Hot stuff – excessive temperatures and turbocharger damage

Whilst we’ve already explored some of the most common causes of turbocharger damage on the blog before, like oil problems, foreign objects and over-speeding, these aren’t the only things that can cause expensive problems!

In this post, we look at how overheating and excessive exhaust gas temperatures can damage turbochargers, and the kind of damage they cause, before looking at the symptoms, and what can be done to protect your vehicle.

How temperature can damage your turbo

Turbochargers work by using the kinetic energy of hot exhaust gases, and operate at incredibly high speeds of up to 180,000rpm (which generates heat in itself).

Whilst turbochargers are built to withstand the high temperatures generated during normal operation, if the temperature of the exhaust gases is too high, then it can cause catastrophic damage.

Typically, this damage is located around the turbocharger’s turbine, cracking the housing, causing excessive erosion and corrosion, whilst causing collateral damage to other components, like the wastegate.

The causes of excessively high temperatures

Excessive exhaust gas and turbo temperatures have a number of different causes, including:

  • Poor quality oil – that does not divert heat away from the turbo effectively enough, or carbonises because it cannot withstand the high temperatures generated by a turbocharged engine
  • Excessive oil temperatures – as a result of any number of mechanical/cooling system faults
  • Improper performance remapping – that over delivers fuel beyond the acceptable tolerances of the engine
  • Improper or poorly completed engine modifications – that over deliver fuel, or push the engine beyond its capabilities
  • Poor maintenance/lack of servicing – and the knock on effects of improper oil management
  • Driving style – working the engine too hard before it has had time to warm up, and turning the engine off without letting the turbo slow down and cool off after extended journeys

The symptoms of damage caused by excessive temperatures

The warning signs associated with any kind of turbo damage are fairly similar, and include:

  • The check engine warning light coming on
  • Loss of power and performance
  • A smoky exhaust
  • Abnormally loud whirring noises
  • A lack of boost, or your boost gauge showing a drop in pressure (if your vehicle is fitted with one)

However, once you open the bonnet and examine your turbo, there are some tell tale signs that the root cause of the problem might be excessive temperature or overheated exhaust gases:

  • The turbine wheel has become eroded
  • The turbine inlet wall is cracked
  • There are spots of burnt oil on the turbine shaft
  • There is a “varnished” effect on the turbine end of the turbine shaft
  • The turbine housing has become deformed or misshaped
  • The bearing housing oil drain cavity is blocked

Protecting your turbo from excessive temperature damage

There’s no real secret to protecting your turbo from the risk of excessive temperature damage, essentially, it comes down to common sense and good vehicle maintenance:

  • Look after your oil – regularly check your oil levels, and always keep your engine topped up with high quality oil that meets the specifications of your vehicle
  • Regular maintenance and servicing – have your vehicle serviced regularly, in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations
  • Drive carefullylet your engine warm up before pushing it too hard, and let your turbo ‘spool down and cool down’ for 5-10 seconds before switching off your engine after every journey
  • Don’t leave it to chance – if you notice any of the symptoms outlined in this blog, have your engine and turbo checked by a competent, reputable mechanic. Turbo problems aren’t going to solve themselves, and the longer you leave a problem, the more damage will be caused, making it a more expensive fix.
  • Be sensible with your mods – If you are making any modifications to your engine or ECU, make sure you know what you are doing. Trying to push things too far, or altering settings beyond your engine tolerances is a recipe for disaster!

How AET can help

Even the best maintained vehicles go wrong sometimes, and if your turbo fails, then AET are here to help.

With experience repairing, remanufacturing and replacing turbos on a full range of commercial and passenger vehicles, we will provide you with a high quality, professional and cost effective service needed to get you back on the road in no time.

For further information, contact our friendly team today on 01924894171 or email