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VIDEO: How Turbocharger Efficiency Is Affected By Location

Today’s 4-cylinder engines can generate more torque and horsepower than yesterday’s V-6 engines and turbochargers have made a comeback. Their location under the hood will determine lifespan and efficiency. Doug Kaufman explains why the placement of the turbocharger is so important. Sponsored by MAHLE.

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Today’s 4-cylinder engines can generate more torque and horsepower than yesterday’s V-6 engines and turbochargers have made a comeback. Their location under the hood will determine lifespan and efficiency. Doug Kaufman explains why the placement of the turbocharger is so important. Sponsored by MAHLE.

How can today’s four cylinder engines give better torque and horsepower than many V-6 engines of yesterday? It’s a delicate balancing act in the combustion chamber. We’ll walk that fine line next.

Today’s smaller engines are often equipped with turbochargers – not new technology but still somewhat unfamiliar to many drivers – and technicians.

Back in the old days of the 1980s, it was fairly common for turbos to fail because of a lack of oil to cool and lubricate the bearings and shaft. The lack of oil was caused by carbon deposits in the lines and passages. Deposits tended to form when the engine was off and the turbo was heat soaked. Complaints of failures and warranty issues were so strong that many car and light truck manufacturers simply stopped offering them, replacing them with larger displacement V6 and V8 engines.

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25 years later, turbochargers have made a comeback and drivers love the performance and fuel economy they get from their peppy little engines. They work great – until they don’t. Even though most turbocharger failures continue to be due to lubrication failures, what should you know about maximizing the life of turbochargers?

Location, location, location – space under the hood is at a premium, and in the case of turbos the location can have a big effect on reliability. Some are exposed so the oil lines are visible but some – because of engine compartment size – are buried so the turbo and the lines feeding it are often close to exhaust manifolds.

The concept of exhaust pressure spinning the rotor blades and pushing air in the intake is hidden in the casting – it may be tough for a customer to understand – but the case for proximity to a heat source is a visual anyone can see. 

Oil that is certified by an OEM for its turbocharged engines can handle the heat.

In just 3 more years, it’s expected that 50% or more of vehicles sold in the U.S. will have one or more turbochargers under the hood. The small GM and Ford applications will be particularly susceptible to this problem –  Your customers will need to understand that a $19.99 oil change won’t do them any favors.

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