What comes into your mind when you hear the word ‘turbo?’ Sports cars and speed? You’re not alone. A lot of people assume that turbochargers are only necessary if you want to go faster. However, this isn’t the case. While it’s true that a turbocharger will help you go faster, there are other benefits of having a turbocharger. In fact, with tighter fuel economy and emissions regulations around the world, turbocharged engines are becoming more and more popular. With a turbocharger, a car can have a small engine and use much less fuel when idling, coasting, or when in stop-and-go traffic.
Before we get to learn about turbocharged car maintenance tips, let’s look at the benefits of having a turbocharged engine.
Benefits of Having a Turbocharged Engine
As mentioned above, a turbocharger isn’t all about speed. Here are other reasons why you should consider buying a turbocharged car, or have a new turbocharger installed.
1. Fuel consumption
Take two engines that produce the same amount of power – one with a turbocharger and the other one without it. The turbocharged engine will consume much less power. That’s surprising, right? The actual size of the turbocharged engine is smaller, hence the less fuel consumption. For example, assume both engines produce a horsepower of 200. The engine with a turbocharger can do this with just four cylinders, while the other engine may require up to six cylinders. That’s a remarkable fuel economy for the turbocharged engine, isn’t it?
2. Less noise pollution
A much smaller turbocharged engine produces a lot of power. A naturally aspirated engine producing the same amount of power is bigger, and thus noisier compared to the turbocharged engine. Additionally, a turbocharger acts as a silencer, covering up some of the noise produced.
3. Reduced emissions
Governments around the world are putting in place strict regulations that require car manufacturers to produce cars with improved gas mileage. This is aimed at reducing emissions produced by cars. Engines with turbochargers are much smaller compared to regular engines. They burn less fuel and emit less carbon dioxide. Why not be the part of this campaign by buying a turbocharged car or having a turbocharger installed?
4. Size and weight
A turbocharged engine requires fewer cylinders to produce the same amount of power with a normal engine. Its size and weight are, therefore, much smaller. As you probably know, a lighter car is more efficient.
Turbocharged Car Care and Maintenance Tips
Prevention is better than cure, and taking proper care of your vehicle is the best way to prevent unnecessary costly repairs. A turbocharged engine has more components and a complicated design compared to a regular engine. They, therefore, require special attention when it comes to everyday care and driving to keep their performance optimal.
If you already own or are thinking of buying a turbocharged car, here are the best care and maintenance tips to keep it at its best performance and increase its lifespan.
Use proper oil and change it regularly
Proper oil management is important for all engines, but it’s even more critical when it comes to turbocharged engines. Think of oil as the lifeblood of your vehicle and a turbocharger as an extra organ that requires its own blood supply.
Oil lubricates the moving parts of an engine. This helps to reduce wear and tear, keeping the engine performance optimal, as well as extending its lifespan. Turbocharged engine parts spin at insanely high speed and work under immense pressure and heat. Oil in a turbocharged engine can get really hot, over 200 degrees Celsius. This is brutally tough on oil.
Due to this brutal abuse, motor oil in a turbocharged engine starts to deteriorate sooner and faster compared to oil in a naturally aspirated engine. Turbo engines, therefore, require a constant supply of the proper kind of oil to keep performing at their best. Your service manual has all the details concerning the type of oil you should use and the intervals at which you should change it.
Typically, full synthetic oil is great, and changing your oil after every 5,000 miles is a great way to ensure your engine and turbochargers don’t develop any kind of oil-related problems. However, don’t just use any synthetic oil. It should meet your car manufacturer’s specs and shouldn’t have any additive in it that isn’t recommended by the manufacturer.
Warm up the engine
Using the right kind of oil and changing it regularly is just the start. You have to use the oil properly once it’s in the engine. Oil has to reach its optimum operating temperatures (around 190 and 200 Fahrenheit) for it to function well. Oil is thicker before reaching this level. In this state, the oil pressure is high, which increases pressure on the oil seals.
Every time you want to get behind the wheel, give the engine some time to warm up before beginning your trip. Throttling the floor when the engine is still cold is a bad habit, and not just for a turbocharged engine, but all engines. This is because when the oil is cold, it settles in the oil pan. Critical areas such as turbocharger bearings, crankshaft, piston pins, piston rings, and cam bearings lack enough oil for lubrication as a result.
Let the turbocharged engine cool down before you turn it off
Well, this may come as a surprise to many people who are used to switching off the car engines once they arrive at their destinations. But then, switching off a turbocharged engine immediately after a hard drive is a mistake. You’ll ‘cook’ the oil inside if you turn it off when it’s still hot.
What happens is that when you shut off the engine, you stop the flow of engine oil. This means engine oil will be left in some really hot places such as the turbocharger and other hot spots. The lighter parts of the oil will be burnt, leaving the thicker parts. The thicker oil left won’t flow as normal oil would. You will, therefore, have to change it more frequently. Additionally, thick oil won’t offer proper protection to the engine, which results in wear and tear. The best practice is to leave the engine running for a few minutes before turning it off.
Use gear to overtake and climb hills
A turbocharger gives even the smallest engines so much torque and power. However, don’t let your turbo do all the work. If you’re in control of gear selection in your car, downshift when climbing a hill and when overtaking. Being a gear lower reduces the number of times you have to use boost maximum pressure. The strain of constantly relying on turbocharger increases its wear and tear, which reduces its lifespan. Replacing a turbocharger can be quite costly.
Don’t use low-research octane number fuel
The quality of fuel really matters when it comes to turbo engines. You want to reduce the chances of your engine knocking. You see, cheap fuel not only reduces the performance of your turbocharged engine, but also increases the probability of the engine knocking. Use the best fuel available.
Don’t accelerate hard when coming out of a corner
As you already know, turbocharged engines produce way more power than regular engines of the same size. If you accelerate hard on a corner, especially for cars with ‘turbo lag,’ power isn’t immediately transmitted to the wheels. However, as soon as the ‘turbo lag’ is over, the power is delivered to wheels immediately, and your car can lose its balance. In such situations, chances are you may understeer or oversteer your vehicle. Always go slow on corners and only accelerate hard when the road is straight and less curvy.
Well, this may be simple, but the harder you drive and accelerate, the more you strain your turbocharged engine. This will reduce its lifespan.
While modern turbochargers are thoroughly tested to ensure they can withstand a lot of straining and pressure, they are surely not invincible. While throttling up from time to time is okay, try to go soft on the accelerator when driving. Apply the minimum amount of pressure necessary to maintain your speed. Apart from increasing the lifespan of your turbocharger, it also improves fuel economy.
Change the air filter
Changing air filters is crucial for all engines. Replacing a dirty air filter helps to:
- Improve turbo performance – Debris can affect the performance of a turbocharged engine. Removing debris improves fuel efficiency and performance.
- Reduce emissions – Airflow to the engine is affected when the air filters are clogged. This interferes with the emissions control system resulting in the incorrect air-fuel mixture.
- Prolong engine’s life span – Air filter helps to trap debris and dirt that can damage other engine parts. Clogged air filters can’t hold more debris and dirt.
Turbocharged cars require serious commitment and passion for keeping them performing at their best. It’s easy to find that commitment and passion in a car enthusiast, but if you like a turbocharged car for another reason, you must follow the right steps to keep the turbo engine in tip-top conditions.