What Causes Turbo Failure?

A turbocharger (simply known as ‘turbo’) is a device that pumps more oxygen to an engine so that it can burn more of its fuel and hence, have more power and work faster.

In a car, a turbo will help the engine by letting it have more power, which will increase the car’s speed. Using a turbo with an engine is one way to make it more powerful, and this is especially useful if your engine is on the smaller side.

But what happens when a turbocharger fails, and what causes it to fail in the first place?

That is what the article below will talk about so that you can avoid turbo failure by knowing its real causes.

Common Causes of Turbo Failure

While there can be many causes for the failure of a turbocharger, with some of those causes being unique, there are some more common causes for this malfunction, which will be discussed below.

Common Causes of Turbo Failure

Oil Contamination

This is probably the most common cause of turbocharger failure. Engine oil that is contaminated is a major problem for the vehicle’s turbocharger. In order for the turbo to run properly, clean and well-filtered oil is a must.

Oil contamination can happen in a number of ways, one of which is the oil being of the wrong grade or not old oil being reused. It can also happen when the air filters are not kept clean.

Also, dirty oil inlet pathways such as pipes can cause the oil to become contaminated, which will certainly affect the turbo. Even deposits from the engine wearing down can contaminate the oil.

Foreign Object Interference

A twin turbo 12v cummins can face damage due to foreign objects getting into it. Now, there are many things that can be filed under ‘foreign objects.’

Small foreign particles can enter into the turbo through broken hoses. Without a properly functioning air filter, foreign objects can easily get sucked into the air inlet.

Debris left behind from any previous turbo failure can also cause problems in the new one. Other foreign object interference includes ice from freezing temperatures, particles from the exhaust gas, and any components (small nuts, washers, or bolts) left behind after servicing of the vehicle.

Oil Leaks

Another leading cause of turbo failure is oil leaks. When there is an incorrect type or level of oil pressure in the compressor or in the turbo’s housing, that is when oil leaks can occur.

These leaks take seconds after the turbo starts up to make it cease because oil leaks damage the turbo’s bearings to a great extent. Another cause for oil leaks is if a turbocharger is not installed correctly. But even when it is, leaks can sometimes happen.

To avoid oil leaks, make sure the oil return pipe is not blocked and that the oil level is not too much or too little.


Overheating of a turbocharger happens either when it is exposed to high levels of exhaust heat or if it is not being cooled down properly.

A turbo can get almost as heated as the engine itself due to how much work it does in terms of its 4000 rps (rotations per second). An overheated turbocharger is one where there is too much friction against the turbo’s housing.

When the turbo’s bearing wears down due to the engine oil not cooling down fast enough or because of the turbo itself being overworked, that can cause the turbo to fail. Essentially, the excessive heat and friction make the impeller become stuck to the turbo body.

Oil Starvation

This is caused by pipes that are leaking or are blocked, and also due to engine fittings not being lubricated properly.

A sufficient level of good quality engine oil is a necessity in order for a turbocharger to function perfectly. When the main shaft is not lubricated well enough, it means that it cannot move as smoothly as it needs to.

As mentioned above, a turbo’s main shaft rotates at 4000 rps, and so a well-primed bearing system is essential. When there is insufficient oil in the engine, this shaft comes into contact with the turbocharger’s housing, which increases friction and can also overheat the system. All of this concludes in the turbo failing.

That is why it is very important to always check for blocks or damage in the oil feed pipe and to change the engine oil at the recommended intervals.


As is obvious, most of the above causes for turbo failure also point to other problems and malfunctions happening within the engine or other parts of the vehicle.

So one of the best ways to avoid turbo failure, besides what has been mentioned above, would be to take care of your engine properly, check regularly for any flaws, and make sure you are using the right type of clean oil for it.

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