To save turbo, keep oil clean – and your foot light

Bruce Mallinson | August 07, 2014

Turbochargers are sensitive pieces of equipment and are abused many times during everyday driving conditions. They are put through hell, and to survive, they need clean oil, clean air filters, blow-by tubes that are not restricted and cool exhaust gas temperatures before the key is turned off. 

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A little fuel dilution, soot, blow-by is OK

Some fuel dilution after idling, a little soot in your engine and some blow-by are (mostly) normal and not anything you should be worried about, ...

They also need a gentle right foot. I’ve written for years that semi-truck drivers need to drive as if they have an uncooked egg between the right foot and the throttle – easy on, easy off. To keep your turbocharger alive and healthy, go back to the basics of driving.

Dirty oil will kill a turbo; it attacks a turbocharger faster than any other part on the diesel engine. When pulling a hill, the turbo can spin as fast as 112,000 rpm, with engine oil being the only thing that keeps it cool and lubricated and keeps metal from touching metal. That’s why engine oil has to be clean.

Lastly, allow your engine to cool before cutting the key off. Your exhaust gas temperature should be below 300 degrees before taking the keys out of the ignition. 

Here are a few pictures of some damaged turbos and what caused them: 

This broken turbine shaft was caused by pushing too hard on the accelerator, causing the turbine wheel to spool up too quickly. This also can be caused by rapid deceleration. The throttle must be worked gently both ways.
This broken turbine shaft was caused by pushing too hard on the accelerator, causing the turbine wheel to spool up too quickly. This also can be caused by rapid deceleration. The throttle must be worked gently both ways.

 

This turbine wheel was hit by engine pieces that came through the exhaust manifold.
This turbine wheel was hit by engine pieces that came through the exhaust manifold.

 

These heat cracks resulted from lugging the engine – pulling hills at 1,000 through 1,300 rpm, which is too low. Such cracks also are caused by not having a working pyrometer, having a clogged air filter or leaks in the charge-air system.
These heat cracks resulted from lugging the engine – pulling hills at 1,000 through 1,300 rpm, which is too low. Such cracks also are caused by not having a working pyrometer, having a clogged air filter or leaks in the charge-air system.

 

Dirty oil wiped out these turbo bearings, which are brass or copper sleeves. The bearing spins at half the rate of the turbine shaft: At idle, the bearings are spinning at 4,000 rpm, while the wheels and shaft are at 8,000 rpm.
Dirty oil wiped out these turbo bearings, which are brass or copper sleeves. The bearing spins at half the rate of the turbine shaft: At idle, the bearings are spinning at 4,000 rpm, while the wheels and shaft are at 8,000 rpm.

 

-Bruce Mallinson is the owner of Pittsburgh Power, an engine performance shop in Saxonburg, Pa.

  • Ken Nilsen

    One of the most important things you can do is dump your old dinosaur oil and go to a full synthetic. Today’s engines are built to strict tolerances and need an oil to match.

  • Steve

    You need to check your facts Cummins ISX is a low rpm motor and the recommend not downshifting on a hill untill 1000 rpms

  • jerry

    nice article

  • mkmac

    Dinosaur oil,I think not, synthetic handles higher heat better not that much else for double the price

  • mkmac

    Wow you believe that little bit of marketing, they’ll also rebuild your engine after you destroy it…….

  • John Scott

    I think to save money people are over extending their changes. Yes, oil is better and synthetic even more so. But any oil still gets contaminated and needs to be changed. Yes, if you use fancy filters and expensive synthetics you can safely extend changes. But you also risk having a issues go un noticed in between those changes. I’ll stick with regular oil change intervals.

  • Ken Nilsen

    You miss one very important point. If you are using a full synthetic and doing oil analysis you will not have problems. Even if you are using oil from the ground you should still do oil analysis as it will tell you how your engine is wearing and also will tell you where other problems are in the cooling and air intake. I go 250,000 miles on an oil change using AMSOIL. I change filters and replenish every 25,000 miles. I change the bypass at 75,000 miles. When I took my truck in for its first overhead almost no adjustments were needed. Dinosaur oil does contaminate faster because it breaks down much faster or you have to use additives like engine syrup that is peddled by Lucas. You do not see viscosity reduction in synthetics because they do not break down as quickly as old technology oils.

