A turbocharger is a turbine-driven, forced-induction internal combustion device that forces air into the compression chamber to improve the vehicle’s fuel ratio. It provides greater power output than a naturally aspirated engine with more efficient fuel consumption. Still, like any vehicle component, turbochargers have a set lifespan. Car owners believe a turbo can make their vehicles travel at superior high speeds with superhero-level torque capacity. While turbos do improve the power output and boost gauges in a vehicle, overuse and high stress can cause it to fail. Here are some tips on how to make your turbocharger last longer if you're constantly going to the mechanic for maintenance.
Regular Oil Maintenance
Any car owner knows that engine oil is crucial for preserving the car’s integrity. Turbos are no different. The engine is made up of multiple components to power the vehicle at incredibly high speeds. The engine block along with the turbocharger processes heat and pressure in forced induction to achieve a constant flow throughout the turbine fan. Use high-quality synthetic engine oil to ensure these parts are properly lubricated throughout the engine block. Ultimately, you need engine oil for your turbocharger. Check if yours has an oil reservoir built into it to circulate oil throughout the device. Otherwise, use high-quality synthetic oil and change it every 5,000 miles or based on the recommendation in your owner’s manual.
Warm Up the Car Before Driving
Another turbo preventative tip is to warm up your car before driving. Since the turbo connects to the engine which then powers the vehicle, you must warm it up, especially in cold climates. This is because engine oil thickens when in cold temperatures. It won’t flow freely around the engine bay, and thus it won’t lubricate each component thoroughly, causing wear and tear. When warm, this oil thins and lubricates each engine part. Fortunately, it does not take long for the engine oil to warp up and thin out. After you start your car, sit idly for approximately ten to fifteen minutes. This should warm the engine oil enough to circulate throughout the system. Drive cautiously for the first ten minutes. You’ll limit the strain you put on the oil pump and prevent wear on the turbo system. You should also wait a few minutes before going full throttle, as this allows the turbo to reach its optimal internal temperature.
Cool Down After Driving
The same idea holds true for after your drive. Many people fail at this, but simply allowing your car engine to cool post-drive can preserve your turbocharger. Turbos produce a lot of heat given their purpose as a forced air induction combustion chamber. This can cause residual heat to boil the oil pan and build up carbon particles. Corrosion and premature engine wear are at risk, along with future trips to the mechanic. Start to get into the habit of sitting idly as your car engine cools for a few minutes. This should cool the turbo sufficiently enough so you can turn off the car and avoid boiling the engine oil.
Treat Boost Gauges Cautiously
Something many car owners can do to make their turbocharger last longer is be cautious with the boost gauges. Boost gauges indicate manifold air pressure and boost pressure in the internal combustion engine. Turbos are engine-driven air compressors that provide various degrees of boost to the engine. The boost gauges indicate a power band within the range of boost pressure that aids in the driving performance. With that, boost gauges also show any excessive pressure not generated when modified, based on either OEM or aftermarket standards.
Today, turbocharged engines rely on serious performance tests. They sustain their performance for an extended duration and length without difficulty. When checking your boost gauge, be wary not to overshoot your turbo’s capacity. While it can reach record acceleration, this also stresses the turbo and engine altogether. Keeping a moderate acceleration and speed throughout your drive will help extend the turbo’s lifetime.
Switch to a Lower Gear
Alternatively, try switching to a lower gear for greater fuel efficiency. Assuming you can control the gear shaft of your vehicle, you can spare the turbo all the work when switching to a lower gear like with a manual transmission. Lower gears reduce the number of times you need to maximize boost pressure. They also reduce the stress on your engine’s power band. Specifically, this is the number of revolutions per minute where it’s most efficient. Lower gears increase the longitude of the power band and allow greater performance for a longer drive. Less stress on the engine further ensures less throttle than would typically be required.
Perform Your Own Repairs
Finally, turbo repairs may be inevitable, but you can save yourself time and money if you do the repairs yourself. These relate to the crankcase ventilation, intake and exhaust restriction, and compressor surge. With crankcase ventilation, oil returns to the crankcase where excess pressure can affect the aerated oil. Excess pressure may impede proper drainage, thus causing issues. Likewise, the intake and exhaust restrictions can change. The greater the heat on the turbo, the greater the chance of failure that can arise. Running a less restrictive intake can help reduce this wear and save you money on long-term maintenance. Don’t neglect the compressor surge, as this can also ruin your turbocharger. This valve can malfunction, thus prohibiting proper air compression. Once this happens, pressure forces much stress on the compressor wheel and causes further stress on the turbo’s components. If needed, disassemble and rebuild your turbocharger from scratch. Clean every inside and outside housing diameter, exhaust housings, and any other components you suspect of malfunctioning, replacing them as needed.
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