parts from other cars could be sucked into the turbo through the intake. As you would expect, these particles can cause serious damage to the wheels and turbo blades. Check that the air filter is checked regularly.
Continually pushing at your engine’s peak performance levels will force gases through the gaskets and tubes. Over time, this pressure can cause leaks and cracks, making the turbo work harder and increasing fatigue levels. This can damage and wear the turbo .
4- Age and wear
As you might expect, a turbocharger won’t last forever. The life cycle of this part is between 100,000 (160934.4 km) and 150,000 miles (241401.6 km), depending on how the car is driven. Eventually it will have to be replaced.
5- Other problems
Since the turbocharger is constantly under pressure, there are many things that can affect its performance. Excessive exhaust gas temperature (EGT) can overheat the part, and moisture ingress can cause oxidation and degradation . Also, the turbo can suffer from problems caused by the exhaust system, fuel inlet and waste gate.
Common Turbocharger Signs and Faults
Pay close attention to these symptoms, which may mean a common turbocharger failure is occurring:
1- Loss of power and slow acceleration
The turbocharger is designed to help your car reach top speeds faster . Naturally, you will be very conscious of your performance and capabilities. If you notice that the vehicle is taking longer to get up to speed and can’t dance through traffic like it used to, then checking the turbo should be your first action.
2- Smoky exhaust and excessive emissions
A common turbocharger problem, is a worn gasket failure and cracks in the turbo is that this allows oil into the exhaust, which will burn with a very marked blue-gray smoke. This symptom is accentuated when driving at speed and the turbo is activated, so if you notice this smoke in your mirror, the turbo could be the culprit.
3- Engine control light
There are several reasons why this light may come on in the instrument panel. It could be due to sensor issues , or even a loose gas cap, but can sometimes indicate a serious problem with the turbo. Make sure the car is checked by a mechanic.
4- Idle boost indicator
On many high-end models and sports cars, you’ll see a boost gauge that shows the amount of boost generated by the turbo. As with acceleration, you’ll have an idea of performance over time. Any drop in thrust should prompt you to book a visit to the service center for an inspection.
5- Burnt oil
As we have mentioned, oil leaking from the turbocharger is a sign of gradual failure. Disconnect the downpipe at the front of the turbo and take a look inside. Can you see oil? Any sign of deposits in the pipe means you need to have the turbo serviced. If this problem is left unchecked, the entire system could fail .
6- Complaining Turbo
When the turbo is engaged, a misfiring turbo can make a loud, whining noise that does not resemble a siren, which will increase as the problem worsens. If this is combined with any of the other signs listed here, then you can be sure there is a problem with the part.
Can you drive with a damaged turbo?
If you think your turbo has blown, it’s a good idea to stop the car and check that it’s blown. Smoke coming from the part is fairly certain but if you’re not sure then remove the intake and check the shaft. Believe it or not, you can still drive without the turbo, but it’s probably safer to call a recovery lift.
If you decide to drive with a blown turbo, then first unhook the wastegate trigger linkage, then use a wire to hold it open while you drive the distance necessary to reach a mechanic. Do not go too far on the throttle, as the wastegate will not be able to handle the full pressure of the exhaust. Be sure to keep an eye on your oil level if you decide to drive with a blown turbo, and don’t go more than 100 miles .
Be aware that when your turbo fails, the parts will fall into the intercooler and the oil seals will fail. Unfortunately the engine can run on this oil and can run at full revs until the oil runs out, at which point the engine will seize. If your turbo fails, remove the intercooler, air box, and all tubes to avoid doing significant damage to your engine.