  • John Scott

    No I think you missed the point. The people who don’t do what your doing with synthetics are asking for trouble. A lot of people skip the filter changes because it adds more costs which is already higher with synthetics. If you have to pay someone to change out those filters then your adding to that costs. If you can do it yourself that’s a savings. It also depends on how long you plan to keep your truck?
    I still question why synthetic users find a need to defend their choice? Maybe because their is a lot of questions still to be answered as too weather it pays off in the long run? I know plenty of people who have had very acceptable wear with what you call dinosaur oil. Oil analysis was always good. A engineer for Cummins said once that synthetics have a 10% reduction in wear in the life of a engine vs conventional oil. Its up to the end user to justify if that’s worth it.

  • William McKelvie

    I love my dinosaur oil, I have an older engine, Manufacturer does not recommend me doing what you are telling me to do.

  • Jeff See

    My reason is simple: I use them due to them being recommended by the manufacturer of my vehicle, for their superior viscosity, and longer service hours. The only people I’ve known to ‘skip’ a filter change, using any oil, are those who don’t think about maintenance at all.

    Dino oil is more prone to cook off in a turbo’s return oil feed after shut down. Its viscosity breaks down sooner over its life, and under lower peak temps during its service life. Dino oil is cheaper, per quart, but if you’re doing 3000 mile oil changes, (compared to my 7500-8000 – ish), then you’re buying twice as many quarts.

    Synthetic oils used to be a joke. That was a long time ago. The only reason to buy dino oil now, is to pretend you’re saving money per oil change.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    All oil comes from the ground ! even full synthetic ,

  • Jimmy the Greek

    I have mine changed every 10,000 miles , my next one well be at 800,000 then at 810,000 I had this tractor 11 years come march 2014 it was 4.5 years old when i got it and i have never had to add oil to it between changes and when i take it in for a oil change it is still on the full mark , it is a 1998 , 60 serious detroit . And i run with my foot on the floor and never turn it off untill i get home !

  • Jimmy the Greek

    If some one was cheap as hell they would be better off changing the filters and topping off with new oil , not draning the oil and running the old filtres . LOL

  • Jimmy the Greek

    I down shift at 1500 , and up shift at 1950 , the older trucks i used to down shift 1700 , up shift 2150 , my old 671 up shift 2300 , down shift 1800 , 4 mpg , not bad for a 2 stroke lol

  • Jeff See

    Can’t believe you. I’ve never known a Detroit to not leak, unless it was never started. I call bs :P

  • Dennis Ternent

    I DOWNSHIFT MY 6V92 DETROIT AT 1400 AND UPSHIFT AT 1800. ALSO I NEVER LET GO OVER 1900, AND RUN IT ALL DAY AT 1700. GETS ME ALMOST 7 MPG. GREAT LITTLE ENGINE.

  • Ken Nilsen

    You are right only in the fact the PAO Type IV is carbon based. Where you are incorrect is in the fact that it is synthetically derived rather than simply being boiled down. I am glad you are running an older engine and have no problems. If you are investing in new equipment and want to get your money’s worth out of it then going with synthetic from new will save thousands of dollars over the lifetime of the truck. With synthetics I save well over $10,000 per year by using the first PAO full synthetic on the market. With the closer tolerances of the new engines, not only are you reducing wear, but, you are also improving fuel economy and reducing your carbon footprint by using fewer filters, less oil, and saving as much as 100 hours a year in the shop doing oil changes.

  • Ken Nilsen

    There is not a manufacturer in the market that says do not use synthetics. If you are using the engine oil rated for your engine it will work.

  • Ken Nilsen

    Wow! 4 mpg, you are really doing great!

  • Ken Nilsen

    It does a lot more than that. It reduces wear, improves fuel economy, does not break down as fast as typical oils, has better additive life, cuts down your basic maintenance time as much as half.

  • William McKelvie

    Can you provide me the documentation that supports your claims? Thanks. Direct from CAT, thanks.

  • Ken Nilsen

    If they are not changing their filters that has nothing to do with the oil. That is just a lazy operator. With the costs of today’s trucks you can no longer afford to keep a truck 3-4 years and trade up. As far as lifetime cost savings you have to consider more than the cost of the oil and wear on the engine. You also have to figure in your time down for additional oil changes, the fuel you save by running synthetics, and the piece of mind that comes with knowing that you are putting a fully engineered product in your engine.

  • Ken Nilsen

    Caterpillar Machine Fluids recommendations Bulletin SEBU6251 Revision 16, Last revised Feb 2013. This is direct from CAT.

  • William McKelvie

    Looking for it now on the internet, and so far, not seeing what you are presenting. However, I am seeing that CAT is warning repeatedly against extended drain intervals. Repeatedly warning against it.

  • William McKelvie
  • William McKelvie

    http://parts.cat.com/cda/files/3244668/7/SEBU6250-19.pdf
    I would strongly suggest you read and completely totally backwards and forwards understand what page four says about extended drain intervals and warranty. Just a suggestion.

  • mkmac

    You know, not all synthetic a made equal there is some real crap out there, and a person would be better off with the proven Dino oil, Or pay the price for something like mobil or amsoil…………….

  • mkmac

    Almost all synthetics now are group 3 very hard to find a group 4 which is a true synthetic the rest are cheap to make mineral base oils that have a higher refineing process that are poorly formulated, and put in some synthetic additives, and get to call it synthetic, because they donate to the right campaign fund I guarantee your running a group 3 and you pay a group 4 price. because 3’s are far cheaper to make, like they say Follow the Money………….

  • mousekiller

    Sorry Jeff but I too have a 97 60 S 500 hp Detroit with 1M 600 thousand miles on it and it does not use oil between changes and those are at 15,000 mi. Taking care if it is the key. Nothing is too small to fix right away.

  • Jeff See

    No need to be sorry, because I was jerking his chain. (hence the :P )

  • Jimmy the Greek

    That is a two stroke ! you should be down shifting at 1900 lol, they are grate boat motors .

  • Jimmy the Greek

    Back then fuel was less than .50 cents a GL

  • Jimmy the Greek

    I run mobil 1 in my mustang gt and mobil 1 V twin in my bike A road star with right $ 5000.00 in go fast motor mods 108 rw hp to the ground , in my old HD’ s i run sea 60 in summer and 50 in winter all are pre 1974

  • Jimmy the Greek

    I never gave a rat’s ass about carbon foot prints LOL

  • Jimmy the Greek

    The old two strokes leaked like a english car , mine has leaked however i have it fixed as soon as i spot one .

  • Jimmy the Greek

    The older brockway i first started driving back in jersey had a 190 cummings naturally aspirated , that you were lucky to get 3mpg however at night it ran about 5” of flame out of the single stack running elizabeth nj to boston ma and back .

  • mkmac

    You know, your Amsoil is not as you call it a full synthetic, all Amsoils are group 3 mineral oil with some synthetic additives added and Amsoil will even charge you more than you would pay for a real or Group 4 synthetic. If you want a real 100% group 4 PAO, Try a company like Schaeffer Oil you will get the real thing and you will support a business that will still stand behind what they sell And if you want the cheaper Group 3 synthetic they have them also….

  • Jerry

    Oil (organic) does not break down oil captures particulates. Millions of years old, and extreme pressures…you can remove the funk trapped in old oil, perhaps by a really good centrifuge, (sub micron), separating it until it looks new, or translucent.

  • Jerry

    Reduced Fuel Costs are focused solely by a Comparison to using a lower grade viscosity of oil. (solely)

  • myron

    you are not hauling 112000 over the divide out west here are you

  • mousekiller

    Not with this truck. but with others. Besides what does that have to do with oil changes ,clean oil and turbos. and leaks????

  • mousekiller

    Sounds like an old Emeryville I used to drive.. It had a 10 speed with a 2 speed rear,I learned to carry a spare fuel pump as back then they were lubed by fuel. Long down grades could cause the key in the pump to dry up and break. No Jake brakes back then. You learned to drive a truck .Give me back the good ol days.

  • Jimmy the Greek

    If it springs a leak it is fixed as soon as i can get it in to the shop i use , You are thinking of the old two stroke motors , every time you put fuel in the tank , you put a gallon of 30 wt in the motor .

  • Jimmy the Greek

    You are right ! It just gets dirty it can and is cleaned up and a additive package put it and it is good as new .

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  • Steve

    I run Rotella synthetic in the blue bottle that I get from Walmart. I sample every 10000 miles and change the bypass filter as well. If the sample indicates a problem I check & fix the problem then change the oil & standard filter. If it’s fine as it has been, I go another 10000 miles & repeat. Then at 100000 miles I change both the bypass & standard filters, and add 1 gallon of new oil. This program has worked well for me the past 10 years.

  • Oscar BullFrog

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