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Five tips to boost your turbocharger’s life and performance

Turbochargers are little miracle machines that pack a wallop. It is designed to condense air, which is used by engine cylinders to churn out more power.

But what powers the turbocharger?

Temperature and pressure of exhaust gases fuel the turbo, which compresses the air, thereby raising its density and volume. Certain classes of turbo are equipped with intercoolers, which provides additional cooling to boost the rate of airflow within the combustion chamber to spark higher fuel flow rate.

Turbocharger's Performance

How does a turbocharger work?

Once the air/fuel charge is burned, the charge exits on the exhaust stroke into the exhaust manifold. The high-temperature exhaust gas then enters the turbocharger’s turbine that in turn drives the turbo compressor, charging the intake air, continuing in a cycle that forces high density air into the engine, mixing with the correct amount of fuel to maintain a proper air/fuel ratio, producing more power.

These power-packed machines runs upwards of 240, 000 rpm, which means it requires a lot of care and maintenance for it to operate optimally.

Here are some proven methods to ensure longevity of your car, truck, or semi’s turbo.

  • Synthetic oil is an oxygen for your turbo-charger

Oiling is the first step to have a turbocharger that will last. To prolong the life of a turbo, it is essential to maintain a timely oil change schedule. Opt for fully synthetic oil because of its unparalleled performance in protecting the engine/turbo during extremely high temperatures.

You can check your owner’s manual for recommended oils, or consult enthusiasts and find the right oil partner for your turbo. Pairing your turbo with most compatible oil is an art, which is born out of trial and error but one that pays off immensely. Many vehicle owners have recorded 7, 000+ miles on their turbo due to diligent oiling schedule combined with perfectly compatible oil.

  • Warm up the turbo before you push the pedal to the metal

Scheduled oiling is the bed-rock and the first step towards a healthier turbo life. But it is imperative to also make sure that the oil is heated at the right temperature (which ranges from 190 to 220 degree Fahrenheit) when the turbo is in use. Otherwise, oil which is not heated tends to be thicker and have increased oil pressure – this puts additional strain on oil seals.

The central cartridge houses the seals of the turbocharger, where the shaft that connects the turbine and compressor sides is lubricated by the oil. When the seals wear over time, it allows the oil to seep. When there is an excessive oil seep, you may see blue-like smoke from the exhaust. That is why raising the oil temperature is advised because it burns off the moisture in the seal, and with frequent short trips this fluid becomes saturated with un-burned impurities.

In other words, you should aim for 10 minutes of steady driving before speeding up. By doing so, the engine and turbo have sufficient oil flow before it can be tested for its true performance.

Therefore, shorter trips aren’t the best fit for a turbo’s longevity because it demands frequent oil change. If not carefully maintained, it can leave a lot of waste particles within the shaft. You don’t want residue to sit inside the turbo, as it damages the crank and shaft.

  • Never kill the engine immediately after stopping the car

When you reach your destination after a long drive, do not stall the engine. Let it run for a while, and remain idle for about 30-60 seconds. Once the turbo gets hot from the exhaust gas, it burns the oil that’s inside the bearing and bake the turbo. This erodes the inside of turbo causing damage to the bearing.

Please note – If you accidentally stall the engine, restart it immediately to prevent the oil within the turbo from melting everything around it.

  • Know the art of changing gears

When driving with a turbo system, you should rely on a downshift when overtaking and not be solely banking on your turbo for acceleration. Similarly, when driving on a fast lane on the motorway, or driving up a long hill, downshifting is a safer option. The artistic mix of right gear shifts within varied rev ranges will extend the life of turbo by minimizing wear and tear.

  • Give enough love to cooling systems

Turbo generates a lot of heat which spreads to the engine. Conventional radiators are not the best way to cool the engine. In order to have a more effective turbocharger, ensure the radiator operates at a high-performance level. Avoid using water to cool the engine because it tends to corrode the radiator, instead opt for top quality coolant.

The thrill of riding a turbo-charged vehicle comes with added precautions. Although, maintenance can be a pain in the neck, but it is a necessity to enhance the performance of the engine. And we all know an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.