October 2007 Issue

Busted Boost

Turbocharger failures are hardly everyday events. Some are emergent and some are routine. Here’s how to tell the difference.

If you fly a turbocharged airplane, you know a different reality than the poor slugs who have to muddle along in the weather gasping for manifold pressure above 12,000 feet. Pilots with boost climb faster, fly higher and have more options in making altitude-related weather decisions. Nothing is for free, however, especially if you own an airplane with one or a pair of turbochargers. You’ll pay more for overhauls and routine maintenance, and you may burn bit more fuel. You also know—or should know—a different reality with regard to potential system failures. Although they’re as simple as a bag of rocks, turbochargers are like any other mechanical device, so they occasionally fail, presenting sometimes perplexing symptoms you won’t see from a normally aspirated engine. Let’s consider some possibilities.

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