What Causes Turbo Failure and The Symptoms You Should Be Looking Out For?

Your turbocharger is an important part of the engine that helps you accelerate faster and reach top speeds in important situations. It gives you the boost you need when you want to overtake quickly and safely on the motorway.

On some cars, you can even hear a satisfying whoosh as the turbo kicks in and forces air into the engine. However, if your turbo is no longer working properly, your engine can become inefficient and suffer from poor performance.

There can be a number of signals that can be associated with a turbo failure. However, by closely monitoring the car’s performance, you can often spot the telltale signals of the most common problems and therefore confirm the potential turbo problems, requiring a garage to run a diagnostic test to pinpoint the cause of the problem.

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
  • The engine dashboard light is showing.

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

How To Tell if Your Turbo Is Blown

Turbo Failure Symptoms

There are a number of signs that your vehicle will let you know that its turbo is in need of maintenance or repairs:

Power Loss

If you notice that your turbocharged vehicle is accelerating more slowly than usual or is unable to reach the speeds it could have reached earlier, this may be a sign that your turbo is failing.

Whining Engine

One of the unexpected benefits of a turbocharger is that it actually makes the engine quieter because it muffles the sound of the air intake.

However, if you hear a loud howling noise – a bit like a dentist’s drill or a police siren – it’s a possible symptom of turbo failure.

As the fault gets more serious, the noise will get worse. If you notice a whining from your engine, you should get a professional mechanic to have a look at your car.

Smokey exhaust and excessive emissions

If oil leaks into the exhaust system, it will produce a characteristic blue-grey smoke when it burns. This can be caused by a crack in the turbo housing or damaged internal seals.

If this symptom is caused by the turbocharger, you are more likely to see these discolored fumes as the engine RPM ramps up just after idling.

Check Engine Light

There are several reasons why this light can become illuminated on your dashboard. It could be due to problems with your sensors or even a loose petrol cap, but sometimes it can indicate a serious problem with your turbo. Stay on the safe side and have the car checked out by a mechanic.

Inactive Boost Gauge

Some turbocharged vehicles are fitted with a boost gauge to let you know how much boost your turbo is producing (you can also fit one to your car if you wish). If your boost gauge isn’t rising as much as it used to, there’s a good chance your turbo needs repairing.

Burning Oil

As mentioned, oil leakage in the turbocharger is a sign of its gradual failure. Disconnect the downpipe at the front of the turbo and take a look inside.

can you see oil Any sign of deposits in the pipe means you need to have the turbo serviced. If this problem is not checked, the entire system can fail.

What Causes Turbo Failure?

Turbochargers are extremely reliable. In fact, less than 1% of warranty inspections find a fault with the turbo itself; Instead, burned turbos are usually the result of problems with engine lubrication or the introduction of foreign objects.


To work effectively a turbo needs a constant flow of clean oil and to keep your turbo in top condition you need to make sure you change the oil and oil filter regularly.

This helps prevent the accumulation of carbon deposits and contaminants that can damage the interior of your turbocharger through abrasion, reducing its efficiency and causing irreparable damage over time. Fully synthetic oil produces the least carbon.

Damaged Seals

If the seals between the compressor and the engine become worn or cracked, oil will leak into the exhaust system. As a result, the turbo has to work harder to increase air pressure.

This problem is also known as over-speeding. Ultimately, it will reduce the efficiency and the boost delivered by the turbo.

Foreign Objects/Deposits

A turbocharger essentially consists of two basic components: the compressor at the front and the turbine at the rear. Sometimes foreign objects such as dust particles, dirt, leaves, and small stones can enter the turbo, either via the compressor inlet or the turbine inlet.

When the foreign object enters the compressor housing, it often comes from the air filter. On the other hand, if the foreign object causes damage to the turbine, the problem usually lies with the engine itself.

Turbo efficiency is reduced when debris begins to damage the compressor wheels or turbine blades. To prevent this, your air filter should be serviced and replaced regularly. You should also check your turbo for debris.

Wear & Tear

As you would expect, a turbo will not last forever. You’re looking at a life cycle of this part that’s good for around 100K to 150K miles, depending on how you drive your car. It will need replacing eventually.

Can you still drive with a blown turbo?

If you think your turbo has blown it’s a good idea to stop the car and check to see if it’s broken. Smoke pouring out of the part is pretty undeniable, but if you’re not sure, remove the inlet and inspect the stem. Believe it or not, you can continue without a turbo, but it’s probably safer to call a rescue lift.

Should you decide to drive with a failed turbo, first unhook the linkage from the wastegate activator, then hold it open with a wire while driving the required distance to get to a mechanic. Step on the gas as the wastegate will not be able to handle the full pressure of the exhaust. Be sure to keep an eye on your oil level if you decide to race with a failed turbo, and don’t drive more than about 100 miles.

What do you do if your turbo is blown?

Once the turbo has been determined to have blown you have 2 options. First, you can buy a brand-new turbo and have it installed. Alternatively, if you want to cut costs, it is possible to have your turbo overhauled and repaired. Of course, a new turbo should be preferred as it has a longer warranty and will last longer than a refurbished turbo.

As can be seen from the issues highlighted above, there are many points to look for and consider when you discover that you have a faulty turbo. If you suspect this is the case with your car and would like to discuss an exchange or just want some advice, please contact your nearest technicians and mechanics who will be happy to help.