How to look after your turbo car

Tips for the care of a turbo car seems to be more and more sought after these days.

It is not a surprise. As part of the overall global push for fuel efficiency, the turbocharger has become more and more popular and there are many more cars on the road that carry the turbo under the hood than in the past.

That has led to a proliferation of blog posts, articles and videos that give tips on how to care for your turbo car. This by Engineering Explained is a good example. Gives five tips for turbo car care, heating and cooling the motor before and after the unit, to ensure the proper octane rating, being careful on the throttle and making sure to select the correct gear. Otherwise, it warns, it can damage the turbo and engine.

But the vast majority of people will not be reading sites like this, or watch the video on turbo care. So what are the producers? You will not follow this advice and really cause damage to modern cars, or are all of these tips, overcome with the increase of modern technology?

The general consensus from manufacturers is that modern cars are tested to such extremes that there’s not much that you could do for a new turbo engine that might cause problems. For older vehicles, many of the tips given in the video above are true, but today, software systems are such as to neutralize any driver input that could begin the shredding of the interior under the hood.

“Historically, we would provide advice on turbo cars,” said a spokesman for BMW. “However, we no longer suggest specific tips for our customers who are driving these machines.”

Audi spokesman agreed, even if with greater caution. “Contemporary turbo Audi engines do not require special precautions or operating procedures that have been necessary for the past,” he said. “But we, of course, recommend that owners observe the general guidelines for the minimization of wear and tear, and also emission, which are essentially applicable to all engines.”

These guidelines, in general, be summed up as “look after your car properly”. Although technology has come a long way, the cars are still complicated bit of complex machines, and mechanical components, and they need regular maintenance and TLC. The details of this will be listed in the manual, but the basics involve sticking to the recommended service intervals, and inspection and replacement of necessary fluids.

But when it comes to the turbo in particular, there is much to worry about, such as Citroen parts, and service in the UK technical operations manager Ian Sedgwick, ” he explains.

“There has been a lot of advances in engine management technology and turbochargers over the years. THP performance of the motors are fitted with separate cooling systems to help heat soak, so there is no need to leave the engines to a minimum in order to dissipate the heat – the system is automatically activated when the vehicle is turned off. Electronically controlled turbo help control the load on the engine and turbo, so you can better manage the style guide, and power supply requirements.”

Ricardo Martinez-Botas is a professor of turbomachinery at Imperial College London, department of Mechanical Engineering and a world authority on the turbo technology. He says that, while the current modern technology, motorists can go, that changes if the car is modified from standard.

“Systems management of the engine and the current engine designs would have taken care of everything,” he says. “But if you edit a system would immediately alter the design intent and are responsible for going outside of the intended use of the device. If you change, you really need to be extremely cautious.

“Do you have a mapping engine that has been developed for the engine. If you change the type of oil or add additives in the system, or change the ECU, therefore no one is able to ensure the reliability of the machine, because the developer has not tested the machine with those changes.”

If you are modifying your turbo car, it is essential to have the software and often the hardware is updated accordingly by an expert.

“If you do it without significant inside knowledge of a consequence, the changes to the upgrade system, can be extremely harmful to your machine,” the professor says. “Your engine’s cylinders will be exposed to much higher pressures than they were before, and you blow the piston rings to begin with. If you are making a change and professional knowledge and to check that the mapping is OK, and then, of course, it will be fine. But that is a difficult process.

“The UK is a leader in the world, with an incredible amount of skill, and there are people out there who can do these things very well. But if you go with the wrong person you can also make the wrong kind of change, and two years, and you’ll find you have a damaged engine.”

Professor Martinez-Botas, says that for older vehicles, which do not benefit from modern electronic safety nets, the above advice is largely valid.

“These issues are all sensible things,” he says. “But for the last 10 years, there are no hints are provided to the customer at the time of purchase of a car, because these things are taken care of.”

Professor Ricardo Martinez-Botas gives his thoughts on five tips for turbocharged cars. These apply mainly to cars older than 10 years, and modified cars.

1: heat up your car before driving – turn the engine and bring the oil up to temperature.

“Absolutely. If you’re worried about the age of your car, or you have changed, that would be a sensible thing to take into account.”

2: do not turn off the engine immediately and allow to cool.

“Today in the engine oil system is not shut down immediately, there will be some cooling in the course. But if your car doesn’t have that descends to the cooling system, then you need to be careful. I imagine that most of the cars would be, then I have doubts. But it does not hurt to do so.”

3. Do not drag the engine from traveling too slowly in a high gear, as it puts strain on the components.

“Absolutely. I would agree entirely with that.”

4. Do not use a lower octane than recommended, as this can cause it to knock.

“I agree. This is the case, the current engine has been satisfied, but in the old engines you might run into some difficulty. I don’t think that will affect the reliability of the turbo, but it will affect the engine the same if a prolonged series of knock events.”

5. Do not squeeze the throttle if you have a turbo lag, especially when you exit a corner, you can get energy when you don’t want.

“Current engines are common rail injection systems, in particular in a diesel engine, which gives a very fast response. But go back eight years or so, and turbo lag was noticeable. You get a sudden impulse and you need to be careful as you go around the corner”.

Phill Tromans