Did you know that a turbocharger became an unavoidable engine component in most cars today, both gasoline and diesel ones? A quick comparison with traditional cars would reveal these engines offer both better performance and improved fuel economy. Another upside is that this allows manufacturers to use smaller and lighter engines, which also has a positive impact on handling characteristics. However, the added complexity that comes with extra components can be a downside as the time goes by. In this article, we will explain the mechanics behind turbochargers and learn how to tell when it may fail.  

How does the turbocharger work?

Although turbochargers and corresponding components may seem complex, the working principle behind this system is actually quite simple. All engines create exhaust gases during their operation, which go out to the atmosphere as a byproduct. However, turbocharged engines use the energy of these gases to force more air into the engine. They have two separate parts, a turbine and compressor, and a shaft in between that connects them. Exhaust gasses will spin the turbine as they pass through it, while the connecting shaft moves the compressor part. The end result is a stream of pressurized intake air that goes into the engine, which ensures better performance.  

Why do turbochargers fail?

Because of their specific architecture, turbochargers work under harsh conditions and have to endure different loads during their lifespan. Among them are temperatures that can reach extremely high values, because the exhaust gases can be very hot. And the fact the turbocharger is just next to the engine only makes things worse. Extreme pressures are another challenge that turbochargers and all their components have to face. And things like unfavorable driving habits and poor maintenance with usage of incorrect engine oil won’t help either. The usual signs of failing turbocharger include whine under acceleration, lack of performance or blue smoke coming from the exhaust.

Can I replace the turbocharger on my own?

Replacing the turbocharger involves undoing several bolts, removing two clamps and detaching it from oil feed and vacuum lines. Although this doesn’t seem complicated, accessing the turbo can be an issue because of the limited space on some cars. The bolts that attach the turbocharger to the exhaust manifold are another possible problem. With extreme temperatures being a part of their daily operation, these bolts usually seize with time. This means they may snap when trying to break them loose, which can be a major setback.

How important is this service?

As we have explained in this article, turbochargers are important components of modern engines. But just like any other mechanical component, they suffer from wear and need to be replaced when the time comes. Although replacing the turbocharger isn’t too difficult, it has its challenges. If you don’t have the right tools or don’t feel up to the job, consider hiring a professional. At FixMyCar, we have certified and seasoned technicians that can come to your home and solve all turbocharger related issues. This will ensure that all important components are checked and your car is ready to hit the road.