Turbocharger failure: symptoms, causes and prevention

Replacing a turbocharger can cost a lot of money, so it’s a good idea to know the reason for the failure. This will help us to avoid possible errors and expensive repairs.

Turbochargers have recently become almost a standard element in gasoline engines, and for decades in diesel engines. It is a rotating engine, consisting of a turbine and compressor mounted on a common shaft, and its task is to charge the internal combustion engine.

In theory, turbocharger failure shouldn’t occur throughout the life of the engine, but unfortunately this is rare. Here are the most common symptoms and causes of turbine failure.

Symptoms of turbocharger failure

One of the first symptoms of a turbocharger failure is a noticeable decrease in engine power. This we can feel when accelerating – then the car will not accelerate as fast as before and will need more time to reach maximum speed.

This is because the turbine does not provide power in the range of about 1000-1500 rpm. The drop in power is accompanied by “check engine” control lighting and sounds and vibrations emanating from under the hood.

A faulty turbine also manifests itself in a characteristic whistle that is louder than usual. This can be proven, among others, by the damage to the compression wheel by foreign objects, leaks in the exhaust or intake system, and exhaust gas exiting through the turbocharger exhaust manifold gasket.

In addition, turbine failure while driving is manifested by increased smoke. Exhaust smoke can be black or blue. Black exhaust gas means too little air is supplied to the combustion chamber and the fuel is not completely burned.

In turn, blue exhaust smoke indicates engine oil burning. This means that due to leakage of the rotation system, oil enters the combustion chamber through the intercooler.

Cause of turbocharger failure – poor lubrication

Turbochargers are made of a very small number of components, and in theory only the bearings and the surface on which they run should wear out. Therefore, care must be taken to lubricate these components properly to avoid malfunctions.

Poor lubrication is the most common cause of turbine failure. Lubrication problems can be broken down into a number of issues.

The first problem is insufficient lubrication. This is most common in older cars where there is a problem with free oil flow.

The second problem is contaminated oil, which can be caused by engine wear, carbon buildup (white-green deposits formed from unburned fuel and oil particles), fuel pump filing, and water or fuel entering the lubrication system. .

Turbine failure can occur when the wrong oil is used. The wrong oil can produce carbon deposits and not flow freely through the turbocharger. It can also be caused by poor regeneration, where the seal can block the flow of oil or the liquid seal can clog the oil line.

Cause of turbocharger failure – turbocharger cooling

Engines equipped with a turbocharger should not turn off when hot. Cool the turbine after very intensive use, for example after a fast drive on the highway or after driving on a mountain road. In this case, the engine must be cooled, not by standing still, but while driving, avoiding the engine revs up.

On the other hand, on-site cooling is used after track driving, when the turbine heats up to a reddish glow. The result of an immediate extinguishing of a hot engine is unfavorable friction and carbonization of the oil supply hole.

The reason for the failure of the turbocharger – bad tuning

If the boost pressure is disturbed, the turbocharger can be overloaded, as the turbine is usually selected from the factory with the parameters that the engine will produce.

The most common causes of failure as a result of poorly adjusted adjustment are increased boost pressure and excessively high exhaust gas temperatures.

If the pressure is increased, the turbocharger speed is too high, which results in deformation of the rotor. On the other hand, excessively high exhaust gas temperatures are the result of incorrect chip tuning. This can crack the body and damage the turbocharger rotor bearings and axles.

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