17 Dec, 17

Common Turbocharger Problems

Common Faults & Our Services

Turbo RebuildsOur experienced team of engineers have been helping vehicle owners from around the world with their turbo problems for many years. Often a turbocharger will give clues that it is failing, it is important to recognise these signs and act fast. Ignoring the signs can result in further damage to the turbocharger and other components, increasing the cost of repairs.


If your turbocharger has failed, we offer turbo repairs for a full range of turbochargers using new genuine parts to ensure each and every rebuilt turbo meets & exceeds OE specifications. All turbocharger rebuilds are backed by our 2-year warranty.

What Causes Turbo Problems

There are a number of reasons for turbocharger failure and it’s not always easy to identify a turbo fault. If you notice your vehicle is losing oil on the dipstick, losing power, smoking or is noisier than usual – you may have a turbo related issue. In this post, we want to share some of the most common problems we’ve found with turbochargers – What causes turbocharger damage and how to tell if your turbocharger is in need of a service, repair or rebuild.



Your turbo requires a constant flow of clean oil to keep the moving parts of the turbocharger well lubricated. The build-up of carbon deposits and contaminants can cause abrasive damage to the inside of the turbocharger and if left untreated, over time it can reduce the efficiency and cause irreparable damage.


Low oil levels will reduce the oil pressure, which in turn will make it difficult for the oil to get round to all of the necessary components and lubricate efficiently. From a cold start, the oil will be thick and takes a little longer to get round to all the moving parts. Once warm, the oil will thin down and provide better lubrication. Speeding off from a cold start can cause friction damage to your turbocharger due to a lack of lubrication.


Fully synthetic oil produces the least amount of carbon. We recommend regular oil + filter changes and routinely check to ensure your oil is topped up to the correct level. As a rule of thumb, allow the oil 60 seconds to warm up from a cold-start before driving away to ensure the turbocharger is well lubricated.


Foreign Objects

Foreign objects can enter the turbocharger from either the compressor inlet or the turbine inlet. This could be anything from broken engine components, dust particles, small stones and even leaves. The impact damage caused by foreign objects entering the turbocharger can be devastating and very expensive to repair.


We recommend regular servicing of the air filter and checking the intake pipes and turbo for any debris or loose connections.



A turbocharger works by increasing the air pressure going into the engine. If there are leaks along the air intake system, the turbocharger will need to work harder to produce the same amount of air pressure. The increased strain on the turbocharger will reduce the efficiency and will wear out internal components faster.


Never ignore leaks and split hoses. Leak testers are a cost-effective way of finding leaks.


Blocked Diesel Particulate Filter (DPF)

A blocked DPF can cause the turbocharger to fail for many reasons and below we list the three most common causes of a turbo failure following a blocked diesel particulate filter:

  • Increased Exhaust Gas Temperatures (EGT’s)
  • Increased Back Pressure
  • Excessive Carbon Build-Up

Regular oil + filter changes and frequent motorway runs will help to prevent a DPF from blocking up.


How To Spot a Failing Turbo

Turbo OverhaulWe often hear customers say the rebuilt turbo we returned has increased the power of their vehicle but actually, it’s the same turbocharger that was removed from the vehicle for reconditioning. The reason for this is because the turbocharger has been failing for quite some time and the gradual reduction in efficiency and power goes unnoticed – whereas the restored power and efficiency will feel like a complete upgrade.


There are many ways to tell if the turbo on your vehicle is giving up and in need of maintenance or repairs:


Check Engine Warning Light
Most modern vehicles may log a turbo related fault code, which can be picked up by a diagnostic scan through the OBDII port. However, you should not rely solely on the diagnostic fault codes – further checks will be necessary to find the root cause of the fault code being logged.


Monitor Turbo Boost Gauge
A turbo boost gauge will show you how much boost pressure your turbocharger is producing in real time. Not all vehicles are fitted with a boost gauge but they can be installed as an addon if required. If you notice your boost gauge is not going up as much as it used to, it would suggest there is either a boost leak or the turbocharger may be in need of a repair.


Loss of Power
If you notice your vehicle does not accelerate how it used to, struggles to reach the speeds it used to or there are unusual delays in the power delivery, your turbocharger may be in need of maintenance or repairs.


Exhaust Smoke
A cracked turbo housing or leaking oil seals may allow oil to pass through to the exhaust system. As the oil burns, it will produce a distinctive grey/blue smoke, which may become more visible when you accelerate. The oil could be leaking through the front of the turbo and making its way through the intake system. The oil burning in the engine cylinders will have the same effect (blue/grey smoke). Oil in the cylinders is especially dangerous because it can cause the engine to/
rev up on its own.


Whining Noise
If your turbocharger has lost its balance or suffered damage to the compressor wheel, you may hear a very distinctive whine/whistle on acceleration.

The Next Step – Checking Your Turbo

If you’ve noticed any of the above symptoms of a failing turbocharger, we recommend getting it checked out sooner rather than later. Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away and the turbo certainly won’t repair itself. In fact, the longer you leave it, the more damage it can cause and the more expensive it can become to repair.


At Sinspeed, we’re always happy to help with a cost-effective and efficient diagnosis and repair service for a full range of turbochargers. If you’re mechanically minded, there are some checks you may be able to carry out yourself.


Look for signs of oil, excessive movement or impact damage between the compressor wheel and housing. If you can remove the exhaust all the way back to the turbocharger, then inspect the turbine wheel too – it should be free of any carbon build-up, scale or oil along the surface with no damage to the blades.


At Sinspeed, our team of turbo specialists can offer a professional turbo rebuild service and carry a full range of reconditioned turbochargers in stock. We use new OE parts for all turbo repairs and our remanufactured turbochargers are backed by a 2-year warranty. Get in touch today by calling us on 0203 815 9441 or send an email here.

Tags : Turbocharger Advice, Turbocharger Faults, Turbocharger Health, Turbocharger Maintenance, Turbocharger Problems, Turbocharger Rebuilds, Turbocharger Repairs.
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