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The Dos and Don’ts of Driving a Turbocharged Vehicle

The Dos and Don’ts of Driving a Turbocharged Vehicle

Turbos are taking the auto world by storm. Over one-third of newly manufactured light-duty vehicles come turbocharged. That means many people have a turbocharged vehicle and don't even know it!

Turbocharged vehicles pack a real punch, but with extra power comes extra responsibility. There are a few changes you should make to your driving style and maintenance schedule when you have a turbocharged engine. Here are the dos and don'ts of driving a turbocharged vehicle.

What Are Turbochargers?

Turbochargers, colloquially known as turbos, are forced induction devices driven by a turbine. They draw extra air into the engine, compress it, and then force it into the combustion chamber for use during the combustion process. The more air and fuel there is in the combustion chamber, the more powerful combustion will be, and more power gets produced as a result. By helping the engine generate more power, turbos improve horsepower, torque, fuel economy, and drivability.

How Do I Know If I Have a Turbocharged Vehicle?

Have you recently bought a new vehicle? With one-in-three vehicles coming fresh from the factory with turbos, there's a decent chance that your’s is already turbocharged. But how do you tell if you have a turbocharged or naturally aspirated (non-turbocharged) vehicle? There are a few ways to check.

If you don't want to crack open the hood, you can examine the badges on the rear of your car for the word "turbo" or the letter "T" alongside a combination of other letters (TDI, TSI, TFSI, TDCI). These denote a turbocharged vehicle. You can also inspect your vehicle handbook or check online to see if your make and model comes pre-equipped with a turbo. The last way to check without peering into the engine is to pay attention to the sound your car makes when accelerating. Most turbocharged vehicles produce a high-pitched noise that's most noticeable at high speeds.

The final (and most accurate) way to determine whether you have a naturally aspirated vehicle or a turbocharged vehicle is to look under the hood for a turbo. Turbos are a conical-shaped component attached to the exhaust manifold, which is a series of connected pipes usually found at the top of the exhaust system near the rear or front of the engine.

How To Drive a Turbocharged Vehicle

Don't worry. The differences between naturally aspirated and turbocharged vehicles aren't as stark as the differences between a manual and automatic transmission. If you can drive a naturally aspirated vehicle, you can drive a turbocharged vehicle without any trouble. That's because driving one isn't fundamentally different than driving a naturally aspirated vehicle. You still use the pedals, gears, and steering wheel to drive the wheels and navigate the roads. That said, there are a few things you should keep in mind when driving a turbocharged vehicle.

Here are the dos and don'ts of driving a turbocharged vehicle. Follow these maintenance and driving tips to ensure you get the full benefit out of your turbocharged engine.

The Dos

Warm Up and Cool Down

Adding in a turbo makes a car’s engine run even hotter than a normal vehicle. For this reason, engines with turbos are more prone to overheating. This is the last thing you want. Excess heat can wear down the internal components of your engine and cause them to break down or fail prematurely.

One way to combat engine overheating is to warm up your engine pre-drive and let it cool down post-drive. The motor oil in your engine takes a few minutes to warm up after you turn on the ignition. Once warm, the motor oil flows through the engine bay and lubricates the internal components, including the turbo's bearings. If you drive before the oil warms up and lubricates the turbo bearings, you can unnecessarily wear down your turbo.

Additionally, since turbos run extremely hot, it's important to let the oil cool down before you turn the ignition off. Otherwise, the hot oil can damage the internal components of your turbocharger. Neglecting to let the turbo cool down can also reduce oil viscosity and oil life.

Use High-Octane Fuel

In most cases, you can use regular fuel in a turbocharged engine without any problem. However, for the best performance and fuel economy, using high-octane fuel is recommended.

Using regular fuel in a turbocharged engine occasionally leads to engine knock, which occurs when the air-fuel mixture doesn’t burn evenly in the cylinders. This can damage the pistons and other internal components of your vehicle. For luxury cars that require premium fuel, using regular fuel can even potentially void your manufacturer's warranty. For fuel recommendations for your particular make and model, check your vehicle handbook or the manufacturer's website.

Drive Carefully

You should drive carefully regardless of the kind of engine you have, but careful driving is especially important for those with turbocharged vehicles. Aggressive driving can prematurely wear down the internal components of the car’s engine, including the turbo. It can also slash fuel economy by 10 to 40 percent. Turbos are designed to boost fuel economy and overall performance, but by driving aggressively, you negate those effects. To get the most out of your turbo, keep your cool on the road.

The Don'ts

Mash the Throttle

When you're exiting a corner in a turbocharged vehicle, resist the urge to mash the throttle. Most turbos experience turbo lag. This means it takes few seconds for the turbo to kick in after you mash the throttle.

If you accelerate when turning a corner and there’s a delay while the turbo spools up, you'll end up with a sudden boost in power when you don't want it. This results in an oversteer or understeer that can potentially cause an accident.

Lug the Engine

It's never a good idea to lug the engine. Lugging refers to when you're traveling at low speeds at a higher gear than necessary. This causes your engine to run rich on fuel, which will result in it suffering froma variety of negative consequences. The most common side effects include poor fuel mileage and slow acceleration. A rich mixture can also lead to the formation of carbon deposits in the turbo, which can clog it.

Basic Maintenance

Never forget to perform basic maintenance on your vehicle. Regular maintenance is what keeps your vehicle running optimally. Turbocharged engines require the same kind of basic maintenance as naturally aspirated engines, but they may need to have this maintenance performed more often.

If you have a turbocharged engine, you’ll need to replace the oil and spark plugs at more frequent intervals. You should change the oil every 3,000-5,000 miles (compared to every 5,000-7,500 miles on a naturally aspirated engine) and the spark plugs every 30,000 miles (compared to every 100,000 miles on a naturally aspirated engine).

Do you want to turbocharge your naturally aspirated vehicle? Turbo Turbo has new, used, and refurbished turbochargers for sale. And for those who already have turbocharged vehicles, we carry replacement parts and other essential components for your turbo. Come and shop with us today!

The Dos and Don’ts of Driving a Turbocharged Vehicle

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