By on March 16, 2011

How do you goose fuel economy? Lower the cubic inches. Then add a little blow. Honeywell hopes that usage of turbochargers will double in new U.S. automobiles by 2015, “as tighter fuel economy standards foster an emerging market,” writes Bloomberg. The U.S. has among the lowest turbo use in the world, making it an “emerging region from a turbo standpoint,” Alex Ismail, head of Honeywell’s transportation systems division, said.

As far as turbos go, the U.S. is a third world country. Only 9 percent of new cars sold in the U.S. have a blower.  In Europe, it is 67 percent, in India 28 percent, and 13 percent in China.

Turbos can boost manufacturers’ efforts to meet new CAFE standards by 2016. Ford plans to equip 90 percent of its North American models with turbocharged EcoBoost engines by 2013.

Get the latest TTAC e-Newsletter!

36 Comments on “Honeywell Calls U.S. Emerging Market. For Turbochargers...”

  • avatar

    66.7% of the new cars I’ve purchased in the last decade were turbocharged, and I’m starting to seriously consider making it 75%.

  • avatar

    All five cars we’ve had in the past eight years have been turbocharged. Including my 1984 4runner (that one I put the turbo on)

  • avatar

    If the Edmund’s, and other forums can be trusted, turbocharger failure is an epidemic. Look at the CX 7 discussions.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m unsure about this as well. In fact, I have a question I’m hoping people can answer.
      For those who would like to keep a car for up to 7-10 years, would it be better to generally avoid turbos (due to long-term maintenance issues), or are vehicles with turbos as reliable and cost-effective over the long run as a non-turbo? I ask this because I may be looking to replace my current vehicle in the next year or so, and while many of the new vehicles are interesting, the prospect of buying a turbo makes me a little nervous.

    • 0 avatar

      Philosophil – It depends on the owner and the car.  My friend daily drives a Legacy GT (turbo 2.5L).  It chewed up and spit out a turbo back in the fall.  He was fortunate enough to have his weekend toy, a CJ7, in running condition that he had time to source a used turbo and replace it himself.  Total cost was around $1200 for the repair.  The dealer quote for a new turbo and replacement was around $2800.  And this was a car with just over 75k miles.  Turbos are great if you’re willing to follow maintenance exactly and you are willing to do some work yourself.  I wouldn’t recommend one to my mother, though.  Turbos just have a whole other level of failure modes versus a naturally aspirated engine. 

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with forum-based “crowd wisdom” is that it inflates common problems.  For one, you never hear about cars that “just work”, and two, people coinflate endemic and epidemic problems.  It’s similar, though more extreme than, why you can’t really trust mechanics’ collective wisdom on what you should buy.  Forums (and mechanics) are great sources for what and how to fix your problem, or at least when you need to commiserate, but “the wisdom of crowds” is usually better described as “the stupidity of crowds”.
      This is where CR et al, including Mr. Karesh’ TrueDelta, are useful, because they pull in a respectable number of “Nope, works fine!” responses to give you a decent sense of perspective.
      In the case of the CX-7, the turbo might fail, but how many CX-7s do this out of the number on the road, and how reliable on the whole is the CX-7 versus it’s competition?  How does this play out with turbos in general?
      I suspect it’s a lot like CVTs or hybrid power (or, if you go back further, automatic transmissions and electronic fuel injection, or any technology, really): some companies do it well, some companies do it badly.  I know that turbos are on the short-list of items that Saabs didn’t have problems with, or how Nissan’s CVTs are generally reliable, while GM and Honda can’t figure it out.

    • 0 avatar

      As a former Mazdaspeed3 owner, which uses basically but not quite the same motor, it has alot more with the 2.3 DISI beaing a wretched pile of suck more than turbos being unreliable. Had the motor in mine replaced under by the dealer because, and I quote, “the basic design of the engine leads to excessive carbon build up leading to rod knock”. Also, there were issues with the supplier of the turbos.

    • 0 avatar

      @Philosophil: I think it’s hard to say exactly what the best course of action is with a turboed motor. I had a 1987 Dodge Lancer ES Turbo that I drove for 10+ years and over 160,000 miles, never a problem with the turbo itself. These were the ones with the water-cooled turbo bearings as opposed to the standard practice of air-cooled bearings. The coolant return line from the turbo had a pinhole leak, but it was slow enough that we didn’t notice the leak until the engine overheated. Blew a head gasket, but otherwise the motor & turbo were fine.

      My 1981 Mercury Capri RS Turbo, was another story altogether. Nothing but problems with that motor, IMO due to the blow-through carburetor set up, and crappy head gasket sealing. I traded the car before it cost me even more money, but I was in my late teens/early twenties then, I and was hard on equipment. By the time I got the Dodge, I was older and wiser about not abusing my cars, and I think it showed. Also, I think the advances (water cooled turbo, fuel injection, better knock sensors & engine computers) made the turbo motor a lot more durable.

      EDIT: This is what happens when you get interrupted… I was religious on oil changes on both of these cars, although I did try to observe a cool down period with the Dodge after a long hard drive. I wasn’t aware of this practice when I owned the Mercury, although I think other factors would have hosed that car anyway. All of the miles on these cars were with dino oil but not the cheapest stuff either. It was the name brand up to the latest code oils, but no synthetics, as they were really expensive back in the day and you only had a couple to choose from. It boils down to this, good engineering and good maintenance makes for a good experience.

