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How to tell if your turbo is blown

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Find out more about the symptoms and causes of turbo failure, and what you can do about it.

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A turbocharger, also known as a turbo, is a clever device designed to boost engine power. Following the introduction of UK emissions laws, many car manufacturers now use turbos to deliver the same power found in larger, more powerful cars, while allowing motorists to enjoy the financial and environmental benefits that come with having a smaller engine.

Although designed to last as long as the car does, it is possible for turbos to become damaged over time. Find out more about what causes turbo failure below, and what you can do about it.

How does a turbo work?

Your engine combines fuel and air to produce power. One of the simplest ways to increase the power of your engine - while keeping running costs low - is to add more air. Your turbo does this by using the exhaust to spin an air pump. This air pump pushes extra air into the cylinders of your engine, delivering significantly higher horsepower.

Is my turbo blown?

The symptoms of a damaged or failing turbo are:

  • Loss of power
  • Slower, louder acceleration
  • Difficulty maintaining high speeds
  • Blue/grey smoke coming from the exhaust
  • Engine dashboard light is showing.

If you are experiencing some or all of these, there could be a problem with your turbo.

What causes turbo damage?

There're a number of things that can cause a blown turbo:

  • Engine oil - your turbo needs oil to function properly. A lack of oil, the wrong grade of oil, or poor quality oil will lead to a build up of carbon deposits and contaminants in the engine, which can cause abrasive damage to the turbo. We recommend using quality, fully - synthetic oil to stop this build up.
  • The car's age and mileage. Although turbos are designed to last for the lifetime of the vehicle, it is possible for them to wear out over time. This might be down to the quality of the turbo originally fitted, or how hard you drive the car.
  • Cracked or worn seals. Damaged seals between the compressor and the engine will allow oil to leak into the exhaust system, so the turbo has to work harder to increase air pressure.

What to do if you have a blown turbo

If you think you might have a blown turbo, get it looked at as soon as possible by a qualified technician. The longer you leave it, the more damage it'll cause, and the more expensive it'll be to fix the problem.

At Halfords Autocentres, we offer a Diagnostic Check for just £49.99. Our ATA-trained technicians use state-of-the-art car diagnostic test equipment to identify and advise on any necessary repairs. If your turbo does need replacing, a full quote will be provided before additional work is carried out. Only then will our team fit the right Original Equipment (OE) turbo to your vehicle.

Book a Diagnostic Check