From their initial introduction in the early 20th century, turbochargers have become essential in high-performance engines, heavy-duty transports, and marine vessels. And now, with a renewed emphasis on reduced emissions and fuel efficiency, they’re commonplace in many passenger cars, especially those European beauties we often see at Melbourne Euro.
In layman’s terms, think of a turbocharger as a high-powered air pump. It compresses and forces air into the engine at a pressure significantly higher than the surrounding air. This not only ensures efficient combustion but also delivers increased power, torque, and cleaner emissions.
Proper care and regular service mean a long and efficient life for your turbocharger. But skimp on the maintenance or use subpar lubricants, and both the turbo’s performance and lifespan might suffer.
Reasons Behind Turbo Failures
1. Lubrication Issues: Oil starvation tops the list of reasons why turbos meet an untimely end, closely followed by oil contamination. Issues like blockages, leaks, or improper priming of a new system can lead to the former. Meanwhile, contaminants, such as tiny particulates in the engine oil, can severely damage the turbo bearing system. High levels of carbon particles from combustion can act abrasively, damaging the bearings and the shaft.
2. Foreign Object Damage: Some modern turbochargers operate at a staggering 220,000RPM — to visualise, a Boeing 747’s engine rotor spins at about 7,000RPM. With air moving close to the speed of sound, even a minuscule debris impact on a compressor wheel can be catastrophic. Ensure your intake and air filter remain debris-free.
Whenever replacing a compromised turbo, inspect the intake thoroughly. Residual debris from the old turbo or other sources might still be lurking there.
3. Inadequate Driving Practices: Though not immediately fatal, certain driving habits can substantially reduce a turbo’s lifespan. Here are a few pointers for German car enthusiasts:
- Avoid prolonged idling: This heats up the turbo due to reduced airflow.
- Avoid cold starts followed by immediate acceleration: Let the oil warm up.
- Be cautious about shutting down when hot: This can lead to carbon accumulation in the turbo, risking bearing damage.
- Overrevving: Especially crucial for commercial vehicles. Overdoing it may push the turbo beyond its limits.
Spotting a Malfunctioning Turbo:
- Power and torque drop, coupled with louder acceleration.
- Struggling to maintain high speeds.
- Increased exhaust smoke (blue/grey) and oil consumption.
- Illuminated “Check Engine” light or low boost indication.
- A noticeable whining sound during turbo boost.
Replacing Your Turbo: Should you conclude that your turbocharger needs replacement, it’s essential to pinpoint why the old one failed in the first place. Otherwise, the new one could succumb to the same fate. Many turbocharger manufacturers have found that recurrent issues often plague both the original and replacement units.
If you’re concerned about your turbo’s performance, especially in your prized German vehicle, consult specialists like us at Melbourne Euro in Campbellfield.
Melbourne Euro Expertise: Boasting years of hands-on experience, our mechanics at Melbourne Euro, Campbellfield, are well-versed with turbochargers, especially in German automobiles. Trust our expertise for diagnosing, repairing, or upgrading your turbo systems.