Signs that your vehicle needs a new turbocharger

In Diagnostics by Steves Auto Repair and Tire

A lot of newer vehicles today are coming with smaller engines.

To run the air conditioning, computers, and electronics, extra power is needed. Turbochargers provide that support.

This component takes pressure from the exhaust that spools up and forces air into the intake. That adds power. Then, the car adds more fuel, resulting in more boost.

Sometimes, turbochargers need to be replaced.

We recently installed a new one on a BMW that had its check engine light turn on.

While working on the vehicle, the technician realized that the wastegate had gone bad. As you’re driving down the road, the turbo puts pressure into the engine through the intake. When you let off the gas and are decelerating, that pressure has to go somewhere. The wastegate operates as a pressure relief valve, allowing the pressure from the turbo to go off without damaging the engine.

He determined this was the problem because the turbocharger going bad is a common issue with BMWs. Work had also been done on this vehicle previously.

A couple of years ago, we replaced the wastegate solenoid.

At the time, we thought the turbocharger may need to be replaced at some point. Installing a new solenoid was a cheaper option that we hoped would address the issue.

How to tell if you need a new turbocharger

The check engine light turning on is one symptom that a new turbocharger is needed. This light can be triggered if your turbo doesn’t hit the pressure it’s supposed to.

Keep in mind that a check engine light can come on for many reasons. It doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem with the turbocharger. 

You may also notice the engine making a whining noise and loss of power.

Blue or gray exhaust smoke is another indicator.

What causes it to go bad?

There are various reasons why turbochargers stop working. 

Not having enough oil and using dirty oil or the wrong type are the most common causes. These newer cars are very oil specific, because the turbo continues to run after the engine is off and it needs to be lubricated.

The turbocharger can also go bad simply from everyday use and if dirt, rocks and other debris enter it.

A “turbo underboost” code could indicate that the turbo is going bad. However, that isn’t always the case. When we get this code, our technicians determine the location of the boost leak by performing a smoke test on the turbo and intercooler.

Sometimes, the turbo is bad. However, we need to check that, because there may be a leak between the turbo and boost sensor.

Ways to maintain your vehicle’s turbocharger

Turbochargers are expensive. So, it’s important to make sure they’re maintained.

Regular oil changes are one way to take care of turbocharged engines. We recommend this service every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

It’s also a good idea to give your engine time to warm up before heading to your next destination and allowing it to cool down afterward.

Steve’s Auto Repair & Tire is an authorized Goodyear tire dealer located in Woodbridge, Virginia. Automotive repair services are performed on all makes and models, including BMW and Mercedes. Services include oil changes, brakes, alignments, inspections, and computer engine diagnostics.