Engine longevity- Turbo or not

I have seen lotos of regular posters here who have driven two to five hundred thousand miles on the same engine. Has anyone done that on a turbocharged engine? And how many turbos did you go through. No heavy truck diesels please, I drove a Mack with 960000 miles on it when a spare driver blew it by ignoring and oil leak I had written up.

I’m one of those regulars, but I’ve never owned a car with a turbo. Based on all the evidence I’ve seen these past few years, turbocharges have become much more durable and reliable than they were years ago. I also think that the choice of whether to have a turbocharger or not is rapidly disappearing. In order to try to meet the CAFE requirements that are rapidly becoming impossible as they grow ever more stringent, designers are using turbos to try to get acceptable performance out of smaller and smaller engines.

But there is a sunny cloud on the horizon. As hybrid technologies rapidly advance and rapidly become ubiquitous, the engines and thus the turbos will get less and less use. We’re coming to a time when electric vehicles with ranges of a few hundred miles using the gas engines only to keep the batteries charged and/or extend the range when necessary will be commonplace. In twenty years they’ll probably comprise the greatest percentage of new drivetrains. Maybe even in five years. The engines and the turbos will probably outlast the cars. At that point the mileage on the car may not even be a consideration in how much life is left in the engine.

I’ve owned one turbocharged car, my son has owned one, and I’ve worked on them since the late 70s when SAAB introduced them along with Subaru and Nissan not many years later. The engine and turbocharger life is a function of driving habits and maintenance more than anything else.

I’ve never, ever, seen a turbocharger problem even decades ago that wasn’t caused by the car owner; usually due to lack of oil changes which caused the oil to coke and followed by impeller seizure or dragging. The second leading reason for turbo failure was all-out flogging it until it was glowing red and shutting it off suddenly which led to the same as above with oil coking and impeller seizure.

The turbocharged car of mine had somewhere around 220k miles on the original engine and turbo when I got rid of it. I can’t remember how many miles the son’s car had; maybe a 150k.
A lot of those I saw through the shop I simply cannot remember the mileages on. I just know that there was a wide variation.


I like this version better

We’re coming to a time when HYBRID vehicles with ranges of a few hundred miles using the gas engines only to keep the batteries charged and/or extend the range when necessary will be commonplace


No matter what anybody says, I will NEVER consider the Chevy Volt a real electric vehicle


It was a brilliant move by GM, getting it classified as an EV


I’m not attacking you or your viewpoint(s)

I’m just disagreeing with you, because I’m disagreeable


It seems like if you are shopping for a new car, it is difficult to find something that is as straightforward as cars a decade old. It is either a small engine with turbo, a hybrid, a CVT, a direct injection, dual clutch transmission and so on. I think pretty soon I will own a turbo car just because you have to. I am sure the durability is better than the older turbo’s, but still would be less than an engine without turbo.

One of my recent VW Parts Place catalogs show the cost of a new turbo as being around $1K more or less. That is without installation. I would also want to know more of the long term effect of taking nearly 300HP from a two liter engine as many vehicle makers are doing now.

Turbo and turbocharged engine life might turn out to be a function of the position of the gas pedal.

Until the results are finalized and that might be some years, I am choosing to not own a car with a turbocharged engine. We presently own a non-turbo 2.2 and also a non-turbo 2.5 liter auto with enough power for our needs. Either will go 70 with seemingly little effort. Acceleration in city traffic is no problem.

I agree with wha who. I have a subaru with a 2.5 L engine with no turbo, and it has good acceleration. No reason to get a turbo for this model.

But there are some brands/models where you are forced to get a turbo. My choice in that case it to rule out that model.

In the early days of turbo’s many mfgr’s simply added on the turbo to an existing motor. This didn’t work. The turbo adds a lot of internal pressure and requires stronger parts; pistons, rods, bearings, crankshafts etc.

I think that turbocharged small engines will be coupled to electric cars to charge the batteries. This will allow for smaller, lighter engines to perform the charging function. The cost of the turbo will likely be offset by having only electric motors attached to the wheels. Unless electric cRs with a range of 600 miles or more are available and relatively inexpensive, there will be a need for hybrids. Thins might occur in 20 or more years.

If someone is driving around i the boost most of the time then I could see engine life being shortened but it’s going to take some effort on the car owner’s part by keeping the pedal nailed to the floor.

Normal or even mildly aggressive acceleration is not going to produce a lot of boost. and the same goes for supercharging.

LOL, db, I don’t see where you’re disagreeing at all. My post never mentioned or implied anything whatsoever about the Volt. It never occurred to me. My post was a guess on the direction I see the industry headed and what I expect its effect to be on the original question of turbo longevity. IMHO turbo longevity will soon be a moot point due to the evolution of EV and hybrid powertrains.

The Volt might be an interesting discussion of its own, but perhaps in a new thread.

With proper attention to lubrication (selection and change-out) turbo cars will be long lived. With bad maintenance habits their lives are cut considerably.

Just the same, I would not buy one if given a choice.

“Just the same, I would not buy one if given a choice.”

Same sentiments here. I owned one turbocharged vehicle (1981 Pontiac Trans Am) and it’s the last that I will own. With proper attention to lubrication and shutdown coupled with a lot of luck…they could last a long time. Maybe.

My concern over a turbocharger would not be the past; it would be the future when factors such as a small engine displacement, trucks,and heavy loads are mingled together. It seems to me that an engine is going to be into the boost (and more of it) much sooner while trying to get that mass moving, pulling a hill, etc.

Any thoughts on how the current generation of small displacement, turbocharged engines will fare, in regards to your “typical” driver who doesn’t maintain it very well

I’m specifically talking about cars where the purpose is to allow a smaller engine, versus the classic use, where it was for high performance

To be more specific, how do you think a hypothetical Camry or Accord with a small turbocharged engine will fare, as a grocery getter, and seeing infrequent maintenance at iffy lube and places like it?

I have no idea if Honda and Toyota are headed down that road . . .

I had an engineer friend (now deceased) who had a turbo K Car. He maintained it well and it was very reliable. With today’s turbo cars I would predict the same thing IF it is maintained well, with frequent oil and filter changes.

I’ve never had a turbo and I expect I’ll try to avoid one as long as possible. I’m simply satisfied with standard V6 engines that give 30 MPG and no problems. I have no interest in a 4 cyl turbo to get me 35-40. I hope when the world turns to electric and two cyl turbos, that you’ll at least be able to pull a trailer for lumber and tree limbs. Otherwise I’ll have to buy a truck.

The oil quality is the major factor in turbocharger life but another potential problem area is fuel quality along with proper operation of the knock sensor and EGR circuits.
You get someone flogging on the boost all the time while ignoring that ignition rattle and the next stage will be engine internals giving up; usually pistons and valves.

The more that turbochargers come into use the more that will be failing IMO; and most due to lack of oil changes.

Back in the late 80s Subaru was having some issue with turbocharger failures and I swapped a number of them out under warranty. Every single one, no exception, died because of abuse.
Another oddity at the time was that Subaru warrantied these under the emissions warranty as they started to consider a turbocharger an “emission control device”.

Of course seeing as how Subaru was having to buy them under warranty the prices dropped drastically so as to avoid paying the dealers any more than necessary on the cost +25% markup. An entire turbo kit was below dirt cheap @ 130 bucks and I bought several of those kits on an employee discount for friends who used them on various go fast projects.

Two turbo cars. 83k on the first, an '85 model, but replaced one turbo with a plain bronze bearing at 45k. The car was running fine when sold. The second, an '01, currently has 101k with no problems at all. 30 mpg, 15.1 seconds in the 1/4 mile and doesn’t use a quart of oil in 7500 miles. I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a turbo engine car and I keep cars a long time.

I’ve had 3 Saabs, 2 VW’s and a BMW all with turbo’s and never had a problem with any of them.