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Turbo use and Maintenance By Tim Dawson at Glenwood Auto Service Saskatoon


Staying on top of regular maintenance keeps your vehicle running better for longer. Glenwood Auto are Trusted Saskatoon Auto Repair Experts, and we're ready to help you with all your maintenance needs. In our latest  Saskatoon Auto Tip Tim Dawson shares some turbo tips.

Even if your Turbo equipped vehicle is your daily driver or your weekend warrior, your care and maintenance of this mechanical marvel remain the same.  Proper fluid use, with both engine oil and coolant, is even more important than with naturally aspirated engines.  

 We all know and have had it pounded into us by advertising that Synthetic fluids are better for our vehicles, but this rings even more so for Turbo equipped vehicles.  Synthetic engine oils deal with heat much better and do not break down as easily as conventional oils.

The largest misconception with synthetic oils is that they are just that, Synthetic, or man-made, which is not actually true, they are petroleum oils, but they have been highly refined, removing far more of the base carbons, hydrocarbons and general pollutants of the base crude oil.  They can also add engineered chemicals that aid in particular oils uses.

 With a Turbo equipped vehicle, Synthetic oil should always be used, and changed regularly, as per the vehicles maintenance schedule. A chemical engine flush is also recommended to be performed with every second oil change to keep the internal engine as clean as possible.

 An extension past the normal 8,000 kilometres should never be done, even if the synthetic oil stays stable, it can still get dirty just like the cheapest of oils, and synthetic will not carry contaminants through the system like standard petroleum oil will, so if you extend synthetic oil  changes much past the normal 8000 kilometres on a regular bases, you will end up with contaminants and carbon in the oiling system that you will not be able to get rid of easily, if at all. (this is a major modern failure reason for most engines with variable cam timing, effecting solenoids, actuators, and timing chain wear)

 Proper turbo use, as much as they have become a normal part of our everyday life, as they are in the most normal of vehicles now, like the Honda Civic and CRV.  Turbos are no longer just for kids, or racers, most people know someone that is driving a turbo equipped vehicle as a daily driver and are being used for greater efficiency and fuel economy.  Most people don't know that they engine should be at or close to operating temperature before driving with any significant throttle input, and conversely, needs to be allowed to cool down before shutting off the vehicle.  Due to most vehicles, these days are daily drivers, it is nothing significant for most people to come off of the highway, to a dead stop at a gas station, or simply at there destination, and think nothing of shutting the vehicle off, with no idle time.

 This is very hard on a turbo, heat soak kicks in, the exhaust which would be around 1000 degrees F. Could rapidly increase to 2000 degrees F or higher, as the turbo absorbs heat from the exhaust and the engine, with no way to dissipate this incoming heat in any efficient manner.  This quick rise in temperature in the turbo housing causes the oil that remains inside the housing to overheat, and in worst case's, will boil off, leaving behind raw carbon.  This carbon can build up, sometimes causing oil restriction, or even no oil flow through turbo bearing. Turbo's spin very fast, even at idle the shaft speed could be thousands of RPM. 

 If the engine is not allowed to idle for 1-2 minutes once the vehicle is parked, the heat soak in the turbo combined with the (very fast) spinning shaft in the turbo, cause a recipe for turbo bearing failure, which in turn causes shaft play, chatter, low boost, oil loss, oil usage, oil leaks, and even turbo failure and shaft seizing.

 Any turbo equipped vehicle should have a remote start installed.  Most, if not all modern remote starts have a Turbo Timer, as part of its normal programming. Generally allowing 1 to 2 minute run times. Any turbo vehicle should be allowed to idle for no less than 1 minute after being driven any length of time.  This is easily set up on most vehicles, automatic or standard, and can be set up by the remote start installer or Dealer (if O.E. Equipped) upon request.  Allowing just 1 minute of idle time after the vehicle is stopped, can reduce the heat load on the turbo from 1300 degrees F. To 800 F, even on a +35 degree C day.

 Just 1-2 minutes of idle time, and of course proper oil use and change intervals, could extend the turbo's life span by as much as double.

 Coolant maintenance is also more important with a turbo engine, a coolant/antifreeze is your main means of cooling the turbo.  If the coolant is allowed to get too old or contaminated and break down, this can cause coolant restriction in the turbo, or the breaking down of the seals in the turbo, causing coolant leaks internal and external of the turbo. A proper cooling system service should always include a bio-degradable cleaner/de-scaler, and a lubricant with corrosion inhibitors that are put in with the new fluid. And last but not least a high-quality coolant must always be mixed with distilled water (never tap water!!)

 If you have any question regarding your turbo vehicle or any auto service question do not hesitate to give us a call here at Glenwood Auto Service or visit our website @ 

Written by Tim Dawson, 

Senior Automotive Technician, Glenwood Auto Service, Saskatoon, Sk




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