What Causes Turbo Failure and Common Turbo Failure Symptoms

The car’s turbo (or turbocharger) helps boost the engine’s power. With the invention of the turbocharger, smaller vehicles now produce the same power that larger vehicles have. 

In this blog, we’ll walk you through the way turbos work, Common Turbo Failure Symptoms, and what causes Turbo failure.

It’s important to keep an eye out for symptoms of a bad turbo. It’ll help you avoid major problems, and not only to the turbo itself but the overall engine. Detecting turbo problems can also help save a lot of time, effort, and money in car repairs.

How does a turbo work? 

The turbocharger is responsible for helping the engine produce more energy. For a car engine to create power that drives the wheels, it combines fuel and air. Car’s Turbos add more air into the mixture by using the exhaust to spin an air pump (or compressor). 

When there’s more fuel than air in the combustion mixture, the engine needs more air to interact with this fuel to create the combustion and, as a result, energy. That’s why you need turbochargers, as that’s where they come in handy.

The air pump then pushes extra air into the engine’s cylinders, which allows them to burn more fuel per second, and produce more power than usual. Turbos run at exceptionally high speeds (up to 250,000rpm), meaning they operate under huge pressures and temperatures. 


There are many types of turbochargers, including:

  • The single turbo
  • The twin-scroll turbo
  • The sequential turbo
  • The VGT turbo 
  • The electric turbo
  • The variable twin-scroll turbo

Common Turbo Failure Symptoms

turbo failure

There are several signs you can look for to tell if your turbocharger has blown:


If your car isn’t accelerating as powerfully as it should or is slow to react, this may be a sign that your turbo is starting to fail. Likewise, a turbocharged car that struggles to maintain high speeds or cannot reach speeds at once could be experiencing turbo failure.


Amongst the many advantages of a turbocharger is that it unexpectedly makes the engine quieter as it muffles the sound of the air intake. However, if you start hearing a loud whining noise – a bit like a police siren or a dentist’s drill – it’s a potential symptom of turbo failure. 

As the fault gets more serious, the noise gets worse. If you notice whining from your engine, you should get in touch with our professional mechanic at Diesel Components to have an in-depth look at your car.


When there’s oil leakage into the exhaust system, it produces a distinctive grey/ blue smoke as it burns off. It is probably caused by a crack in the turbo housing or damaged internal seals. If the turbocharger causes this symptom, you’ll probably start seeing these discolored fumes as the engine revs increase shortly after idling.


The computer diagnostics on most modern cars can alert you about turbo faults via the check engine light on the dashboard to notify the driver. However, the check engine light does not solely indicate turbo failure; you’ll need our professional mechanics to perform further checks to diagnose the engine problem’s exact nature.

What causes Turbo failure?

Turbochargers are incredibly reliable. Generally, it’s very rare to have issues with your car’s turbo.  Less than 1% of warranty inspections find any fault with the turbo. Blown turbos come from problems with other parts of your car like engine lubrication, foreign objects, etc. 

For example, here’s a list of the most common causes for a bad turbo: 

  • Lack of oil or lubrication 

Oil is amongst the most important fluids in your car because oil provides lubrication that prevents the car’s parts from friction and getting destroyed as more car parts get in touch with each other very often.

The engine’s turbocharger comprises different moving parts that get in touch with each other continuously and that too at high speeds. The turbocharger receives its oil from the engine. When there’s not enough oil in the turbocharger, contaminants will start building up, causing oil contamination and, therefore, causing extensive damage to the turbocharger. 

Similar to the car’s internal components, the turbocharger does not only require a specific amount of oil continually; it also requires a particular grade or oil type to continue performing properly. 

  • Issues with the seal between the engine & the compressor 

Over time and due to extensive usage, the seals between the engine & the compressor will get worn and cause internal damages. These damages cause oil leakages into the combustion system. And when there’s too much oil in the combustion system, the turbo has to work harder to push more air into the combustion system to burn this oil. 

Further, when the turbo works harder than it should, it loses its efficiency over time. This specific issue is known as over-speeding. When the turbo is over-speeding, it has to rotate faster than it was designed for particular applications. Thus, the turbo will start tearing and wearing resulting in complete turbo damage quickly. 

  • Foreign Objects and Deposits 

Strange objects can enter the turbo in two ways: via the turbine in the back or via the compressor hose in the front. Whatever the source or location may be, having strange objects in the turbo can result in major damages to the turbo and perhaps the entire engine. 

Once strange objects start to build up inside the turbo, you’ll start to notice a reduction in the car’s power, and sometimes it’ll result in major turbo problems. The best way to prevent this from happening is to perform regular cleaning inside the turbo. 

  • Wear and Tear over time of use 

Turbos are quite reliable and don’t get damaged very often. Generally, turbos can last up to 150,000 miles without any problem whatsoever. However, this number can change depending on your driving style. For example, if you drive your car very hard, you can expect your car’s turbo to get damaged sooner. 


Suspect a problem with your car’s turbo or need some valuable advice? Visit us at Diesel Components, Inc. today. Our highly experienced and helpful team can be on hand to support you, whatever your motoring needs. There may be other turbo repair companies that may entice you with a lower price, but when it comes to Diesel Components, Inc., we never cut corners. As a factory authorized repair facility, rest assured, we’ll always use top quality parts and the latest repair techniques as we firmly believe in doing every job right the first time.

As far as turbochargers and their repair is concerned, we have you covered. From supplying the simple parts such as an air discharge hose or clamp or a manifold gasket to the more complex like wheel balancing, including testing and correcting, we only use the complete cartridge assemblies utilizing the state of the art VSR technology. We also offer a complete exchange of new or rebuilt turbochargers; when it comes to turbochargers, Diesel Components, Inc. has what you need.