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7 Signs your Turbocharger is Failing

Posted by Mark Houlahan on

A turbocharger is an integral part of the diesel engine design. It increases the power output of your engine. So how can you tell if your turbocharger needs a little attention? Let's look at the signs.

  1. Increased gas consumption. If you start to notice you are heading to the gas station to fill up more often, your turbocharger could be to blame. Your vehicle is not using fuel efficiently and your miles per gallon are decreasing. One possible cause for this is fuel leaking into the exhaust from the turbocharger without even burning.
  2. Black or blue exhaust smoke. Different colored smoke can be a symptom of different internal problems in your car, but colored smoke is never a good sign. Blue smoke can be caused by a cracked turbo housing, which would leak oil into the combustion chamber. Black smoke can be caused by multiple problems, such as a clogged air filter, an obstructed air intake duct to the turbo compressor, a burnt engine, or a defect in the diesel engine's fuel injectors.
  3. Poor acceleration. Since a turbocharger provides a vehicle with its power, if you have less power than normal, that's a sign your turbocharger is struggling. In a vehicle, reduced power is manifested by poor acceleration. If you notice a lag in speed when you start driving, or if you consistently are met with a delayed response when you push on the gas pedal, the turbocharger in your diesel engine is the likely culprit.
  4. Loud acceleration. In addition to the acceleration being slower or delayed, if you notice the acceleration is also noisy, that could be a sign of a faulty turbocharger.
  5. Check engine light. While a number of different problems can lead a check engine light to flash on your dashboard, it potentially could be a turbocharger. Whenever the check engine light turns on, you should have it checked by a trusted mechanic to find the source of the problem.
  6. Siren noise. A failing turbocharger can cry out in a noise that sounds like a siren. The louder the noise, the worse the problem may be. If you notice a strange noise from your engine, have a mechanic check the turbocharger as soon as possible.
  7. Excessive exhaust smoke. One purpose of the turbocharger's design is to decrease the exhaust produced by the engine. A defective turbocharger will have an excess of exhaust smoke. This may be from a crack in the turbo housing and can cause oil to leak into the exhaust system and increase smoke production.

What causes turbocharger failure?

Turbochargers fail for many different reasons. Here are some of the most common causes.

  • Damaged seals. The compressor needs to be sealed tight to work effectively. If the seals between the compressor and the engine crack or wear down, oil will start to leak into the exhaust system, and the turbocharger has to work harder to increase air pressure.
  • Oil. If the turbocharger does not have a content flow of clean, quality oil, contaminants can build up in the engine. Contaminants increase friction between parts causing internal damage to the turbocharger. Change the oil and filter in your vehicle regularly as recommended by your manufacturer.
  • Wear and tear. A high-quality turbocharger should last for many year and up to 150,000 miles, but it is not unheard of for the parts of a turbocharger to wear down faster due to excessive and hard driving. Investing in a top tier turbocharger may help ensure its longevity as well.
  • Foreign objects in the turbo. Foreign objects such as dirt, dust particles, leaves, or pebbles occasionally enter the turbocharger through the turbine inlet or compressor inlet. If foreign objects enter the turbocharger, they start to damage the compressor wheels or turbine blades. This can be prevented by changing the air filter regularly.

Can you still drive?

If your vehicle has any of the problems listed above, should you still drive it? While your vehicle may still be functioning, the more driving you do with a damaged turbocharger, the more damage the turbocharger and engine will receive. The more damage the engine has, the more costly the repairs will be. If possible, you will want to repair or replace the turbocharger as soon as you can after signs start manifesting themselves to limit the extent of the damage.

If you are in need of a turbocharger, new fuel injectors, or other diesel parts, you can check our extensive online inventory of new and rebuilt turbos for sale. We have parts for every type of diesel engine.


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