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How to Repair a Turbocharger

Posted by Scott Goldfarb on

Repairing your turbo at home doesn’t need to be a daunting task. If you know a thing or two about cars, you can do it yourself if someone guides you through the process. We will explain to you how to repair a turbocharger so you can try to solve the problem at home.

We will start with the symptoms that might indicate a faulty turbocharger. Then, we will reveal some tricks on how to diagnose the problem and ways you can repair it. Finally, we will give you some preventive tips that might help you maintain your turbocharger so you don’t need to repair it again in the future.

How to Repair a Turbocharger

Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: Palitsyn Evgenii

Symptoms of a Faulty Turbocharger

Like with every other car part, it is important to address the issue promptly. So, if you are experiencing some of the following troubles with your turbo, it might be best to seek solutions for how to repair a turbocharger.

Lack of power

If you start feeling like your car is losing its power, it might be a sign that your turbocharger is starting to fail. If you are not a car expert, losing power means:

  • Your car isn’t accelerating as it used to
  • Slow reaction to your input
  • Struggling to maintain high speeds
  • Not being able to reach speeds as it used to

Smoke coming out of the exhaust

Other turbocharger symptoms are blue or gray smoke coming out from the exhaust. Oil leaks in the exhaust system can cause such smoke. The burning oil inside the combustion chamber typically results in gray or blue smoke.

Reduced poor fuel economy

Consuming more fuel than usual may also be a sign of a faulty turbocharger. If you notice that you drive significantly fewer miles than usual with the same amount of fuel, it might indicate that you should look at your turbocharger.

Whining noise

Turbocharged engines are typically quiet because they muggle the air intake sound. Hence, some of the signs of dysfunctioning turbochargers are whining and loud noises coming from the turbo. Treating the faulty engine is crucial when you hear such noises because it might become a bigger problem.

How to Repair a Turbocharger

The steps on how to repair a turbocharger generally depend on the diagnostics and symptoms you will notice. So, there are many different reasons a turbocharger might not be working properly, and there isn’t only one solution to fix the issues.

Generally, the steps for repairing a turbocharger are:

  1. Diagnosing and identifying the symptoms indicating turbocharger issues.
  2. Disconnecting the components and removing the turbocharger from the vehicle.
  3. Disassembling the turbocharger into its parts and inspecting for damage.
  4. Cleaning the components with appropriate cleaning agents.
  5. Replacing parts that are damaged and worn out and repairing minor scratches if needed.
  6. Reassembling the turbocharger, ensuring each part is placed and aligned properly. Lubricating the moving parts is also necessary in this step to ensure smooth operation.
  7. Balancing the turbocharger components to avoid vibrations and provide longevity.
  8. Reinstalling the turbocharger and ensuring all parts are connected securely. 
  9. A test drive will be necessary to ensure the turbocharger works properly and there are no unwanted noises, excessive smoke, or power loss.

However, the steps you might have to take depend on the specific turbocharger issue. In continuation, we will explain some of the situations that may occur and the steps you might need to take to repair the turbocharger.

How to Repair Your Turbocharger

Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: PHONT

Repairing turbo because of lack of power

Multiple reasons can cause a lack of power in a turbocharged engine. You can look for the cause of the problem by doing routine checks on multiple car parts, such as:

  • Filters, hoses, and pipes – If they have some kind of blockage or something is preventing them from functioning properly, you should clean them and ensure they are in good condition.
  • Fuel injection system – If the fuel injection system is not correctly adjusted, you might experience a lack of power in your turbocharged engine.
  • Exhaust system, catalyst, and DPF – Ensure the exhaust system and its parts are not damaged and aren’t blocked.

Repairing turbo that makes loud noises

There are two most common ways to repair a turbo that makes loud noises. The first one is fixing any loose or damaged pipework or other support brackets. During the inspection, you should also ensure all the connections are secure.

Another reason why the turbo might make whining and loud noises is a faulty intercooler. Hence, you should inspect the intercooler and fix leakages or cracks. 

Repairing turbo that causes excessive smoke or oil consumption

If your car produces excessive smoke or consumes a lot of oil, you might fix the turbocharger problems in one of the following ways:

  • Cleaning and freeing air filters
  • Cleaning the oil drain pipe
  • Take care of the excessive pressure in the engine crankcase
  • Ensure the hoses and joints are in good condition
  • Fix any lubrication problems, such as oil or carbon deposits on exhaust manifolds or turbines

How to Rebuild a Turbocharger

Generally looking, there are several turbo rebuilding techniques. The most common doesn’t involve repairing or replacing the core turbocharger components such as the compressor wheel, bearing housing or turbine shaft. The standard rebuild includes cleaning of meticulous parts and balancing.

In a nutshell, here are the steps for rebuilding a turbocharger:

  1. Disassembling turbocharger.
  2. Clean all the parts and inspect them for damage or cracks. Additionally, measure the components and determine whether the parts should be replaced or can be reused.
  3. Balance the compressor and turbine wheels individually, then the entire turbocharger should be once again balanced.
  4. Assemble the turbocharger cartridge with new bearings and seals.
  5. Check the wastegate actuator to see whether it opens at the correct pressure.

Preventative Measures to Avoid Future Repairs

To utilize the preventive measures and avoid future turbocharger repairs, you must understand what are the possible causes of your faulty turbocharger. So, considering the most common causes, here are some tips on how to maintain your turbocharger:

  • Always check the oil level and use the recommended oil type
  • Occasionally check for debris in the turbocharger
  • Let your engine warm up at least a minute before setting off
  • Don’t over-speed because it might cause the turbo to work harder than its capacity

Knowing when it is time to replace the turbocharger

As a rule of thumb, we recommend our clients replace their turbochargers after 100,000 to 150,000 miles. The exact mileage when you must replace yours depends on the maintenance and your driving habits. Yet, we’ve seen cases where the turbochargers are still in good condition after 150,000 miles.

Other than the mileage, the two signs of turbocharger replacement are:

  • Slow acceleration and reduced power
  • Activated check engine light with adequate fault codes
Knowing when it is time to replace the turbocharger

Source: shutterstock.com/ Photo Contributor: PHONT

Conclusion

Knowing how to repair a turbocharger can save you some money and time. Instead of taking your car to a mechanic, you can fix it yourself if the problem is not complex. Keep in mind that repairing your turbo requires precision and expertise. Timely repairs will save you from fixing bigger problems.

Ultimately, pay attention to proper maintenance of your turbocharger. By following our tips and suggested preventive measures, you can prolong the lifespan of the turbocharger.

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