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What's wrong with turbocharged engines


Topic starter

A band of teenagers had been stealing cars in my neighborhood. The ringleader a 14 year old computer geek reversed engineered his mom's key fob and then started unlocking peoples cars. They could then use the garage door opener to loot peoples garages. Then it snow balled into stealing the cars and selling them to chop shops in Queens. It grew from just him to about 10 kids up to the age of 17. They got pretty sophisticated. They went around the neighborhood taking notes where and who had the most desirable cars. For some reason they preferred Kia's.

When they got caught they were asked how they learned so much about cars. They said they learned from watching Scotti Kilmer video's. One thing that came out was they did not steal turbos. My Kia has a 2.4 GDI Turbo. I am both great full and insulted. The turbo emblem on the back of my car prevented my car from being stolen.

My question is what's wrong with a turbo?

10 Answers

There's really nothing wrong with them as long as the engine is made strongly enough to take the additional pressure. Unfortunately that does not seem to be the case with modern cars. Instead they use lightly-constructed, small-displacement engines force-fed via GDI and turbocharging to the point where failure at low mileage is common.

Of course the turbocharger is another part that will ultimately wear out even if the engine is designed for it. However with proper care they can last decades and hundreds of thousands of miles. (That's been my experience in driving older turbocharged cars.)

Posted by: @mrbob

My question is what's wrong with a turbo?

Scotty explains why on a regular basis. They are less reliable. Turbochargers put more stress on many different engine components.

Posted by: @mrbob

I feel sorry for the parents

I don't. They are to blame.

Posted by: @mrbob

For some reason they preferred Kia's.

As usual, they are poorly made. They have no immobilizers (which other manufacturers have been putting into all cars at the factory for decades.) It makes them easier to steal.


"Kia thieves know they can break the back window without setting off an alarm, unlock the door, quickly peel back the steering column, and either use a screwdriver or a USB port to crank the car and go."


Police won’t reveal what makes the models so appealing to thieves but some security experts feel it comes down to key fobs. They mentioned Kia and Hyundai models can be driven away without key fobs: a major technical flaw.



There's nothing inheritly wrong with turbocharging engines, as long as the engine is designed to take the pressure.


Go back to WWII, the P-47 Thunderbolt had a 45L 18 cylinder radial engine, that was turbocharged and carbureted. It put out 2,000 horsepower! The engines were tanks, sometimes, the Germans would unload their entire ammo cache in their BF-109s into Thunderbolts, damaging the powerplant and the engine would still run. The turbocharger on an airplane engine is always running, providing the power setting is high enough to keep it spooled up. Airplanes don't constantly idle and go like cars do, so there's very little additional wear.

Piston rings are the most important part of an engine as far as "containing" the high pressure gases in the combustion chamber. Find a modern piston in a junkyard sometime, the rings are very easy to squeeze by hand. They don't press against the walls as well, to contain the pressure. The P-47s and just about every other old engine has rings that are so stiff, special tools are needed to seat them in the bore. Those old Double Wasp radial engines could probably take GDI and turbocharging, barring other engineering issues. 

The difference is cost and technique. Modern engineers have computer programs to calculate minimums, and they ride the minimums. Back in the day, rules of thumb and slide rules were used on everything, plus wider safety factors. Today, it's all dictated by the shareholders' profits and the EPA.

Topic starter

The police came to my house when they found my car on one of their lists. I feel sorry for the parents. Kids do stupid things. These kids were responsible for nearly $300k worth of thefts. That's a major felony. One of the kids lives up the block. I know the parents. I can't imagine what they are going through. There were police sirens and flashing lights all night the night they started rounding them up. They woke me up at 2:00AM

I guess i should be great full they followed Scotti's advice. Don't buy or steal a turbo. I wonder what that does to my trade in value?



Only very few engines can handle the added stresses of a turbo long term. And they were usually made of iron. 

Todays engines are mostly made with aluminum or some mix that is not majority iron. 

And the turbo is another part of the engine that may need fixing in the long term. 


"some mix that is not majority iron. "
what kind of mix?

Most engine blocks are cast aluminum with hard metal sleeves (cast iron or a steel alloy) in the cylinder bore to stop the hard steel rings from destroying the softer cylinder walls. GM forgot that part in the Vega and they burned oil like no tomorrow.

What @justinshpherd said.

It’s not necessarily an alloy. It’s and aluminum block with iron or steel sleeves.


For some reason they preferred Kia's

They're just easy to steal, as easy as a Tesla.

Also you really don't have to be a genius, there are vids in Russian explaining how to do those things step by step.

(with subtitles in English, might be explicit)

For example, here's a video from YouTube on Toyota Camry anti theft defeat (including defeat of additional devices)

And for a Mazda3 (including bypassing a fuel cutoff immobiliser)

It's really not rocket science, once someone knows how to defeat it and puts the knowledge out there, it's simple.

(obviously, do not commit crimes, this is not an endorsement.)

Honestly? it feels like some car makers want their cars stolen, others like Volvo actually protect their cars.

My question is what's wrong with a turbo?

That most automakers fail to integrate it correctly, same with GDi.

There are great petrol turbo engines, but 99% are crap.

There are great petrol GDi engines, but 99% are crap.

Sturgeon’s law: 90% of everything is crap.


My 5 cents in addition to all the abovesaid by other respected contributors:

Old good reliable turbochargers had oil seals which were not 100% oiltight (hermetical) by design. It was however a mechanically good design, which could technically last forever (e.g. with my 330 kkm I am still on my original Audi 1993 turbocharger).
The negative side of it was however, that noticeable quantities of oil from the turbo got into the intake air, and polluted the environment. On its way from the turbo into the environment, this oil also polluted the O2 sensors and the catalytic converters.

Around 2000 the world switched to using much cheaper catalytic converters with much lesser precious metals contents than before. For such cats, constant oil injections soon proved to be deadly. Hence, engineers were tasked with doing smth about the turbochargers. So they designed a new generation of turbochargers with much, much tighter (although still not 100% hermetical) oil seals. Those new turbos were very picky in regard to oil quality and purity, AND had a very limited lifespan. Ive talked to Audi biturbo owners who claimed that on their cars turbos were practically spare parts, needing replacement every 60 kkm or so. At 2k each, this is a costy sparepart.

Since I am fairly confident that all modern turbocharged cars (with the exception of commercial diesel craft) are equipped with environmentally-friendly turbochargers of this new not-very-long-lasting basic design, for me this concern alone would be enough to not buy a modern turbocharged car.

This post was modified 1 month ago by DontKnowler
Topic starter

I remember open cage bearings where the inlet air went through the crankcase and the intake had an oil mist sprayed into it that lubricated the bearings and then got sucked into the engine where it was burned. These were used in pleasure boats in the 1900's. The fuel was diesel. I forget who made the engines. I was a little kid in the fifties when a mechanic explained how the engine worked while he was working on it at the dock.