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Bad Turbo Symptoms: Signs Your Turbo May Need to Be Replaced

Bad Turbo Symptoms

If you like driving around in a car that produces plenty of power, then you’ll love what a turbocharger will bring to the table when you have one in your vehicle. It’s a part that is used to boost the power of a smaller engine. But unfortunately, it’s also a part that can go bad over time and cause all kinds of problems for your car. You should familiarize yourself with the various bad turbo symptoms so that you know when yours is on its way out. Learn more about what a turbocharger is and how you can tell when it’s on its last legs below.

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

What Is a Turbo?

Based on its name alone, you might be able to guess what a turbocharger, or a turbo, is and figure out how it works. But just in case you’re not familiar with what one is, we want to make sure that you do before we begin talking about the bad turbo symptoms. It’ll ensure that you know what we’re referring to when we’re discussing turbos.


A turbo is often used with naturally aspirated engines that pull in air from the atmosphere to produce power. Under normal circumstances, these types of engines use the pistons inside of them to create a vacuum that brings in air when a car is running. It’s an effective way to go about doing things, but turbos help to take this process to the next level. They hook up to these engines and force air into them, thus allowing engines to produce more power. The engines are able to get instant access to pressurized power that provides them with what they need to set people up with all the power they need when they’re behind the wheel of a turbocharged car.

How Does a Turbo Work?

We just gave a very basic breakdown of what a turbo is and how it works. But obviously, the process is a little bit more complicated than we just made it seem. And in order to fully grasp what a turbo is, it’s good for you to know more about how it works when you have one in your vehicle. So here is a more complete breakdown of what will happen when your engine uses a turbo to produce more power:

  1. Your car’s engine produces exhaust as it runs
  2. This exhaust moves to the hot side of your turbo rather than heading in the direction of your exhaust pipe like usual
  3. The exhaust runs into an impeller in your turbo, and it starts to spin as pressure builds up in your turbo
  4. The exhaust then makes it way to your exhaust pipe and exits your vehicle
  5. The impeller on the hot side of your turbo is connected to a compressor wheel on the cold side of it, and it starts to spin once the impeller spins
  6. The compressor wheels spins so fast that it sucks air in from the atmosphere and pushes it through your air filter before it reaches your intake manifold
  7. The engine is put into a position where it has more air than it’s used to seeing moving through it, which in turn causes more fuel to enter it
  8. The combination of the extra air and the extra fuel in your engine results in your engine producing more power than it would otherwise

As you can see, having a turbo in your car can be a very good thing, especially if you have your heart set on driving around in a car with an engine in it that packs plenty of power. But at the same time, you can likely see how detrimental bad turbo symptoms could be to your car. It’s why it’s so important for you to know all about them so that you don’t end up driving around in a car with a bad turbocharger in it.

How Long Should a Turbo Last?

The turbos found in turbocharged vehicles don’t have an easy job. They’re almost always put under a lot of pressure, and because of this, it’s rare for them to last the lifetime of a car. Most of them will last for anywhere from 100,000 to 125,000 miles before needing to be replaced. But you might not even get that much life out of them in certain cases.


There are some things that can cause bad turbo symptoms to rear their ugly heads much sooner than expected. You might find your turbo going bad if:

  • You subject your vehicle to harsh driving conditions on a regular basis
  • You fill your car with aftermarket parts
  • Your car comes with low-quality parts straight from the factory

At any rate, you’re going to need to be on the lookout for bad turbo symptoms all the time when you drive around in a turbocharged vehicle. The last thing you want is for your turbo to die on you ahead of schedule without you realizing it.

What Are the Most Common Bad Turbo Symptoms?

Now that you know a lot more than you did about turbos and how they work, it’s time for us to talk about the bad turbo symptoms that you might see when your turbo starts to die on you. These symptoms are usually far from subtle, but there are some that you might miss if you’re keeping your eyes peeled. Take a look at some of the most common bad turbo symptoms:

  • Blue-black smoke billowing from your car’s exhaust pipe, which is usually an indication that your turbo has caused an oil seal to break
  • Scraping sounds coming from the direction of your engine, which may indicate that either the impeller or the compressor wheel (or both!) are rubbing up against the interior of the turbo due to faulty bearings
  • Rattling noises emanating from your engine, which are often the result of a wastegate that is used to vent exhaust gas failing

When you have a bad turbo in your car, you might also find that it loses power all the time, burns through too much gas and/or oil, or causes your check engine light to come on. In extreme cases, you might even discover that your car won’t start at all or that it’ll start but shut off soon after. All of these bad turbo symptoms will need to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Can You Drive a Car With a Bad Turbo?

