The car's turbo or the turbocharger helps boost the engine's power. With the invention of the car's turbos, smaller vehicles are now able to produce the same power that larger vehicles produce.
It is important to keep an eye for symptoms of a bad turbo to avoid major problems, not to the turbo itself, but the overall engine. Detecting turbo problems early can help save a lot of time, effort, and money in car repairs.
In this article, we will walk you through the way turbos work, the major symptoms of a bad turbo, and the main causes of the bad turbo.
How does a turbo work?
The car's turbo, or what is known as the turbocharger, is responsible for helping the engine is producing more energy. The engine uses a mixture of air and fuel to create the required energy to move the vehicle. When there is more fuel than air in the combustion mixture, the engine would need more air to interact with this fuel to create the combustion and, thus, the energy. That's where the turbo comes handy.
The car's turbo pushes compressed air to the engine to help combust the remaining fuel without needing a larger mixing space. Thus, the turbo helped automakers in creating high-efficiency engines without needing a large size and, therefore, more space.
There are many types of car turbos, including:
- The single turbo
- The sequential turbo
- The twin-scroll turbo
- The VGT turbo
- The variable twin-scroll turbo
- The electric turbo
Symptoms of a bad turbo
Like other mechanical parts in your vehicle, over time, the turbo gets older and requires some level of maintenance to avoid major failures and to keep your car performing well. It is very important as a car owner to keep an eye for any symptoms of the bad turbo. This way, you can fix the problem early and avoid paying higher repair costs shortly.
There are several signs of a bad turbo, including:
Reduction in power
One of the first signs of turbo failure has to do with your car's power. For instance, if when you are driving, you noticed that your car doesn't accelerate enough like what it used to be; this can be a sign of turbo failure.
Furthermore, if you noticed that your car could not reach higher speeds, although you did all that you need to do to speed up, this can be another sign of turbo failure. In this case, you need to take your car to a professional mechanic to diagnose the problem and get it fixed before you get into further complications.
Hearing strange noise like engine wining
In general, hearing strange sounds when driving is a sign of internal car issues. The type of sound determines what could be the main cause of the problem.
For instance, if you started hearing a sound like an engine wining, something like a police siren or dentist drill, there is a high chance it's your car's turbo.
Another thing, if the strange noise gets louder, the problem is getting worse. That applies to all private car's problems. In other words, if the wining engine sound gets higher, your turbo problem gets more severe and could get to a stage of complete turbo failure.
Discolored fumes coming out from the exhaust
As we mentioned before, the turbo is responsible for pushing more air to take care of any extra fuel in the combustion system. Now, if there is an issue with a turbo like a small or big crack, some oil can leak to the combustion system, causing a blue smoke to come out of the exhaust tailpipe.
You can monitor the exhaust smoke color and see if discolored fumes are coming out, this is a sign of an issue with the turbocharger. It is important to take your vehicle to the closest mechanic to confirm that the problem is actually in the turbocharger, not in other parts of the exhaust system.
Check engine light illuminating
The check engine light on your dashboard is a way for your car's internal computer to complain about any internal problem. When the check engine light illuminates, you need to take your car immediately to the mechanic because while the issue can be minor, other issues can be significantly major and might result in a complete engine failure.
Turnocharger's problems can result in a check engine illuminating. Now, you cant know for sure what is the real problem behind check engine light illuminating until you take your car to a professional mechanic, or you have the right tool to read the problem.
When the check engine light illuminates, the car's internal computer generates a special code. This code can be read using a code reader that you can buy, borrow, or ask a mechanic to use his own.
The code reader will pull the code number and provide you with information about the cause, the needed maintenance, and the expected price for the maintenance. If you happen to own a code reader, you can give yourself an idea about what to expect at the mechanic shot in terms of maintenance time and price.
For instance, here is a list of codes that are related to issues with your car's turbocharger:
- P0299: This code indicates an issue with your car's turbocharger. More specifically, it's telling your car's computer that the turbocharger has a low output. Luckily, this code automatically puts your car into a “limp mode” to avoid further damages if ignored.
- P0045 OBD-II: this code indicates issues with the supercharger are reading boost control circuit or turbocharger. The main symptom of this error is that your vehicle will not perform at the top performance level or optimum level as you will start noticing a loss in power.
