Turbocharger Engine Maintenance: How To

A turbocharger increases an engine’s power and efficiency output by forcing more compressed air into the engine’s combustion chamber through induction. These turbocharger engines can provide more air to the engine for combustion. That’s why they are used for driving at high altitudes where air pressure is low, and thus, more air is needed. Both petrol and diesel engines can have turbochargers installed.

To choose the proper vehicle for your needs, make sure to check out our Off-Road SUV article as well!

More air means more power, but you also need fuel for combustion. Thus, the combustion engine mixes more fuel in proportion to the extra air ingested. Extra air mixed with fuel then combusts, increasing engine power. 

Essentially, turbochargers are devices that can enhance a car’s speed and overall performance without adding any significant weight. However, one should remember that they suffer from efficiency loss because their moving mechanical parts cannot be fully energy efficient.

Another downside is turbocharger lag. Turbocharger Lag is the time required for the turbocharger engine to power itself up when the throttle is engaged. Because the engine exhaust gases power them, it needs to wait for the engine to produce the gases and then receive them to power up.

Turbocharger Engine image

1. Perform Regular Oil Changes

Turbochargers have several moving mechanical parts that operate simultaneously and work under extreme temperature and pressure.

As with conventional combustion engines made up of several moving parts, turbochargers also need engine oil to lubricate their compression valves, intake fans, outlet fans, etc. Performing regular oil changes will ensure that the parts degrade slowly to preserve their lifetime and performance doesn’t take any hits. Refer to your owner’s manual to see when you should change your engine oil.

While you’re at it, remember when you last changed the oil filter. If it’s about time or due for one, change the oil filter. You can’t have good engine oil without a good oil filter. Over time, the oil filter can clog up as it catches more dust particles and dust. These particles will reduce the oil filter’s efficiency, as it reduces the amount of clean oil passing through it which can damage the engine.

Opt for synthetic oil if you want your engine to have the best health and performance possible. Synthetic oil offers better protection, cleaner engines, works better in extreme temperatures, and has longer change intervals but is more expensive than conventional engine oil.

2. Warm Your Turbocharger Engine Up Properly

As mentioned earlier, one of the downsides of a turbocharger is lag. While you need to wait for the turbocharger to charge up for a minute or so, it’s good to let it go on for a while.

It might be tempting to speed off on your car once you’re done waiting for the turbocharger to charge up. However, refrain from doing so. Engine oil is thick when it’s cold and restricts free movement. Cold oil makes lubricating all moving parts ineffective and puts them at risk of severe wear and tear over repeated incidents.

It’s acceptable if you do it a few times because of emergencies. But, don’t make a habit of driving your car as soon as it starts. Depending on your car, it is good to wait 5-10 minutes before you go crazy on the accelerator pedal. If you’re serious about warming up your engine properly, you should also install a car oil thermometer. The thermometer will check when the engine oil reaches the appropriate temperature.

3. Let Your Turbocharger Engine Cool Down

As you already know, turbochargers work under extreme temperature and pressure. If you turn off the engine right after hard-driving, the residual heat can boil the oil within the turbocharger. The heat can then create a build-up of sludge and contaminant particles that can erode your turbo system and affect its health.

Thus, you should leave the engine running for a minute or two after you’re done driving to ensure that the turbo system will cool down enough to avoid boiling the oil. However, if you only drove a short distance or didn’t put much pressure on the turbocharger, you can let it cool down for about half a minute before shutting off the engine.

If you exert your car to extreme limits often and don’t have the luxury to wait around for a few minutes, consider installing a water-cooling system. The cooling system eliminates the need to let the car cool down, saves your precious time and maintains the turbo charger’s health.

4. Don’t Blip the Turbocharger Throttle

Additionally, don’t blip the throttle before shutting off the engine. It’s not healthy to frequently turn on and off the turbocharger engine, however tempting to hear the whirring sound of your beloved turbocharger might be. When you do so, the turbo system’s fans and turbines will start to spin; but since the engine is turned off, it will also cut off the oil flow that lubricates the moving parts of the turbocharger. The engine is independent of the turbo system, so it can’t stop the turbo system’s activities. As a result, the fans and turbine will continue to keep spinning.

As you know already, the parts are in danger of failure without lubrication due to heat buildup from friction. Therefore, try to avoid engaging your turbocharger unnecessarily or wait a while if you still do it. Know that a cooling system won’t help in this regard.

5. Let the Gears Do Their Work

It’s important to understand that the turbocharger is present to boost your car’s performance to the next level by working in conjunction with your car’s existing properties and not to handle all of the car’s performance on its own. It is a supplement to your car’s system, not a replacement.

So whenever possible, try not to overexert your turbocharger if it’s something your car can handle already. An example of this is gear shifting. Gears are purposefully designed to aid performance up and down the rev range. If you’re driving uphill, overtaking on the road, or taking other actions the gear shifting can handle on its own, there’s no need to let your turbocharger do the work.

Using the turbocharger sparingly in conjunction with gear and other car mechanics will minimize the work your turbocharger has to do and, consequently, limit the wear and tear it suffers.