Turbocharger reliability

I am looking at midsized all wheel drive vehicles. Living in Utah where most driving is above 4000 feet and each month I make at least two trips over passes at 7000+ feet I gave up on 4 cylinder cars years ago, favoring V6 engines. Now most engine choices are standard 4 cylinder or 4 cylinder turbocharged. The standard 4 cylinder engines have horsepower around 200 hp or less which does not seem like enough power for long uphill trips especially with two more passengers and some gear. However most manufacturers make a turbo version with plenty of power (Honda, Subaru, Mazda, etc. etc) but I am waring of the durability and repair expenses of turbos (I keep cars at least ten years and 100,000 miles). With all of the horror stories of turbos in the past ten years are the new versions in 2021 better and more durable? The new Subaru Outback turbo seems like the right size car with plenty of power but am I buying problems after the 5 yr/50,000 mile warranty expires ? Are turbos considered part of the drive train (I have read some comments that secondary extended warranties do not cover turbo related repairs).
Thanks for any info.
(p.s. the Lexus RX 350 Long V6 and V6 Hybrid are great but out of my price range).

There are several reasons for turbocharger failures. One is not changing the motor oil often enough. Another is running the oil chronically low. Yet another cause is the few drivers who are not happy unless they are in near full boost all the time.

Every turbocharger I’ve replaced did not die a natural death. It was killed by the car owner.

A regional office employee for Subaru did a car transfer one time from TX to OK. In roughly 450 miles he absolutely barbecued that turbocharger just from his driving habits. No wonder he was in a hurry to get to the airport and get out of town. I discovered this problem a few hours later when sales said the car would barely run.

Over concerns it overstresses thengine, I would avoid turbocharging.
Are the number of times more weight is hauled over the passes worthexpense? Would itake only a few minutes more over the passes?

I would go withon-turbocharged vehicles.

I could be wrong, I have never owned one but I heard you are suppose to let the engine idle a bit before shutting the vehicle off.

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It’s not a bad idea to let the engine idle for a minute before shutting down IF the car has just been subjected to some very hard driving. With normal driving I’d shut it down and not worry.

I’ve owned a few turbo cars with never an issue. My last SAAB still had the original turbocharger at almost 220k miles.

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You are not wrong a lot of modern vechiles have what I call a turbo shut down turn the ignition of the vechile stays running for a few minutes to slow the turbo before shutting down.

Recent turbos don’t seem to be particularly troublesome. Just make sure to use the right oil and keep it full.

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Old wives tales. Modern turbo engine are very good and very durable IF properly maintained… that same can be said of ANY engine. None need be “cooled down” before shutting off the engine since all are oil and water cooled now. The turbocharged gasoline auto engine has been around for 60 years (surprised?) so they’ve had a LOT of time to work out the kinks.

I’ve owned 3 built in 3 different decades from 3 different manufacturers from 3 different countries.
1985 4 cylinder turbo bought new, drove 83,000 miles, no problems, sold the vehicle. Lots of lag but a blast to drive.
2001 4 cylinder turbo bought as a demo with 4K miles drove it 104K more miles NO turbo problems at all. Almost no lag, BIG broad power curve very well suited to its automatic transmission, got 32 mpg highway with a 5 passenger sedan.
Current 5 passenger 4 cylinder turbo bought used with 33K now with 40K. Best engine yet. Gets 34 highway, best acceleration of the 3 and the smallest engine of the 3 at 2.0 liters.

From someone whose owned 3 over 35 years, turbo engines can be as reliable as any normally aspirated engine. It all depends on the manufacturer and the maintenance.


I wouldn’t worry, especially if you’re only planning to keep the vehicle 100k miles. Turbos shouldn’t be an issue. I’d be skeptical of keeping one 200k miles. Nothing inherently wrong with a turbocharged engine, there are just a few more things (turbos, oil cooler lines, coolant lines, etc) that could fail (just like parts on any other car) that I’d rather avoid dealing with and possibly having to replace in the 150k mile range. To put it more plainly, parts wear out (particularly in that beyond 100k mile range) and turbocharged engines generally have a few more parts.

Turbos have been around since the 1920s and were used in a number of WWII aircraft. Water cooled turbos have been around for at least 35 years.

The big problem with automotive complaints is this.
The vast majority of people who complain about something will flat refuse to accept the premise that the failure may be their fault.

I’ve changed them under a factory warranty when in all honesty warranty should not have paid a single dime of it because the failure was due to the owner. As for 3rd party extended warranties I could see them balking but they tend to balk at everything.
Unless the policy has changed, at one time Subaru considered a turbocharger an “emission control device”.


Agree 100% of all the failed turbos I have seen I would say 90% are from operater error

Meh, they do wear out. Just like anything else. Have heavy equipment at work with high hours. Generally the engines live through several turbos (and water pumps, etc), even on a set maintenance schedule.

You are the ideal turbo owner, assuming you watch the oil level and changes. They are great at high altitudes, better than a regular V6.


Every failed turbo I’ve been involved with died due to a frozen or dragging impeller. In all cases it was due to coked motor oil caused by lack of oil changes, low oil levels, etc.

In the dealer transfer car I mentioned that new car only had 500 miles on it. The turbo was so barbecued I had to remove it with a cutting torch and the hood had to be repainted as turbocharger heat had blistered the paint.

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Bears repeating. In computer circles it’s called a PEBKAC error: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair.

How many times on here have we seen stuff like “The Ford that I haven’t done any maintenance on whatsoever since the Beatles broke up just died. Ford sucks! I’m never buying that junk again!”


[quote=“shadowfax, post:15, topic:177457”]
Bears repeating. In computer circles it’s called a PEBKAC error: Problem Exists Between Keyboard And Chair. . .
[/quote I saw something a while back that says it all [[[[[ USER ERROR CHANGE USER AND TRY AGAIN ]]]]]

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PEBKAC is new to me. Is that like the old Id-10-T error code?

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Had a bunch of these for the screen saver at the kiosk.


That is the one I saw thank you.

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Back when turbos first started coming out in volume this was more or less vital as bearing/cooling/lubrication factors were relatively new. What would happen is if, after a hard run, you shut the engine off right away, the oil lubricating the turbo bearings would “coke” or harden. This would cause failure in a relatively short period of time. Fast forward a number of years and all of the technology has improved dramatically.

It may or may not still be an issue (I’m a little hesitant, personally, to have a 140 CI, 270 HP engine powering a 4,000 lb. car, the that’s just me [old guy]) so I would stick with a larger, V6 engine. However, a lot of people swear by smaller turbos, which have better fuel economy and similar power. Also, some vehicles (I don’t know which ones) come with software that reads the appropriate temperatures and runs an electric cooling fan after the engine is shut off. I believe this is also available in the aftermarket.