- P22262 OBD-II: this code means “Turbo boost pressure not detected-mechanical.” In other words, the code is saying that your turbocharger is completely damaged and requires immediate repair. While your car will continue running under this problem, the power will be very low, and you will notice that your car is not performing at the optimum level.
- P0234: this code says, “turbocharger overboost condition.” In simpler terms, the code means that the turbocharger is inputting more pressure than required to the combustion system. When your car has this problem, you will notice the immediate loss in power, engine overheating, problems with the transmission overheating too, and your engine will start knocking when you accelerate.
- PO299: this code indicates that your car's condition is in an under boost. In other words, the turbocharger produces a very low output, exactly the opposite of the previous error. While issues with the turbo might cause this error, there are other reasons including a leak in the air intake, problems with the EGR system, and engine not receiving the required amount of oil.
High gas consumption level
As we mentioned before, the turbo is responsible for providing the best fuel consumption in your car. if you noticed that you needed to fill your car with gas more frequently than before, this is an indication of increased gas consumption, and therefore, issues with the car's turbo.
What are the different causes for a bad turbo
In general, it is very rare to have issues with the car's turbo as they are very reliable. Most failure in your car's turbo comes from issues with other parts of your car like engine lubrication, strange objects, etc.
For instance, here is a list of the most common causes for a bad turbo:
Lack of oil lubrication
Oil is one of the most important fluid in your car. this is because more car parts get in touch with each other very often. The use of oil provides lubrication that prevents the car's part from friction and getting destroyed.
The engine's turbocharger is made up of different moving parts that get in touch with each other continuously and at high speeds.
Like any car's internal components, the turbocharger doesn't not only require a specific amount of oil continuously, and it also requires a specific grade or oil type to continue performing properly.
The turbocharger gets its oil from the engine. When there is not enough oil in the turbocharger, contaminants could build-up, causing oil contamination and, therefore, causing complete damages to the turbocharger.
Issues with the seal between the engine and the compressor
Over time of use, the seals between the engine and the compressor can get worn and cause internal damages. These damages allow the oil to leak into the combustion system. When there is too much oil in the combustion system, the turbo has to work harder and push more air into the combustion system to burn this oil.
When the turbo works harder than it should, it can lose its efficiency over time. This specific problem is known as over-speeding.
When the turbo is overspeeding, it has to rotate at a higher speed than it was designed for at specific applications. Thus, the BTN turbo will start tearing and wearing resulting in complete turbo damage in a short period.
Strange deposits and objects
There are two ways for strange objects to enter the turbo: via the compressor hose in the front, or via the turbine in the back.
Whatever the source or location where the objects enter, having strange objects in the turbo can result in major damages to the turbo and the entire engine.
Once strange objects start to build up inside the turbo, you will start noticing a reduction in the car's power if not major turbo problems.
The best way to prevent this problem from happening is to perform regular cleaning up to the air inside the turbo.
Tear and wear over time of use
As we mentioned before, turbos are very reliable and don't get damaged very often. In general, turbos can last up to 150,000 miles without any problem. However, this number might change depending on your driving style. For instance, if you drive your car very hard, expect that your car's turbo can get damaged sooner.
Can I still drive my car if there are symptoms of bad turbo
Yes, you can drive your car if there are symptoms of the bad turbo; however, the longer you wait on the problem, the higher the potential that your engine will fail very soon.
Therefore, you must drive your car only if you need to, and you must take your car to the closest mechanic as soon as possible.
Some people might think they don't have the time to put their car in a mechanic shop to get their turbo repaired. What they don't know is that ignoring such a problem can lead them to put their car in the garage forever unless they replace the entire engine.
Cars turbos allowed people to drive smaller cars with the same power that larger cars produce. The car's turbo helps your engine perform more properly and helps in fuel consumption efficiency.
In general, car turbos have high reliability and do not go bad usually before 150,000 miles, depending on your driving style. However, there will be a point of time where you need to perform some maintenance on your car's turbo to increase the life of your car's engine and thus your entire vehicle.
It is important to keep an eye for some symptoms that indicate issues with your car's turbo, including a reduction in power, excessive smoke coming out of the exhaust system, whining engine sound, and check engine light illuminating.
Most problems with the car's turbo come from other causes like lack of engine lubrication and strange objects introduced to the vehicle.
If you noticed any of the symptoms of a bad turbo, you must take your car to the closes mechanic to avoid further complications that will cost you more in time, effort, and money.