If your car or van is fitted with a turbocharger (turbo), you will no doubt enjoy the boost it gives when you want a bit of extra power. However, things can easily go wrong both with the turbo and with any of the associated components, and they are not cheap parts to replace. If you are experiencing turbo problems, you need to get hold of someone who can help you to put it right straight away. Someone you can trust to have real-life experience of turbocharged engines, and who really understands the ins and outs.
The AutoMend network has access to over 9,000 mobile mechanics and garages, and among them there are turbo specialists. We have locations spread far and wide across the UK, so there will always be someone within a reasonable distance of you. We’ve made it easy to find your nearest AutoMend approved garage – tell us your vehicle type and the maintenance or repair service you are looking for. Add your location, and we can let you see a list of all the garages and mobile mechanics in your area who deliver that specific service, how far from you they are located, and their contact details. You can call the mechanics direct to discuss your turbo issues, or you can ask for free no-obligation online quotes from one or more of them if you prefer. You don’t need to search about online to get the turbo repair you are looking for, we have all the expertise you need, all in one place.
An internal combustion engine produces power by burning a fuel and air mixture. The more fuel and air that is burned, the more power is produced. One way to achieve this increase in power is to add extra cylinders, so that each one continues to burn the same amount of fuel and air, but there are more of them doing it. Another way is to keep the same number of cylinders, but to make them larger so they can contain more fuel and air. The third (and usually most cost-effective way) is to cram more fuel and air into the existing cylinders – this is where the turbo comes in.
A turbocharger uses pressure to increase the amount of fuel and air that enters the cylinders. Typically, the turbo can increase the pressure within a cylinder by between 6 and 8 psi (pounds per square inch) which is more or less twice the normal pressure within the cylinder (14.7 psi). Sadly, you don’t get twice the power for the increase in pressure due to inefficiencies within the system. The turbo is powered by the flow of exhaust gases from the engine. The method of capturing this power (a turbine situated within the exhaust flow) causes a restriction in that flow, so on the exhaust stroke the engine has to push against more back-pressure. This extra load on the engine reduces the efficiency a little. Your 50% increase in pressure delivers a typical 30 to 40% increase in power – which is still a considerable improvement.
Turbochargers have been fitted to some production cars since the 1960s and became more prevalent from the 1970s onwards. Their use in production cars enables small engines to produce more power without losing out on economy (if driven carefully). They are also able to be retro-fitted so are a popular add-on for people wanting to soup up a standard engine.
The turbocharger is connected to the engine’s exhaust manifold, and the exhaust gas produced by the cylinders turns a turbine. The faster the exhaust gases flow, the faster the turbine turns, and it produces power in a way that is similar to how gas turbine engines operate. Spinning at speeds up to 150,000 rpm, the control and balance of the turbine shaft is critical. Normal bearings cannot handle these types of speed, so the turbine is often set in an oil bearing. This is a layer of oil that is constantly being pumped around to allow the shaft to spin without generating friction, and which also acts as a coolant for the shaft and other parts of the turbo.
A shaft goes from the turbine to a compressor, which is a variety of centrifugal pump (the air intake is at the centre, and as the blades spin, the air is thrown outwards by centrifugal force). The compressor pressurises the air which comes in via the air filter. The pressurised air is then mixed with fuel and rammed into the cylinders for combustion.
A turbo can make a small, fuel-efficient engine more powerful without losing that fuel-efficiency. The turbo will usually only cut in when you need to accelerate, such as when overtaking or avoiding an incident, the rest of the time the engine will run just like a non-turbocharged one. Under these driving conditions, having a turbocharged engine is a little like having two separate engines – the more powerful one takes over from the normal one when needed.
However, if you are a heavy-footed driver, your small turbocharged engine will drink as much fuel as a larger one. You will lose the fuel-efficiency benefits of having a smaller engine, and you may as well opt for a larger non-turbocharged engine.
A turbo is a component with moving parts, and as such is at risk of wear, damage and failure (just like all the other moving parts of your car), and replacement can be quite expensive.
As with all other car parts, your turbocharger can fail over time, and there are a number of warning signs you should look out for.
Engine management light (EML) – if your engine management system picks up a turbo problem, the EML will come on. This light covers a multitude of other engine and related parts, not just the turbo, so if it comes on and stays on it should not be ignored. Get an AutoMend mechanic to run a check for you and you can possibly avoid future high repair costs.
Loss of turbo power – slower acceleration or failure to reach previously achievable speeds could indicate a failing turbo.
Blue/grey exhaust smoke – blown internal seals or a cracked turbo housing can allow oil to leak into the exhaust. Burning oil has a distinctive blue/grey colour, and you will probably see it more easily if you rev up after the engine has been idling.
Whining – a failing turbo can produce a loud whining noise when operating. The noise is caused by the compressor and has been compared to an emergency vehicle siren or a dentist’s drill. If this occurs, you won’t be able to ignore it, so get it checked out by an AutoMend member.
There are several ways that you can protect your turbo from becoming damaged or failing too soon. These include using the right kind of oil for your engine type and changing it regularly along with the oil filter. The air filter is another part of the system that needs regular attention as it is the first point of contact between the outside air (along with all the dust and debris it carries) and your engine. Leaks, cracks and failed seals can also be fatal to a turbocharger. Don’t take a chance on your car’s health and safety – get it regularly serviced by an expert from the AutoMend network. They can be trusted to keep your vehicle in the best of condition at affordable prices. However, if you do find yourself in need of a turbocharger repair, they are also on hand to put everything right again quickly and without fuss.