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Ways to Extend Your Turbo’s Life

Turbocharging is a big thing once again. Originally “turbos” were devices that were designed solely to boost performance. Back then, if you had a turbo on your car, it was a fast car.

Today turbocharging is as popular as ever but for a different reason: turbochargers allow car manufacturers to put smaller engines in their cars and trucks. This means they can deliver acceptable power in a vehicle with a smaller engine.

How turbos work

All internal combustion engines generate powerful exhaust gases. What turbochargers do is harvest the energy of these gases and use it to spin a small turbine. This turbine, in turn, is used to drive pressurized ambient air into an engine so its cylinder explosions are more powerful. Essentially, what you have is a device that uses the un-tapped energy of exhaust gases to make engine combustion more powerful.

Harsh conditions

Turbochargers work exceptionally well but it occurs under harsh conditions. First, turbos spin very fast. The turbine in a turbocharger rotates some 80,000 to 100,000 RPM! Keeping an impeller spinning this fast requires some really good bearings and lubrication.

Not only that, turbos get very hot. They have 1600 degree exhaust gas driving one side of the impeller so the whole device gets pretty hot. the turbine. Needless to say, engineers pay very close attention to “thermal management” when they design turbos.

Make your turbo last

Turbochargers are not one of those devices that are forgiving of poor maintenance. We asked the service manager at Kindle Dodge of Cape May Court House, a Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep, Ram dealer in Cape May Court House, NJ for some tips on how to keep a turbo running and here is what he suggested:

Warm It Up – Get both your coolant and oil up to operating temperature before any power driving. Oil operates best when around 190 to 220 degrees F. Prior to that, its thicker state increases oil pressure which puts more strain on oil seals and internal bearings.

Change your oil frequently – Regular oil changes are the key to both an engine and it’s turbos longevity. The first turbos were oil-cooled by the engine’s oil, and dirty oil could seriously shorten their lives. Today’s turbos are additionally cooled by coolant -but are still hard on oil. Only use a fully-synthetic oil in your car’s engine.

Cool It Down – After working your turbo out a bit give it some time to cool down before shutting off the engine. A minute or two of idling helps your oil cool the turbo (and itself).  The reason for this is because of that lifeblood-oil coursing through it. If it’s not given proper time to circulate and cool, the oil cooks into sludge – and clogs the oil channels.

Programmable “turbo-timers” are available for purchase, able to set times for idling the engine without the key in the ignition (security features like sudden-shutdown when keyless driving is detected are available). This bit of anal retentiveness can be worth hundreds to thousands in avoided early turbo failure.


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