Five things you should never do while driving a Turbocharged Vehicle


Turbochargers have been used by many auto manufacturers all around the world for many years. It basically forces the air to the engine to get more power output. Our friend at PakWheels has already described how a turbocharger works, so I won’t discuss it again. I will be discussing what you should not do while driving a turbocharged vehicle.

A few years ago, a turbocharged car was a rare commodity in Pakistan. However, with the rise of imported JDM cars, German premium cars, and Honda Civic VTEC Turbo, more local consumers are driving turbocharged vehicles. The fact is, most of us Pakistanis do not have much experience of driving a turbocharged vehicle, hence, we can accidentally misuse our cars or cause damage. Here is a list of five things you should never do while driving a turbocharged vehicle.

  1.    Driving hard when the engine is cold

Never drive your car hard until everything reaches the optimal operating temperature. Even when the coolant gauge is showing you the optimal temperature (i-e the needle is halfway between hot and cold), you should wait for a few minutes as the heat level of engine coolant increases faster than that of engine oil. The engine oil needs to heat up to reach its optimal temperature or it will not flow as fast as it needs to. Hence, it will give a lower level of protection to the engine than it normally would. Hence, in a turbocharged vehicle, oil has to travel through the turbocharger that is running at an insanely high RPM. Therefore, proper oil flow is critical in a turbocharged engine. The best practice is to wait a few minutes after the coolant gauge has reached the optimal level.

  1.    Shutting off engine immediately after driving hard

If you shut the engine off immediately after running your car really hard, you are basically going to shut off the flow of the engine oil. What happens here is that you are going to leave the oil sitting on some really hot areas like the turbocharger and some other spots. The hot areas will burn the lighter parts of the oil, leaving the thicker parts of the oil unburnt hence making the oil thicker. This thick oil will not have the flow characteristics of a normal viscosity oil. Hence you will have to change the oil frequently. Moreover, thicker oil will not give substantial protection to the engine and that can cause premature wearing. The best practice is to let the engine run for some time on low RPM or to keep it idle to let these areas cool down a bit.

  1.    Giving high load at low engine RPMs

This may not cause any problem in a car with automatic transmission, however, any car using manual/sports mode will be affected by it. Moreover, a turbocharged vehicle with stick/manual transmission will also be affected by the gear shifting. You should never try to accelerate harder when in a higher gear. Why? Let’s assume that you are in the fifth gear on 1500 RPM and you press the gas pedal all the way down. It is a very dangerous condition, especially for your engine. There is a condition called “low-speed pre-ignition” that could happen in a small sized turbocharged engine. In this condition, you have significantly advanced the timing of the spark. You may end up damaging your car’s pistons or spark plugs. The best practice in such a condition is to switch to a lower gear to help the car accelerate easily, not overburdening the engine.

  1.    Using low research octane number fuel

Fuel quality is really critical when it comes to a turbocharged engine. You want to minimize the probability of minimizing knock. If you use cheap fuel, it will not only adversely affect the performance of your engine but it can also cause engine knocking. The best practice is to use the best fuel available. The greater the RON, the better it is for a turbocharged vehicle.

  1.    Accelerating hard when coming out of a corner

You might already know that a turbocharged engine produces way more power than a naturally aspirated engine (considering the size and type of the two engines are the same). Especially in cars with “Turbo Lag”, if you press the accelerator hard on the corner it might not deliver the power to the tires but as soon as the Turbo Lag is over, it immediately delivers power to the rear, front or all tires (depending on the drivetrain) which can cause your car to lose its balance.

Hence, there is great chance that you oversteer or understeer your car. Best practice is to go soft on the corners and only accelerate harder when you have a less curvy or straight road ahead, unless, of course, you have enough experience and good control of your car.

These are the top five things you should never do in a turbocharged vehicle. If you have any advice on “the things that one shouldn’t do in turbocharged vehicle”, please let us know in the comments section below.



Asher Pervaiz

I am a student of BS Hons, Computer Science. Software Developer, Web Developer & Graphic Designer by profession. Cars are my love. I spend most of the time watching car reviews on Youtube.

Notable Replies

  1. Since when are all the turbo chargers in the world oil cooled

  2. These rules mostly apply to all, not just turbocharged vehicles.

  3. If turbocharged vehicles are that delicate then I'm okay with my naturally aspirated engine car

  4. Rugal says:

    I have a turbo charged car. The turbo is water-cooled, like most turbos are. Haven't seen any oil cooled turbos. The oil you may be referring to is the oil needed for lubricating the turbo shaft connecting the two turbine fans - the coolant is just to cool the exhaust turbine so it doesn't melt from the heat being generated by the exhaust gases.

    Also, a few things I thought I should add as you didn't mention them:

    1. Turbocharged vehicles run richer than normal mixtures. If you want good fuel efficiency, make sure you are running at mid to high levels of boost at all times otherwise its just a waste of fuel.

    2. Make sure the intercooler gets enough air if you are running an air-to-air intercooler. Front mount intercoolers are better but most JDM cars are running top mount intercoolers. Those get really hot when stuck in traffic or moving at a slow speed. During really hot days, cool them using some water, ideally from a spray bottle.

    3. Don't lug the engine - or drive it at very low RPM / high gear combo. Lugging means that the exhaust gases are rich and moist and are more likely to coat the turbo blades with soot over time. Bad for the turbo and ends up in turbo failure and a lot of tears for you.

    4. Turbo engines run lower than NA engine compression ratios. Bear that in mind when going over hills so that you use a higher RPM and have some boost to compensate for the low compression ratios.

    5. If you've switched your car engine from NA to turbocharged like yours truly, add a larger diameter exhaust and a free flowing muffler too. It will help your engine breathe better and those extra gases will have room to leave.

    There's my list of 5 things added. Cheerios.

Post a Comment

4 more replies