If you believe that you’ve seen one or more of the bad turbo symptoms that we just talked about, you shouldn’t hesitate to have a mechanic look at your car right away. You should not make the mistake of continuing to drive your car around with a bad turbo since it could prove to be catastrophic for your vehicle.


When your turbo begins to go bad, particles from it might be able to make their way into your engine or into your catalytic converter. In both cases, it can do extensive damage and force you to do costly engine repairs or catalytic converter repairs. You might also run out of oil in your car way sooner than expected when you have bad turbo symptoms going on. That could result in your engine burning up and put you in a position where you have no choice but to repair or replace your engine.


For all of these reasons, you shouldn’t simply put bad turbo symptoms on the back-burner and forget about them. You could pay the price for it later when you begin to experience way more serious problems with some of the most important parts in your car.

How Can You Diagnose Issues With a Bad Turbo?

When you spot any of the bad turbo symptoms that we just talked about, there’s going to be a good chance that there is an issue with your turbocharger. You should tell a mechanic all of the signs that you’ve seen so that they can get a handle on what the problem seems to be. They’ll take it from there and work on diagnosing the specific issues that are taking place with your turbo. To do this, they’ll conduct pressure testing, visually inspect your turbo and the parts that surround it, and gauge how much oil and coolant your car is using.


By taking these steps, a mechanic should be able to figure out the exact problem with your turbo. In some cases, replacing a bearing in your turbo might be the only thing that needs to be done to it. But more often than not, a mechanic will have to work a little harder than that to get your turbo up and running again. They may need to replace it for you altogether so that you don’t see any bad turbo symptoms anymore.

How Is a Turbo Replaced?

If a mechanic evaluates your turbo and tells you that you need to replace it, you’re usually not going to have any choice but to take their advice. Unless you’re going to get rid of your vehicle, you’re not going to be able to put your car back out on the road without a new turbo in it. Your mechanic will take the right approach to turbocharger replacement and provide you with a new turbo in your vehicle. Here is what’s involved with turbo replacement:

  1. The engine cooling system in your car and the oil pan in it will both be drained
  2. The cooling line and the oil line for your turbo will be removed
  3. The entire turbo assembly will be disconnected from the cylinder head in your engine as well as from the mounting brackets, intake air tube, and downpipe
  4. The old turbo will be removed from your car completely
  5. The new turbo will be installed in place of the new one and hooked back up in the reverse order of the turbo removal

There are some situations in which your car’s entire engine may have to be taken out to get to the turbo so that it can be replaced. But your mechanic should be able to do turbo replacement without doing that. It all depends on what kind of car you have.

Can You Replace a Turbo Yourself?

After seeing bad turbo symptoms for yourself, you might assume that you need a new turbo and consider taking on turbo replacement on your own. But replacing a turbo is not a task that you should take on if you don’t have extensive experience when it comes to working on cars. It can be difficult to diagnose a specific problem with a turbo, and it can be even more difficult taking a bad turbo out of a car to make room for a new one. You can do your car more harm than good by tinkering around with your turbo.

How Much Will Turbo Replacement Cost?

Since your car’s turbo is such an important part of it and since it’s so challenging to replace a turbo, we have some bad news for you: Putting a new turbo into your car isn’t going to be cheap. It’s actually one of the more expensive auto repairs that you can take on outside of repairing an engine or transmission.


While the exact cost of turbocharger replacement is going to vary depending on the make and model of your car and your location, you’re usually going to be looking at paying somewhere between $2,300 and $2,900 on average for a new turbo. And it could cost even more than that if your bad turbo symptoms have led to other issues with your car.

Can You Sell a Car With a Bad Turbo?

If you don’t want to pay for turbo replacement for your car, we don’t blame you one bit. It’s not always worth it for those with older cars to do it. Most people don’t have a few thousand dollars lying around to put a new turbo into their old cars. It’s why you might want to consider selling your car when you start to experience bad turbo symptoms.


You might struggle to sell an old car with a bad turbo in it to a private buyer. But there are junk car buyers that will take it right off your hands without a problem. Even if your car is showing some of the bad turbo symptoms, a company like Cash Cars Buyer would be happy to step in and pay you top dollar for it. Contact us today to get an offer for your car, bad turbocharger and all.

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