Allowing you to increase the performance and efficiency of your car, while also making it more environmentally friendly, there’s no doubt that turbochargers are a game changer. However, if problems start to arise they can quickly begin to damage your diesel engine so it’s important to know the signs of a failing turbo, what it does to your engine, and how to best avoid a turbo failure.

Signs of Turbo Failure in Diesel Engines

To avoid problems further down the line, you need to know the symptoms of a failing turbo. From blue or black smoke to whistling sounds, here are some of the most common signs that your turbo is having issues.

Decreased Engine Performance

A significant sign of turbo failure is a loss of engine power. The turbocharger’s role is to compress air and push it into the engine, increasing the amount of fuel that can be burned to enhance power output. If the turbo is compromised, it won’t supply the necessary boost, causing the engine to feel sluggish and less responsive, particularly during acceleration or when climbing hills. This reduction in performance can occur gradually or suddenly, depending on the severity of the turbo’s issues.

Excessive Exhaust Smoke

An increase in exhaust smoke is a tell-tale symptom of a failing turbo, with the smoke’s colour indicating different problems. Blue Smoke suggests that oil is burning within the combustion chamber. It typically occurs when oil leaks into the intake manifold, where it mixes with the air-fuel mixture and burns during combustion.

Black smoke indicates that the engine is burning excessive fuel. This occurs when the turbo fails to deliver the proper air pressure needed for efficient combustion, resulting in a fuel-rich mixture and visibly darker smoke.

Unusual Whining or Whistling Noises

Turbochargers should operate smoothly with minimal noise. However, a failing turbo may produce a distinctive whining, whistling, or siren-like sound that intensifies with engine RPM. This noise is often due to damaged bearings or a deteriorating turbine wheel within the turbo. Such sounds are a critical warning, as they can indicate that metal components within the turbo are grinding against each other, leading to rapid deterioration.

Increased Oil Consumption

A malfunctioning turbo can also lead to higher oil consumption. If oil escapes into the exhaust system it gets burned off which contributes to higher oil usage. Similarly, if oil drips into the intake manifold it will mix with the air and burn in the combustion chambers. 

Consequences of Turbo Failure in Diesel Engines

Turbo failure in diesel engines can lead to a range of serious issues, impacting not just the engine’s performance but its longevity and efficiency too. Understanding these potential consequences can highlight the importance of timely maintenance and intervention.

Significant Engine Damage

One of the most severe consequences of a failing turbo is the risk of engine damage.

If the turbocharger’s turbine blades break due to wear, or due to an object getting sucked into the intake, these fragments can enter the combustion chamber and cause significant internal damage.

If the turbo fails to regulate the engine’s air intake properly, it can cause an imbalance in the air-fuel mixture, potentially leading to engine knocking, which also harms the engine.

Reduced Fuel Efficiency

Without the turbocharger functioning correctly, the engine must work harder to produce the same power. This inefficiency directly impacts fuel consumption, as more fuel is required to achieve the same level of performance.

Increased Emissions

Turbochargers help to burn fuel more completely and efficiently, which reduces the amount of harmful emissions being released by the engine. When a turbo fails and efficiency drops, the engine will produce more particulate matter which will have higher levels of nitrogen oxides and carbon monoxide.

Engine Stalling and Reduced Reliability

A failing turbo can cause inconsistent air delivery to the engine, leading to rough idling, stalling, or difficulty maintaining power, especially under load. Not only does this negate the enthusiast driver’s experience, but it can also result in unexpected downtime and increased maintenance costs for businesses.

Preventive Measures to Avoid Turbo Failure in Diesel Engines

Maintaining the integrity and efficiency of a turbocharged diesel engine requires implementing strategic preventive measures. These steps help minimise the risk of turbo failure and protect the engine from potential consequences.

Regular Maintenance and Inspections

One of the most critical steps in preventing turbo failure is adhering to a strict maintenance schedule. This involves routine checks and replacements of oil, filters, and other fluids that directly affect the operation of the turbo. Turbochargers require clean, high-quality oil for optimal lubrication and cooling. Regular inspections can detect issues such as leaks or wear before they escalate into significant failures.

Keep An Eye on Your Engine Performance

Decreases in power, increases in exhaust smoke, or unusual noises from the turbocharger are early signs of potential problems. Detecting these symptoms early can lead to timely interventions that might prevent minor issues from becoming major problems.

Use High-Quality Fuel and Oil

The quality of fuel and oil used significantly impacts the turbocharger’s health and performance. High-quality diesel fuel can reduce deposit build-up in the engine and turbo system, while premium oil can better withstand the high temperatures generated by the turbo. Avoiding low-quality or inappropriate oils and fuels can prevent problems such as coking and sludge accumulation, which can impede turbo performance and lead to failure.

Allow Proper Warm-up and Cool-down

Allowing the diesel engine time to warm up before driving off can benefit the turbocharger by allowing the oil to reach optimal flow and temperature, providing lubrication from the start of your drive. Similarly, letting the engine and turbo cool down after driving – especially after strenuous conditions – helps prevent oil from coking inside the turbocharger. Installing a turbo timer can help manage this cooling process automatically, reducing thermal stress on the turbo.

By following these principles, you won’t have any issues with your turbocharger. If you feel like you may have an issue with your turbo, we are here to help. At Essex Turbos, we provide budget-friendly solutions to improve the performance and efficiency of your car or van. We have a huge range of stock from Mercedes-Benz to Range Rover, Audi to Jaguar, and Renault to Ford. Simply get in touch today and we will have your turbo shipped in no time, with a variety of delivery options.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *