What Happens When the Turbo Stops in Your Car?

Updated on January 19, 2019
perrya profile image

Perrya is a major car enthusiast and loves sharing his extensive vehicular knowledge with his readers.

How a Turbo works
How a Turbo works

Most turbos fail gradually and manifest as burning oil or coolant in the exhaust, or a LOT of oil in the intake, depending on where the seal fails.

Common Symptoms of a Turbo Failure

Turbos generally provide ample warning signs before failing suddenly, the most noticeable is a whine that grows louder when boost occurs. If the condition is not fixed, it becomes a howl. Bad seals and bad bearings generally fail.

When the turbo fails, you will no doubt experience a sudden loss of power. In smaller turbos, like a 91-94 Mercury Capri XR2, you will still be able to drive, albeit WAY slow and very poorly. Some have driven some 25 miles in this state. Such a drive will use over a quart of oil because of the broken seals. You will also have a lot of blue smoke, you will be embarrassed. With small turbos, like the Capri, the only time when the turbo is activated is when you need boost upon certain types of acceleration, at all other times, the engine acts as a non-turbo.

The good news is that engine damage seldom occurs due to a turbo failing. If the impeller chips off, they usually end up in the intercooler and catalyic converter.

Replacement Turbo
Replacement Turbo

What to Do When the Turbo Fails

Usually when a turbo fails the pieces go into the intercooler along with a good amount of engine lube oil. If you do not shut it down quickly, smaller pieces get into the engine, again with engine oil. The engine can actually run on this spilled oil and "run away."

If you have a failure, remove the intercooler and ALL intake system tubes; this includes the airbox, filter housing and associated tubes. Clean them well. These pieces are usually what causes a second, immediate failure.

For a Capri, a new turbo runs between $500-600. The turbo may not even cause damage, it may just stop for other reasons. No boost = no acceleration! The car will run but not very well. In this case, check inlet hose, outlet hose, the turbine could be damaged or its bearings have seized, the Wastegate is stuck open or something as simple as a clogged air cleaner.

Where's Your Turbo?

The turbo in a 91-94 Mercury Capri XR2 is low and behind the radiator, it is not located in the throttle area where it says, Turbo.
The turbo in a 91-94 Mercury Capri XR2 is low and behind the radiator, it is not located in the throttle area where it says, Turbo.
Here is the turbo. The hose off the top of photo is the  exhaust, while the bigger hose beneath is the incoming air via the air cleaner.
Here is the turbo. The hose off the top of photo is the exhaust, while the bigger hose beneath is the incoming air via the air cleaner.

Diagrams: Turbocharger on 91-94 Mercury Capri XR2

For 91-94 Mercury Capri XR2
For 91-94 Mercury Capri XR2
For 91-94 Mercury Capri XR2
For 91-94 Mercury Capri XR2

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

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      • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

        perrya 

        10 days ago

        What kind of noise? what else happens? are you sure its the turbo?

      • profile image

        Paul Rudies 

        11 days ago

        If you have turbo engine and it starts to makes niose at 15mph what is the cause.

      • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

        perrya 

        6 weeks ago

        Lewis- that does not sound like a turbo going out, at least, when my car lost it, i only lost power and I crawled off the road. There was no oil or water, however, it still could be a turbo going out that caused other damage. There is only one way to find out and that is have it checked out, the oil might be other engine issues.

      • profile image

        Lewis 

        6 weeks ago

        Hi Perrya! Just find myself on your page now and read about u. Pls i need help, i was driving my Benz e220 cdi wagon 2009. I was traveling suddenly i notice there is like cover of oil at my boot screen and d back, i cant see the back, so i started like what can be d causes of it,

        Not long after i noticed a strange sound of d car and like smoke coming out from the bonent . I qickly parked, after a while on d floor under d car was full of leakage of oil and water.

        Try to start d car not starting for me anymore.

        Just want to know can d car be fixed??? And what can be the cost of it??

      • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

        perrya 

        4 months ago

        turbo needs to be replaced, no choice

      • profile image

        Maximiliano De Maria 

        4 months ago

        I have a Ford 450 pick up truck, diesel 6.4 engine.

        While in the high way around 70 mph, I heard an explosion somewhere in the engine...

        Noticed minutes/seconds earlier that my turbo gauge did not move, drop/disengage...

        Lost power, I continued driving it. It will go up to just over 65 mph, with out turbo; the turbo did not engage ever again... I had to play with the diesel pedal to achieve acceleration, no smoke! No strange noise, back in the city, it performed better..

        Turbo repair on this truck cost a lot.

        Do you have any good suggestions Sr. ?

      • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

        perrya 

        5 months ago

        Yes, you could have engine damage

      • profile image

        Tricia 

        5 months ago

        I have a cla250, if smaller turbo pieces get into the engine could this cause engine damage?

      • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

        perrya 

        6 months ago

        I don't think the fiesta has a turbo, is this true?

      • profile image

        Damien fulford 

        6 months ago

        I think my turbo has gone in my Ford Fiesta TDCI. It’s only done 75k. It has lost power whilst driving but is still moving albeit extremely slowly.

        Can you help?

      • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

        perrya 

        6 months ago

        Most turbos will be ok to around 100K miles, after that, they can go anytime.

      • profile image

        Dar 

        6 months ago

        I have a 2017 Ford Explorer Sport Ecoboost. Last week i made a stop, then returned to my vehicle and it wouldn't start. Which i found very odd because ive only had it for 1 year. Apparently it needed a battery. (As per the dealership) the next day it started to make a sound, then i noticed smoke from under the hood, then out the exhaust. The dealership told me it is my twin turbo charger. Can you please tell me why you think this happened? I dont drive the vehicle hard and regular services have been done.

      • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

        perrya 

        7 months ago

        It usually means it is time for a new turbo.

      • profile image

        Cooney 

        7 months ago

        What if the turbo starts smoking

      • profile image

        Fabion91 

        20 months ago

        If a turbo needs replaced in a 03 Saab 9.5 is it still drivable

      • profile image

        Fabian 

        20 months ago

        If your turbo needs replaced in a 03 Saab 9.5 is it drivable still

      • profile image

        Sof 

        20 months ago

        Hello I would like to know how much worth a car (Vauxhall astra 1.7 yr55) with stopped Turbo?

      • perrya profile imageAUTHOR

        perrya 

        8 years ago

        If you have a ton of smoke, suspect the turbo has failed.

      • profile image

        salvatore 

        8 years ago

        oil escap from exost and lots smog with blu nissan micra diesel wath can by?

      • profile image

        turboman 

        8 years ago

        that turbo sucks your better off upgrading it to a mitsu evo turbo and gain 80hp

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