Understanding failure clues is a requirement for maintaining turbo performance

News Lucas Deal October 17, 2013

DSCN1641A turbocharger is a vital component to maximizing the performance of a commercial truck engine. Turbochargers increase engine power, boost fuel economy, and are important components in emission systems.

When operating at peak levels, a turbocharger simply makes a truck run better.

Today’s factory-installed turbochargers are built to run effectively without maintenance for a very long time. But their long-life cycle does not make them indestructible, and just like any vehicle component, when they are damaged their performance wanes.

A service provider’s ability to identify and diagnose turbocharger damage can be an excellent selling point in the aftermarket. While most customers know how valuable turbochargers are to engine performance, few have the expertise and skill to identify when service is required.

For inexperienced service providers, the first step in adding that capability is mastering the component and its operational function.

You have to know how a turbocharger works to know when it’s not working.

Turbochargers perform two primary functions, says Mark Rodrigues, director of marketing and product management at Honeywell.

The first is to improve power density within the engine by forcing more air into the engine chamber. This allows the engine to intake more fuel and thus gives it more power, Rodrigues says.

Randall Funck, partner and owner at ZOR Turbochargers, describes the process as follows.

A turbocharger turbine wheel is driven by waste gases expelled from an engine combustion chamber. The gases are forced by design structures to be channeled across the turbine wheel, and the faster the gases are expelled the quicker it rotates, Funck says. The turbine also is connected by a shaft to the compressor wheel, which pulls air through the air filtration system, compressing it and increasing its oxygen density and therefore its power, he adds.

“It all works together as its own little ecosystem,” says Tim Stechschulte, national sales director – diesel at Flight Systems Electronics Group, a remanufacturing company that services the light- to heavy-duty markets. “The turbo uses the existing power source to provide fresh air and improve power capabilities.”

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