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A turbocharger is standard equipment on many sports sedans and diesel trucks.



What are Transmission Seals?

Two things determine gas and diesel engine power: air and fuel. Turbochargers are snail-shaped devices that use spent exhaust gases to increase the pressure in a vehicle’s intake manifold. This increases power output over a similar engine that lacks a turbocharger.

Turbocharger kits and components are available for aftermarket installation, but some vehicles come with turbochargers from the factory.

How does a Turbocharger Work?

Unlike a supercharger, which is driven by the pulleys on the front of the engine, a turbocharger uses spent exhaust gases to increase the volume of air and fuel headed into an engine.

There are two sides to every turbocharger, the exhaust side and the compressor side. Exhaust gases spin a turbine, which is attached to the compressor wheel on the other side of the turbo. Imagine two pin-wheels mounted on opposite ends of a shaft. When one side spins, the exhaust side, it forces air into the intake manifold on the compressor side.

How are Turbochargers Made?

Turbochargers are constructed from cast iron, cast aluminum, and machined steel components. The turbine housing on the exhaust side bolts to the center section of the turbocharger, which has a shaft running through it to secure the turbine and compressor wheels to one another. The compressor housing is then bolted to the center section on the opposite side to complete the turbocharger. The center section receives oil from the engine’s lubrication system.

Why do Turbochargers Fail?

  • Turbochargers may “backspin” when shifting gears under load. Install a blow-off valve to avoid this failure point.
  • Enthusiasts often use boost controllers to increase intake manifold pressures. This stresses engine components, including the turbocharger itself.
  • Infrequent oil changes may cause excessive bearing wear and premature failure.
  • Turbochargers spin up to 150,000 RPM. Under normal driving conditions, turbochargers often wear out and need to be rebuilt or replaced after 100,000 miles due to wear caused by heat.

What are the Symptoms of Turbocharger Failure?

  • The turbo fails to produce factory pressures, and the engine fails to produce as much power as it did before.
  • Excessive white or blue smoke pouring through the exhaust due to worn turbocharger seals.
  • High-pitched screeching noises during acceleration.
  • Lack of sufficient oil pressure due to failing seals on the turbocharger.
  • High pitched whistling during acceleration due to loose clamps on the charge pipes or the intercooler.

What are the Implications of Turbocharger Failure?

  • The compressor wheel may “come apart” and fling sharp, steel fragments into the intake manifold.
  • Loss of oil pressure may result in engine damage requiring costly repairs.
  • Too much fuel caused by insufficient pressure in the intake manifold decreases fuel economy and increases operating costs.

Turbocharged engines are subject to more stress than naturally aspirated engines. Be sure to change your oil frequently and keep an eye out for symptoms of a failing turbocharger to ensure your car or truck lives a long and healthy life.

If you have questions or concerns about turbochargers or any of your vehicle’s components, come into your local Pep Boys where we can answer any question, help you find any part, or perform any vehicle service you might need.