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Conduct a Preventative Maintenance on Your Turbo

Conduct a Preventative Maintenance on Your Turbo

Nowadays, turbochargers are in practically every diesel engine. Not just big, high-performance ones, but also in regular cars. The reason is simple; the turbocharger gives the car the extra kick. This is all well and fine, but much as any other car part it requires some level of attention to ensure longevity and proper functioning. Here are some DIY tips for preventative maintenance of your turbocharger.

Lubrication is the key to turbo’s longevity

The first thing you need to know is that your turbo is connected to your engine. So, anything affecting the engine is most certainly affecting your turbocharger, too. Case in point, the two components share the lubrication system. Common wisdom says that you should let your car idle before setting off. Estimates range anywhere from 10 seconds to 5 minutes. Regardless of the duration suggested, the reason is the same. The oil needs some time to get from the oilpan in the engine up to the turbo. And the situation is exacerbated by the cold. Oil tends to congeal in the cold, so it will require some time to achieve a proper working temperature and viscosity. Setting off immediately after starting your car will likely not cause any problems at first, but it does increase the wear and tear.

Similarly, when stopping, cutting off you engine immediately is also ill-advised, as the turbocharger rotates at very high speeds. If you cut off the engine, the turbocharger needs to come to a halt and you have just deprived it of oil, which doesn’t bode well for it. Keep the engine running for a bit longer, give your turbo the time it needs to slow down. But don’t overdo it, because an idling engine heats everything up, again causing issues. A minute or two should do it.

Turbo maintenance

This should go without saying, but change the oil at regular intervals, as indicated by your user’s manual. And while you are at it, change the oil filters, as impurities in the oil are just as damaging to the turbo as the lack of it. While doing so, check not only the filters, but the mounting points, as well as filter mounting flange, as metal scraps tend to remain stuck there.

Air is fairly important, too

The second most likely cause of damage to your turbo that can be easily avoided is air filter contamination. You need to check them regularly, as debris as small as pine needles or pebbles can come in direct contact with the rotating compressor wheel. Given the speed of the wheel, any direct contact with a foreign object can be fairly catastrophic. To avoid this, simply change the filters, but also inspect the housing of the filter for the debris.

Fuel filters

The last on the list of filters are the fuel filters. Any turbocharged vehicle requires a fuel filter replacement at an interval of about 10,000 miles. It is important to use the appropriate filter, as turbocharged diesel injection systems work with a very specific ratio of fuel to air, and if your fuel filter doesn’t provide the exact amount of fuel, damage to the engine and turbocharger can ensue fast.

The pressure is on

What many people just skip over, and is really important, are the high pressure hoses that connect the turbo with the intercooler and the engine. Seeing how the engine works under pressures of over 12 psi, the high pressure hose can rupture, which in turn causes decreased pressure. The response of the turbocharger is to rotate even faster, to work even harder than it already is, thus shortening its lifespan. The wastegate actuator only regulates the amount of the exhaust energy required for turning the compressor wheel; it doesn’t recognize that there is a leak. To ensure this doesn’t happen to you, inspect the hoses and the tubes for leaks (search for oily or damp residue), abrasions or tears. While you are there, check the intercooler for impact damage. If your car has done over 100 000 miles, it is advisable to remove the intercooler and the piping, for a thorough cleaning.

The turbocharger itself

To check the turbocharger itself, you need to access the compressor inlet. You should see the compressor wheel through it. Once you can see it, inspect it and the inlet for oil. There should be none. The wheel, which is aluminum, should be natural color, and hopefully not dinted by impact. It should also have no contact with its housing. Hopefully, you can also spin the wheel with your finger. It can give you a clue of the state of your turbo. It should turn freely, without chafing or any other sounds. It can move slightly from side to side (radial movement), but never so much as to touch the housing or the inlet. On the other hand there should be no noticeable axial (back and forth) movement.

Following these steps is drastically going to decrease the chance of any malfunction happening to your turbo. But if any of these diagnostic tools show a problem, have your turbo serviced without delay.
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