Common Signs of Turbocharger Problems

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Did you know? Around one-third of light-duty vehicles produced in the US each year are turbocharged. This means you could have a turbocharged vehicle without even knowing it. Turbochargers, colloquially known as turbos, are forced induction devices that compress and force more air into the combustion chamber, allowing the combustion process to produce more power. This improves engine performance, fuel economy, and drivability.

However, like most auto components, turbos come with their fair share of problems. They can wear down, break, and fail for any number of reasons. Luckily, you can prevent harm to both your turbo and your engine by catching these issues early or taking measures to prevent them before they happen. Here are some common signs of turbocharger problems and how to handle them.

A Smoking Exhaust

Is there gas coming from your exhaust pipe? That’s a major sign of engine problems. What kind of engine problems? That depends on the color of the smoke.

Usually, excess exhaust smoke results from leaks due to cracked turbo housing. There are many signs of a leaky turbo. Blue smoke, which indicates an oil leak in the engine, is one of these signs. Leaky turbos can result from many different things, such as improper oil pressure or faulty return lines.

If your car is producing black or white smoke, the turbo probably isn’t your problem. Black smoke appears when your car is burning too much fuel. This could be the result of an obstructed air filter, air intake duct, or fuel injector. White smoke indicates a coolant issue.

Strange Noises

Most cars produce some amount of noise. It’s normal to hear a revving noise when accelerating, for example. But if your car is unusually vocal, that’s a symptom of something gone awry. Your car can produce a plethora of strange noises, from rattling to humming to squealing. Different sounds mean different problems.

If your car is making a noise that resembles a tornado or air raid siren, there’s something wrong with the turbo. If you hear this noise—or any out-of-the-ordinary noise—you should take your car to a mechanic immediately.

Poor Fuel Economy

Feel like you’re visiting the gas station more frequently and spending more than you used to spend? That’s another common sign of turbocharger problems.

Turbochargers are designed to improve fuel economy. If your car is suddenly and inexplicably experiencing lousy fuel economy, it could be because raw fuel is leaking from the turbo into the exhaust before it can burn. This is usually a sign of damaged injector cups or O-rings. It can also be a result of faulty seals on the turbine side of your turbo.

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