Causes Of Turbocharger Failure

The causes for turbo damages usually fall into the following four categories: Foreign Object Damage, Lack of Lubrication, Oil Contamination, or Overspeed & Excessive Temperatures. We will examine each of these failure modes individually, below.

 Turbo wheel mechanical damage, caused by small objects entering the turbine or compressor housing at high speed, leading to imbalance. FOD damage is often severe, if not catastrophic.



 Turbo fatigue cracking and material transfer created by metal friction and high temperatures as a result of restrictions to the oil supply, incorrect gasket placement leading to flow restriction and use of liquid gasket products or poor quality lubricants. It is critical that the flow of oil to your turbocharger not be restricted and that you use only approved products.



 Turbo bearing system damage caused by a high concentration of carbon or other contaminants suspended in oil. This is often created by extended oil change intervals or poor maintenance. Remember to use good quality oil filters in a turbocharged vehicle, and to change oil regularly. There are also concerns such as water or coolant contaminated oil, forming steam pockets leading to bearing oil starvation. While more closely related to FOD damage, beware of pieces or fragments of metal in the oil, especially following an engine overhaul.


 Turbo damage caused by working beyond its designed parameters or outside the vehicle manufacturer’s specification. Maintenance problems, engine malfunction or unauthorized performance upgrades can push turbo rotating speeds beyond its operating limits, causing fatigue failure of compressor and turbine wheels. Running a turbocharger beyond its speed or temperature limits is lethal to this delicate and expensive equipment.

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