The 3 Most Common Turbocharger Problems

Is your turbocharged vehicle down on power? If you've got a higher miles vehicle, the problem could be the turbo itself, or it could be something else. This article will explain the symptoms of a failing turbo, and also explain why they fail.

The Most Common Symptoms of Turbocharger Failure

Motorcraft turbo

Here’s a list of the most common signs that your turbocharger has failed:

  • Reduced power
  • Excessive black exhaust from diesel engines. (The fuel mixture becomes rich when the turbo is not forcing in enough air.)
  • Lower boost levels
  • Loud noise coming from the engine (usually shrieking)
  • Check engine light

If you are experiencing some of the symptoms above, it's pretty easy to check the turbo itself:

  • Remove the air intake tube from the turbo. (The engine should be off and cold.)
  • Visually inspect the impeller blades for wear.
  • Spin the impeller by hand. It should move freely and with minimal noise.
  • Attempt to move the impeller laterally. There should be no play that you can feel.

Hopefully you don't need a new turbo. But if you do, you might be wondering why it failed. Here’s a list of the 3 most common reasons turbochargers fail:

1. Worn Bearings

Bearings fail prematurely for a couple of reasons:

  • When the oil isn’t changed as frequently as it should be, contaminants build up in the oil. The contaminants flow over bearing surfaces, slowly wearing on them.
  • In a hot shutdown, the oil stops flowing when the engine stops. The hot turbocharger then cooks the oil that is sitting in it. Over time, this results in deposits that build up on bearing surfaces and in oil passages. This shortens the life of the turbo.

2. Debris

Sometimes debris is pushed through the turbocharger. As a result, the compressor wheel or the turbine blades can become worn down. The debris comes from two places:

  1. The exhaust system: Soot (particulates) pass through the turbocharger. Tuners that increase the power of diesel engines often result in sooty exhaust. Over time the soot erodes the exhaust turbine fan blades.
  2. Intake Air: Sometimes the intake air doesn't get filtered as well as it should. If the air filter isn't changed on schedule, it begins to plug. This increases the suction on the filter. Turbo engines create much more suction than naturally aspirated engines. The high levels of suction can distort the filter seal enough to let dust through. Small particles of dust flow through your engine and through the turbocharger. Over time, this can damage the components inside the turbo.

3. Faulty Seals

Sometimes the seals between the engine and the turbo will fail. This leakage forces the turbocharger to work harder to build pressure and push air into the engine. This reduces the turbocharger’s level of boost, and it shortens the turbocharger’s lifespan. The good news is that seals are cheap and easy to replace. If you catch the problem soon enough, the turbo will still have a long life.

Replacing Your Turbocharger

Turbos

Image Credit: Truck Trend

If you’ve determined that your Ford turbocharger needs to be replaced, we’re here to help you. Let’s start with two tips:

  1. Buy an OEM replacement turbocharger. OEM turbochargers are superior to aftermarket turbochargers. They’re made of higher quality materials, they last longer, and they’re built specifically for your Ford model.
  2. Buy online. It’s cheaper to buy a genuine OEM turbocharger from an online seller of genuine OEM parts. For example, at Blue Springs Ford Parts, we sell OEM parts at wholesale prices. If you buy an OEM turbocharger at a shop, you’ll pay an big markup.

To find the right part number for your Ford, look up your car in our catalog of OEM Ford turbochargers or check out our best selling ones:

  • Part No. CJ5Z-6K682-F: For 2015-2018 Escape, Focus, Fusion, Taurus, MKC, MKT, and MKZ models
  • Part No. CB5Z-6K682-H: For 2012-2015 Edge and Explorer models
  • Part No. AA5Z-6K682-F: For 2015-2018 Explorer, Flex, Taurus, MKS, and MKT models
  • Part No. AA5Z-6K682-E: For 2015-2018 Explorer, Flex, Taurus, MKS, and MKT models