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Why do turbos fail? - 01.04.2019

David Eszenyi, Commercial Director of Ivor Searle, examines the problem of turbo failure and explains the benefits of the remanufactured turbo option when selecting a replacement unit.turbo.jpg

The market for turbochargers continues to grow as this technology becomes more commonplace in the vehicle parc. The proliferation of diesel cars and light vans, all of which are now turbocharged, is a key driver behind this growth.  As these vehicles continue to age, turbo failures will inevitably increase, thereby driving demand for replacement units.
Although designed to last the lifetime of the vehicle, turbochargers are precisely engineered to very high tolerances, so a range of external factors can cause damage, resulting in premature failure.  Symptoms of turbo failure include power loss, slow acceleration, difficulty maintaining high speeds, a smoking exhaust and illumination of the ‘check engine’ instrument cluster warning light.  Based on our remanufacturing experience, we’ve identified the main causes of turbocharger failure, as follows:
Oil and exhaust system contamination
Effective engine lubrication is critical to the operation of a turbo, so a lack of oil or use of the incorrect specification, can produce contaminants in the engine, that can ultimately result in component failure.  Oil contamination, as well as carbon deposits from incomplete combustion, can build up in the turbo, resulting in faults such as the vanes sticking in variable geometry turbos causing power loss.
Contamination can also be sent 'upstream' into the turbo due to problems in the exhaust system, such as a blocked or restricted DPF.  Turbos are designed to handle high exhaust gas temperatures of around 800°C, so excess exhaust gas temperature beyond this point can also harm turbos, causing the turbine shaft to melt and, in some instances, detachment of the turbine wheels away from the shaft.  We always recommend that workshops replacing a customer’s turbo always check the vehicle’s DPF at the same time and, if necessary, get it professionally cleaned.

Foreign Object Damage
Foreign object damage or 'FOD' can destroy a turbo in seconds.  Occasionally, fragments of metal from broken engine components, dust particles, small stones and other debris can be ingested into the compressor or turbine inlet, resulting in collision with the compressor wheel, which spins at over 100,000 rpm.  As a result, even the smallest particle hitting the compressor wheel can unbalance the turbo, causing it to fail.
Over speeding
Based on the principle of forced induction, a turbo is designed to increase the air supply that feeds the engine.  Turbo 'over speeding' occurs when the turbo rotates at a greater speed than its operational limits and beyond its safe parameters, eventually causing it to fail by damaging the turbine or compressor wheels and bearings.  Leaks, cracks or damaged seals between the compressor and the engine can harm the turbo, making it operate beyond intended limits to deliver the pressure required. 
Alongside the problems highlighted, further causes of turbo failure include issues such as moisture ingress, wear and tear on high mileage vehicles and hose use without mechanical sympathy can all cause turbocharger damage.
Remanufactured turbochargers
At Ivor Searle, demand for our 'all makes' programme of remanufactured turbos for diesel and petrol vehicles is growing, not least because it is far more cost effective to buy a reman turbo than sourcing a brand-new OE unit. The saving with us can be as much as 40%.
The remanufacturing process involves a complete strip down and thorough cleansing using pyrolytic technology, after which all internal components are automatically replaced.  All external housings are meticulously examined and checked against OE specification and any non-conforming components are also replaced.
All Ivor Searle turbochargers undergo stringent quality checks and test procedures throughout the remanufacturing process to ensure maximum durability and service life.  Prior to final assembly, the turbocharger’s rotating assembly is then balanced on state-of-the-art VSR equipment to OE specification and oil flow rates are checked at the same time.  Every turbo receives a detailed final inspection and is flow tested to ensure optimum performance.
Ivor Searle turbochargers are provided with a transferable two-year unlimited mileage parts and labour warranty.  In addition, all units are supplied with pre-installation guidelines, as well as model-specific instructions if required.  Ivor Searle holds a comprehensive stock of turbochargers and offers free next day AM mainland UK delivery on stock items to ensure first class customer service and minimise vehicle downtime.
To find out more please call the Ivor Searle sales team on 01353 720531.

Filed under: Ivor Searle turbo, reman turbo, turbo replacement