Oil Contamination in Turbos; Causes, signs & prevention
Clean filtered engine oil is an absolute necessity for any turbo, so it can run smoothly and reliably, for as long as possible. So it’s imperative you recognise the signs of contamination and act to find the route cause, to prevent further damage. Failure to do so can cause excess degradation and even failure in some circumstances.
In this blog post, we’ll explain how to identify a problem, what the causes could be and how to minimise future contamination.
Signs of oil contamination in turbos
The first sign for contamination is to simply use your sense of smell for the aroma of fuel in the oil. If you can detect the fuel within the oil, there’s likely to be an engine leak somewhere. This is obviously anyone can do regularly, with little or no practical experience.
Another easy to detect sign of contamination, is particulates within the oil. This is fairly easy to spot with the naked eye or by rubbing a sample between your fingers. If you can see or feel any particles, then there's a problem.
If you’re confident in breaking down certain components to check their condition, there’s a number of areas to check for scoring damage, with indicates an issue. Scoring to the thrust components, journal bearings or journal bearing diameter of shaft and wheel
Cause of oil contamination in turbos
Generally, contamination is due to lack of servicing or carelessness whilst servicing. If the engine oil has gone unchanged for a while or exposed to excessive temperatures, it can degrade and become abrasive. Also residue or particles from blasted parts, build ups in the oil feed pipes or carbo builds ups in the engine can contaminate new oil. All of the above is avoidable by regular servicing?
Other times, the cause could be a fault in the engine, that can happen at any time, to any vehicle. For example an internal engine leak can lead to fuel or coolant mixing with the oil or general engine wear can leave a buildup of swarfe deposits. Often, poor sealing can lead to excessive moisture, which in turn, leads to excessive corrosion and wear.
One of the most avoidable causes of contamination, is poor choice in parts. For example, cheap oil filters can be faulty or easily damaged, which prevents it from doing its job.
Whatever the cause, always remember that they won’t fix themselves. If you just repair the damage without figuring out what caused it in the first place, you’ll probably experience the same damage in the future.
Prevention of oil contamination in turbos
First and foremost, keep up to date with oil changes, with good quality engine oil. Furthermore, always check the oil filter and make sure there are no faults or wear that could lead to contamination. If there are faults, replace with a good quality filter. If you’re doing this yourself, take great care to avoid contamination by human error.
Regular cleaning and if required, replacing of the oil inlet pipes and micro filters will prevent carbon particles contamination. You can also check the engine wear for swarfe deposits.
Finally, make sure the vehicle is up to date with servicing and you’ll be doing all you can to prevent oil contamination and the reliability of your turbo.