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The CHRA Cartridge - The Heart of Your Turbocharger

Posted by Scott Goldfarb on

Your turbocharger is a highly efficient mechanism to increase your vehicle's power, performance, and speed. The Center Housing Rotating Assembly (CHRA) represents the main component in your turbo assembly and includes the compressor wheel, turbine wheel, and rotating shaft that houses the bearings.

By compressing the air that flows into each cylinder, the CHRA increases air intake by about 50% and simultaneously allows more fuel into the cylinder. Additional fuel means bigger combustion and about 30% to 40% more power to your engine.

With a turbo, your car or truck can haul more, go faster, and work with greater fuel efficiency, especially at higher altitudes. And it accomplishes all this without you having to add extra cylinders or other weighty engine components.

Signs That Your CHRA May No Longer Work

Since your turbo CHRA is such a critical piece of your vehicle's performance system, it's essential to keep a close eye on it. If you start to see signs of trouble, you could be dealing with a blown turbocharger. Common indicators include:

  • Burning or leaking oil
  • Grayish-blue exhaust smoke
  • Check Engine light on
  • Increasingly loud whining sound
  • Slow acceleration
  • Power loss
  • Increased fuel usage
  • Drop in the boost gauge

Any of these issues deserves an immediate check under the hood or a trip to the mechanic. While your vehicle can still drive with a blown turbo, we caution against doing that. Increased emissions and debris from a failing turbocharger may do considerable damage to your engine and kill your entire turbo system the longer you stay on the road.

And you know that trying to fix any harm done to your engine block will get pricey, fast. At the very least, buying a new turbocharger can set you back anywhere from several hundred to several thousand dollars, depending on the make and model of your truck, the brand you purchase, and which diesel parts supplier you use.

However, repairing or replacing your CHRA turbo cartridge should only cost a few hundred dollars. It pays to catch turbo issues early.

Since your CHRA is such a sensitive instrument, your best bet is to purchase it from a reputable store with a turbo-savvy staff and a wide selection of products.

5 Tips to Keep Everything Running Smoothly

Diesel repair experts recommend replacing or rebuilding your CHRA between 100,000 and 150,000 miles. That said, we recommend some additional steps you can take to keep your cartridge in top shape:

1. Keep RPMs low at startup. As your turbocharger is an additional piece of equipment added to your engine after assembly, it's generally last in line for the lubricating oil that circulates the engine at startup. Most turbos can spin upwards of 200,000 RPMs at full power, so you need to give your engine oil some time, about a minute, to warm up and flow to the bearings and wheels in the CHRA.

2. Idle the engine before shutdown. Oil surrounds your turbo just as it does your engine. When you suddenly shut down your vehicle after running it for a while, the oil in the turbocharger remains hot and cooks in the CHRA turbo cartridge. This will leave behind a hard coke deposit that can throw off debris and plug up your turbo and other engine components.

When you let your car idle for a few minutes, your cooler exhaust recirculates and helps lower the temperature of the oil still flowing through your turbocharger's bearing housing. Hence, no burned oil deposits.

3. Change the oil and filter on time. Particles, deposits, and other impurities can easily harm a CHRA's precision-machined surfaces, making it more critical than ever to follow your vehicle's manufacturer guidelines for changing your oil and filter.

We suggest you prime the new oil filter before installing it. You can do this by filling it slowly with clean oil. Let the oil sink into the filter and keep filling until the canister is full. This way, the oil will have a chance to start working through the filter before you start the engine, thus lubricating your engine and your turbo much faster.

4. Check and change air filters often. The compressor wheel in your CHRA pulls in air from the outside through the engine's air filter. However, if your air filter gets clogged, you won't have enough air going to your compressor, and your turbo can overheat. This puts quite a bit of unnecessary stress on your turbocharger and may cause it to fail.

In addition, one of the leading causes of turbo CHRA failure is foreign object damage. If the air filter isn't doing its job, the compressor's strong suction can pull in any number of damaging items, including dust, dirt, bolts, birds, and even the air filter itself. (No, I'm not exaggerating here.)

5. Don't Skip Rebalancing. Think of your tires - you wouldn't think of driving your car at high speeds with an unbalanced wheel. The same rules of physics apply to your CHRA. With your bearings shaft and wheels spinning a few thousand revolutions per second, even the tiniest component that's out of balance can lead to excessive engine vibration and noise and drastically shorten the life of your turbo. Experts recommend that you balance your turbo during and after assembly and when you repair or replace any of your CHRA turbo cartridge components.

With a bit of extra care, you can enjoy your turbo-boosted vehicle for tens of thousands of miles.


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