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How to extend your turbo lifetime

Turbocharging is enjoying asecond renaissance thanks to its one-two-punch of power and fuel economy.

Whereas regular("naturally aspirated") engines rely on size or high RPMs,turbocharged motors deliver power in compact packages and torquey-punch atlower engine speeds.

When you put your foot tothe floor, the increased load churns out exhaust pressure — spinning theturbine (which spins the compressor-side of the turbo via connecting-shaft).That allows a smaller engine to suck in as much air as a larger one.

Mix the extra air with extrafuel, and the smaller turbo engine makes more power than it could alone. Keepthe turbo at arm's length and the engine operates as frugally as its smallersize allows. This magic and wizardry does come with added responsibility to carownership though.

Turbocharged cars have addedcomplexity in their design, with additional parts to potentially fail. Theturbo itself requires a bit of vigilant care, lest you incur expensive repairs.

Here are five ways you canhelp extend the life of the turbo in your car.

Regularly Scheduled,Synthetic Oil Changes:

Oil (and changing itregularly) is already crucial to an engine's longevity. It's invaluable to thelife of a turbocharger. The firsts turbos were solely oil-cooled, supplied bythe engine's oil.

Today's turbos areadditionally cooled by coolant — but are still harsh on oil.

Fully-synthetic oil is thesafest bet, protecting well from the high temperatures of turbo-life. You cancheck your owner's manual for recommended oils, but if that's long gone (or thespecified oil isn't sold near you), check online-forums of enthusiasts forcompatible blends. Whicheversynthetics are recommended for your turbo engine, 5,000-mile oil changes are acomfortably safe margin. is a marvelous source of oilinformation. Members share oil-sample tests for truly empirical reviews of thestuff in their engines.

If you're someone who barelyuses the turbo, some users have extended intervals to 7,000 miles ormore (but they're checking their oil for wear-levels fastidiously when choosingan oil and how long to use it).

Warm It Up:

Supplying your turbo withfresh oil frequently is a start, but once it's in your engine — you have to useit properly. Oil functions its best within an optimum operating temperature. Itflows and lubricates the best when around 190 to 220 degrees Fahrenheit. Priorto that, its thicker state increases oil pressure — putting more strain on oilseals.

The seals of a turbochargerare located in its central cartridge, where oil lubricates the shaft thatconnects the turbine and compressor sides. When these wear enough to let oilseep excessively (a bit of oil "blow-by" is normal in a turbo withsome use), you may see excessive blue-like smoke from the exhaust.

Getting the oil up totemperature also burns off moisture that builds in it while it sits cool in theoil-pan. Quick, short trips taken frequently will necessitate an oil changesooner because the fluid will become saturated with un-burned impurities.

A good rule of thumb is oncethe coolant temperature is up where it belongs, the oil will take another10-minutes of steady driving to follow suit. Before then, it's ideal to take iteasy on the go-pedal.

Cruise Right, Cruise Light:

Once warmed up, turbo carsare rarely boring.

Boost gauges are often smilegauges; the slingshot effect of when turbos spin up and catapult the car aheadis as infectious as the flu. Use it judiciously though.

There's no need to fear thecar is made of glass. Auto makers today put their engines through crucible-liketests to be sure that only regular irresponsibility causes critical earlyfailure (for the most part). European turbo-cars (especially those fromGermany) are tested to maintain Autobahn speeds for sustained periods of time.You just have to exercise simple warm up and cool down habits to pay the engineback.

When you don't want to canethe car and are driving regularly, try to be sure you're working the engine aslittle as needed. On my car, maintaining the boost/vacuum gauge between10-to-15 In.Hg (inches of mercury) is the minimum amount of engine forcenecessary to sustain speeds in top-gear. The turbo is far from being used,reducing wear — and increasing gas mileage.

Without a boost gauge, thesimplest way to do this yourself is to keep an eye on your speed when cruising.Begin letting off the gas slowly until you notice your speed begins to drop.The moment you notice you're slowing, gently tip into the gas again until youmaintain speed.

That is the minimum amountof gas you need to cruise (you may find out you were applying more gas withoutany added acceleration, just added consumption).

Cool It Down: If you just got home from agrin-making, fun drive (or have been cruising at highway speed for a couple ofhours) — don't turn your turbo-car off immediately! Unless your last couple ofmiles were driven gingerly, the turbo will likely be hotter than ideal forshutting the engine off.

The reason for this isbecause of that lifeblood-oil coursing through it. If it's not given propertime to circulate and cool, the oil cooks into sludge – and clogs the oilchannels. When sludge blocks the cooling channels of the turbo, insufficientlubrication will wear its bearings faster.

A minute of idling timeafter a 20-to-30-minute drive is a bit of added prudence (around two minutesafter long or hard drives, like laps at the track).

Programmable"turbo-timers" are available for purchase, able to set times foridling the engine without the key in the ignition (security features likesudden-shutdown when keyless driving is detected are available). This bit ofanal retentiveness can be worth hundreds to thousands in avoided early turbofailure.

Work the Gears, Not theTurbo: If you havecontrol of gear selection in your car, selecting a lower gear for cases likepassing or climbing a hill can spare the turbo doing all the work.

Being a gear or two lowerreduces the amount of times you have to utilize maximum boost pressure —whether for short bursts or relatively longer. Regularly keeping the turbohowling to avoid a downshift up inclines can pop your turbo-bubble (quiteliterally).

A lower gear puts yourengine further into its "power band", the span of RPMs in which itworks the most efficiently. In those ideal engine-speeds, less throttle (andboost) is required than in higher gears.

Liken this to picking up aheavy bag by its strap with one finger.

Your hand, wrist, and armmay all be capable of lifting that bag effortlessly, but your finger would haveto work hard to do it alone. There's more to a turbo car than just the turbo,utilize it.

Turbo repair and replacementis a costly process — even if done by yourself.

If you're paying for theskilled hands of another to do it for you, everyday maintenance like this willseem much easier in hindsight. Steps like these are just some of the simplestways to decide if the turbocharger in your car lasts 18,000 miles – or 180,000miles.

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