How to Test Turbo

Written by alexander eliot
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Testing your vehicle's turbo system regularly for boost leaks is an important step in preventive maintenance. The various gaskets and vacuum lines of turbo system have to operate under the high temperatures generated by the engine. Over time, rubber gaskets and lines are prone to breaking down, especially on modified engines with increased boost pressure levels. Damaged gaskets and lines create boost pressure leaks, which can rob your turbocharged engine of its peak performance, as well as create various emissions system malfunctions. Any boost leaks throughout your turbo system can be easily located with a quick intake pressure test.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Intake pressure tester
  • Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Socket wrench
  • Socket set

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  1. 1

    Remove any plastic engine covers, exhaust heat shields, or any other engine components restricting clear access to the turbocharger inlet. The turbocharger inlet can be easily located by following the air intake tube down toward the exhaust manifold. The intake tube is mounted directly onto the turbocharger inlet.

  2. 2

    Loosen the hose clamp securing the air intake tube to the turbocharger inlet. You need to be able to slide the intake system out of the way enough to hook an intake pressure tester onto the turbocharger inlet. On some vehicles, the intake can be simply moved aside once detached from the turbo. Other vehicles will require detaching various intake mounting brackets and/or air sensors from the air intake system. Refer to a vehicle-specific shop manual if you are unsure of the procedure required for removing the air intake.

  3. 3

    Connect an intake pressure tester to the turbocharger's inlet by sliding the tester's rubber adaptor over the turbo inlet and tightening the adaptor's hose ring. At the opposite end of the pressure tester is a hand pump, as well as a pressure gauge. Pump the pressure tester to pressurise your turbo system, and monitor the pressure gauge. If your turbo system is free of boost leaks, the gauge will show a steady pressure value. If the pressure gauge value steadily drops after pressurising the system, this means there is a boost leak somewhere throughout the turbo and intercooler system.

  4. 4

    Listen along the various intercooler piping connections and turbo system vacuum lines while the system is pressurised via the pressure tester. A boost leak will be easily distinguishable by a loud, hissing air noise. The most common locations for boost leaks are loose intercooler piping connections and faulty turbo vacuum lines. Repair any boost leaks immediately to retain your engine's performance and reliability.

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