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What Happens When the Turbo Stops in Your Car?

Updated on October 19, 2017
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.

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

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

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    • perrya profile image
      Author

      perrya 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      salvatore 5 years ago

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

    • profile image

      turboman 5 years ago

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