The turbocharger is an often misunderstood part. Its fast speeds and surprisingly delicate infrastructure make it prone to issues. In this post, we’re going to look at some of the more common issues that can arise with turbochargers and look at how to spot them.
Foreign material/dirt in the turbocharger lubricating system
If you’re trying to operate your engine with dirty or contaminated oil, you cannot expect the oil filters to remove the foreign matter before it reaches the turbocharger bearings. This can wind up being a very costly mistake.
Dirt and foreign materials cause bearing wear and bearing-housing bore wear which results in damage to the bearings themselves. Alternatively, if the particles are large enough, they can block the internal oil passages of the turbocharger which results in the unit being starved of oil.
Turbo bearings usually fail before the main engine bearings, due to the turbo’s extremely high rate of rotation.
Lack of lubricating oil/oil delay
Turbochargers revolve at very high speeds (up to 100,000rpm) and as such it’s vital that your turbo has enough oil to lubricate it. The correct pressure and flow of oil is necessary in order to lubricate the thrust and journal bearings, stabilise the shaft and journal bearings and to act as a coolant before high turbocharger speeds are reached.
As the speed of the turbocharger and the engine load increase, oil as lubrication and as a coolant becomes more and more important. If there is an oil delay (i.e. there’s a short period of time in which the turbo is starved of oil) then you’re likely to experience bearing failure. Oil delay can be diagnosed by looking for blueing of the shaft. This blueing occurs when the shaft has been exposed to excessive heat.
Foreign material in exhaust or air-filtration system
Any material entering the exhaust or air-filtration system is likely to cause some damage to the turbocharger and even the engine. Damage will occur to the wheels which then leads to aluminium going into the engine; this can lead to engine piston, liner, valve and crankshaft damage.
If any foreign material stays in these systems you are a likely to experience a loss of power, black smoke, leakage, damaged wheels and excessive oil usage.
Poor quality materials and workmanship
Turbochargers, as mentioned before, are a delicate, high-precision part. If inferior materials are used in making them, they are more likely to run into problems. Additionally, because the turbo is often poorly understood, poor workmanship can also start to cause issues.
If you need a repair or part replacement for your turbo, always ensure that you use a company that has experience and understanding of turbochargers.