Many different types of engines utilize turbochargers to provide a boost of power and efficiency. A turbo, or turbine-driven forced induction device, functions by pushing extra air into the cylinders of your engine for increased horsepower without burning more fuel.
While typically a long-lasting and reliable component, there are several common turbo problems that can lead to anything from diminished performance to extensive, irreparable damage to the engine and related systems.
Signs of a Bad Turbo
Paying close attention to how your engine is operating and performing regular service and inspections is a smart way to stay on top of engine maintenance and preventive care. If you notice signs of a turbocharger problem, it’s critical to get it checked out as soon as possible.
In addition to always taking your engine in for service when the check engine light (CEL) comes on, also keep an eye out for the following indicators of common turbo problems:
– Reduced Acceleration: Since your turbochargers are responsible to providing added power to your engine, one of the easiest ways to recognize they are failing is when you notice a lack of acceleration getting off the line as well as at higher speeds.
– Increased Oil Burn: A bad turbo tends to burn through oil more rapidly. Keep track of how often you need to add more oil and look out for leaks and signs of blockage and deposits.
– Grey or Blue Smoke: The smell and sight of smoke coming from your exhaust pipe is a common sign of turbo problems. This is exacerbated when the turbocharger is in use, such as when you start up your engine or are accelerating.
– Excessive Noise: Unusual noises coming from your engine are never good. But if you hear a loud whining sound, it could be from reduced airflow or lubrication to the turbo unit.
Reasons for Common Turbocharger Failures
Turbo problems are caused by a variety of factors such as a lack of lubrication, oil contamination, usage outside of standard specifications, and regular wear and tear. The following are some common turbo problems and failures:
– Cracked housings and/or worn seals allow air to escape and cause the turbocharger to work harder and wear down quicker.
– A buildup of carbon deposits and contaminants traveling through the system can damage inner engine components.
– The presence of foreign objects, such as dust or gravel entering the turbine or compressor housing, can cause damage to the compressor wheel or nozzle assembly.
– Leaks in the air intake system increase stress on the turbocharger as it works to compensate for the lack of air.
– Blocked diesel particulate filters prevent exhaust gas from flowing through the system, causing a buildup of pressure and higher internal temperatures in the turbo.
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