Tragic Tell-Tale Signs Your Turbocharger is Toast

Many new cars are coming with smaller engines boosted by turbochargers for an extra edge, which is one way that manufacturers are making cars more efficient and sustainable for buyers who don’t want to switch over to electric cars quite yet. Smaller engines with turbochargers are also more fuel-efficient without compromising an enjoyable driving experience with snappy acceleration, making it a great option for many buyers and commuters, but adding another mechanical component to your vehicle isn’t without problems, and most owners don’t know how to recognize the signs of a failing turbo.

You’re seeing more smoke coming out of the exhaust

A turbocharged four-cylinder motor
A turbocharged four-cylinder motor | Jonathan Fickies, Getty Images

Seeing smoke out of your exhaust is never a good sign, but it can be one of the most obvious hints that your turbocharger is no longer operating properly. Smoke can come out of your exhaust when your engine is leaking oil that is being burnt inside the compression chambers or for many other reasons, but if you see an iridescent blue/gray smoke and your vehicle has a turbocharger, chances are you’re looking at a blown turbo. Whether your vehicle is turbocharged or not, if you are ever seeing excess smoke coming from the exhaust, you should head to your mechanic as soon as possible.

You’re turbocharger is no longer building boost or is lagging more than normal

Turbochargers are designed to give your car an extra boost of power in a way that is more sustainable for your engine than drastic options like nitrous oxide, which can cause excessive damage. If you notice your car isn’t quite as peppy as it used to be, your turbocharger could be failing or blown altogether, and it’s worth checking out. This isn’t as obvious as smoke billowing out of your exhaust or a loud rattle, and chances are you may be second-guessing that there is a problem or how well you really know your car. If your vehicle is fitted with a boost gauge or a way to monitor your turbocharger’s health, it can help you verify that your turbo is not working properly.

Blown turbochargers make a lot of weird noises

Depending on how your turbocharger is potentially blown, there are several weird and annoying noises that it could make, including a loud rattling, a whining noise, or a whining noise. In most cases, you may not be able to identify exactly where the new unwanted noises inside your engine bay are coming from, but if you suspect that your vehicle is making any weird and bad noises in generally you should perform some diagnostics or bring it into a shop for inspection — because chances are, if it isn’t the turbocharger, it’s something else that needs attention, and the last thing you want is to ignore a loud and potentially catastrophic noise inside your engine bay.


Are Turbocharged Engines Less Reliable?

Having a damaged or blown turbocharger isn’t necessarily the end of the world. In extreme circumstances, it can damage your vehicle’s engine, but that isn’t the common issue. Sometimes turbochargers can be rebuilt or repaired depending on the type and severity of the damage, and oftentimes they can be replaced altogether without totaling out your vehicle or costing too much to repair.