Rick's Free Auto Repair Advice

Extend Turbocharger Life

Maintenance tips to extend turbocharger life

Many late model cars and trucks are equipped with at least one turbocharger. Turbochargers improve performance in an engine but they operate under extreme conditions so they require extra care. Here are some maintenance tips to extend turbocharger life.

Turbochargers operate in a hostile environment

Turbochargers reach speeds up to 300,000 RPM and incoming exhaust gas temperatures can often reach temps up to 1,740°F. So the turbo needs a continuous supply of oil and coolant to prevent heat and friction damage. This is where regular oil change intervals come into play as well as recommended cooling system service. Many oil companies are recommending extended oil drain intervals that greatly exceed the car maker’s recommendations. That’s just crazy. Think about it; the oil manufacturers’ extended drain intervals don’t take into account the type of engine in your particular vehicle nor do they take your driving habits into account. So how can they possibly list an oil change interval that exceeds the car makers? They can’t.

turbocharger airflow

Turbocharger airflow pattern

and the turbo shaft can spin at speeds up to 300,000 RPM. Plus, the exhaust gas that spins the turbo can easily reach 1,700°F so heat and lack of lubrication are a turbo’s biggest enemies.

Change oil to extend turbocharger life

You see all kinds of claims for extended oil change intervals: change once a year, change every 15,000 miles, change every 25,000 miles. Boloney! Follow the car maker’s recommended oil change intervals and make sure you use the interval for your type of driving. In most cases that means you should be following the SEVERE service category with more frequent oil changes.

turbo failure

Keep in mind that high heat is the #1 cause of oil oxidation and breakdown. Why risk at $2,000 repair because you tried to squeeze more miles out of an oil change.

Also, synthetic oil is always the better choice even if the carmaker didn’t recommend it when your car was built. It’s a much better oil and resists oxidation much better than conventional oil.

Let the turbocharger cool after hard driving

Turbochargers spin the fastest during high RPMs and heavy acceleration. If you come off the highway and shut off the engine right away, the turbocharger will cook the oil left inside. Instead, let the engine idle for about 15-seconds after heavy acceleration or high-speed operation. The turbocharger barely spins or doesn’t spin at all at idle speed, yet the engine still circulates oil and coolant through the turbo. That’ll cool down the bearings and extend the life of the turbocharger.

Use light acceleration when cold extends to extend the life of the turbocharger

Cold oil builds pressure rapidly but proper flow takes a while. So ease up on the pedal after starting a cold engine. Drive at least a few blocks with a light foot before hammering the accelerator.

Check and change your air filter to extend the life of the turbocharger

Your turbocharger is nothing more than an air pump and it needs a clean filter to do its job. A partially clogged air filter reduces boost and that reduces turbocharger performance.

Posted on by Rick Muscoplat

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