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Keep Your High Mileage Turbo Spinning


Today’s cars offer more power, better fuel economy and more amenities than ever before. Because cars are being built better than ever before, people are keeping them longer. The average American car is nearly twelve years old, which means that the average mileage is somewhere around 170,000 miles. Indeed, 200,000 miles is the new 100,000 miles.

Recently, more turbocharged cars are on the market, and they’re driven pretty much like every other commuter car on the road, racking up the miles. As these cars age, how will they fare? What’s the key to keeping your high mileage turbo spinning? Much of that depends on the driver, but we’ve narrowed it down to driving, maintenance and cleaning.


One common error is the first cold start of the day. Turning the key and taking off before the engine can warm up can do damage to your vehicle, because when the oil is cold, it doesn’t flow. On a regular engine, spinning up to 5,000 rpm, this leads to accelerated wear. The problem is compounded on turbochargers, which spin up to nearly 300,000 rpm or 5,000 revolutions per second. Oil is critical to keeping turbochargers moving, but it takes time for cold oil to get there.

To improve turbocharger lifespan, any time the car sits for more than a couple hours, let the engine idle for a few minutes after starting it. This will give the oil a chance to warm up and flow into critical bearing surfaces. For the first five to ten minutes of driving, avoid giving your engine more than a quarter throttle. Keep in mind, on cold days, it could take up to twenty minutes to warm up to ideal oil flow. Take it easy, and your high mileage turbo won’t be leaking or squeaking anytime soon.


turboThe benefits of regular maintenance cannot be overstated, and treating a high mileage turbo requires paying strict attention to engine oil changes. Check your owner’s manual for engine oil requirements, including type, viscosity and oil change interval.

Oil sludge can easily block the flow of oil to the turbocharger, leading to bearing failure. Regular oil changes keep harmful deposits from building up in the oil system. You can substitute synthetic oil for conventional oil, and there are many benefits for doing so, including a cleaner and longer lasting turbocharger.


Because the turbocharger impellers spin so fast, it doesn’t take much dust or other foreign material to quickly ruin them. Changing the air filter keeps dirt from getting into the engine and turbocharger. Make sure that all debris is blown away before you open the air box, the air filter is properly fitted and the air box is properly sealed before starting the engine.

Similarly, engine repairs and tune-ups might allow foreign material to enter the engine and turbocharger. Before disassembly, use compressed air to blow debris away from the openings, such as spark plugs or the intake. Once open, use tape or rags to cover holes and prevent contamination.

High mileage turbos can be found almost anywhere, still spinning hundreds of thousands of miles later. Following these tips will keep your high mileage turbo spinning for years to come.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on high mileage turbo maintenance, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Image courtesy of Flickr.

Benjamin Jerew View All

Ben has been taking things apart since he was 5, and putting them back together again since he was 8. After dabbling in DIY repairs at home and on the farm, he found his calling in the CGCC Automobile Repair program. After he held his ASE CMAT for 10 years, Ben decided he needed a change. Now, he writes on automotive topics across the web and around the world, including new automotive technology, transportation legislation, emissions, fuel economy and auto repair.

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