    • 0 avatar

      The problem with asking a mechanic about reliable cars is that everything they see is already broken or breaking.  Thus, they tend to think everything is a POS.  As an aside, in my experience mechanics generally tend to be negative people.  Getting them to say anything positive about anything other than quitting time is not easy.  YMMV.
      Psarhjinian is right about about research with a large sample size is much more useful.

  • avatar

    Todays turbocharged engines have the same long service intervalls that normally aspirated engines. Anyone who knows how a turbocharged engine works knows that this is plain stupid.
    ANY turbocharged engine needs 2 things to have a long trouble free operating life.
    1. Minimum 7.000 mile oil change interval (5.000 mile recommended)
    2. Keeping the engine running before shutdown at least 1 minute after harder acceleration or highway driving.

    Turbocharger (doesn’t matter if its sleeve or ballbearing) is lubricated with the same oil that your engine runs on. And this oil needs to be fresh and clean, becuase it lubricates small parts that run up to 150.000rpm inside your turbo – that is approx 30x faster than the enginge rpm.

    I have a friend with 2004 BMW X5 3.0 turbodiesel, bought it as new, now has mileage around 120.000 miles and has discarded the long factory service intervalls – he has changed oil approx after every 6-7 thousand miles. He has had zero problems with his engine. It is a known fact that if you do maintenance according to bmw factory intervalls, then around 70-80 thousand miles on odometer your turbocharger will fail on your turbodiesel engine.

    • 0 avatar

      #2 isn’t really as important anymore.  There’s safeguards in modern blown engines (or at least there ought to be) to prevent the oil cooking itself, though if you’re on-boost for a long time (eg, if you’re racing) that might change.
      BMW’s factory service intervals are such that BMW doesn’t have to pay much for them, and is geared towards BMW’s primary source of revenue: people who buy or lease cars and then dump them at lease-end.  This is why “free scheduled maintenance” is a dangerous thing in the hands of an unscrupulous or arrogant OEM.

    • 0 avatar


      It not so much the oil cooking itself – it’s the fact that as soon as you switch off the engine you loose oil pressure and as a turbo is a free wheel device means you turbo would be spinning without oil

      A spinning turbo and no oil = Bad

    • 0 avatar

      So long as you didn’t turn the car off while you’re on-boost that ought not to be a problem and modern turbo setups passively cool the turbo anyway.  Now, if you’ve revved the little bugger to the point that it’s glowing, that’s different, but few people do that.
      I recall Saab and Subaru saying pretty much the same thing (don’t worry, it’s passively cooled) vis a vis the 9-3 and WRX a few years back.  I believe them because otherwise people wouldn’t do it and the turbos would be failing all over the place.  Now, god knows, Saabs and Subies do have problems, but turbos aren’t in that list.

  • avatar

    Well, perhaps older turbos were problematic, but I can tell you that Volkswagen/Audi’s 2.0T engine, especially the first generation (2005.5-2008.5) will encounter failing cam followers and cam shafts weeeeelllll before a failing turbo.

    In fact, I haven’t heard of anyone with a failed turbo on one of these puppies and I follow the discussions on this engine pretty closely. 

  • avatar

    “In Europe it is 67%…” well, yes but it depends on that we have mostly diesels sold here. And you don’t want an oilburner without a blower.
    But we have also lot of gas cars with turbos, they are as reliable as other components in todays cars.

    Engines without turbos sucks!

  • avatar

    My Turbo Volvo wagon hit 115K with no problems…no engine problems anyway. But that’s merely anecdotal evidence.  I think people need to follow more aggressive oil change schedules etc.  For example, I think BMW’s 15k interval is suicidal in a turbo engine.

  • avatar

    These 10,000 and 15,000 mile change are the fault of JD power. Manufacturers try to show a lower cost of ownership.
    Meanwhile poorly informed consumers  go to the local quick lube place where they  use cheap FRAM filters and the cheapest oil available.
    Two of our cars are turbocharged and it sure is nice to get  30+ mpg if you take it easy.

  • avatar

    I don’t see a problem with turbocharging. All TDIs are turbocharged (hence the “T”) and they can last a long time if not over stressed and if they’re lubricated correctly. The challenge I see is making sure owners (and dealers) know to use the specified oil for whatever car. You can’t throw cheapy dino oil in a modern turbocharged engine and expect long turbo life. But I can see people doing that to save a couple bucks, which could result in a lot of turbo failures.

  • avatar
    Albino Digits

    Turbocharged vehicles are less reliable. Look at Consumer Reports reliability information on vehicles with a turbo and non-turbo model. The naturally aspirated model is always more reliable. Perhaps Honda owes some of their reputation for reliability to the fact that they don’t use turbochargers in their vehicles.

    • 0 avatar

      CR reports on the US car market. As stated in the article, we haven’t had a lot of turbos here, and I would suspect that a lot of them were marketed as the performance option. In my mind, that increases the chances that they were driven harder than the non-turbos, which would lead to increased

    • 0 avatar

      Perhaps Honda owes some of their reputation for reliability to the fact that they don’t use turbochargers in their vehicles.

      Honda may be trying to go a different way: small displacement engines with high red lines.  They have tried this using the S2000 as a test bed.  Granted it is a sports car and not an economy car but Honda needed an upscale product to sell the (initially) more expensive technology.  I have read that they have experimented with engines having a 30,000 rpm (!) rev limit.  At this speed the chemical kinetics becomes too slow for efficient combustion to occur.

      Small displacement, high revving engines suffer from low torque at low RPM which could be overcome by transmissions with more gears or with CVTs, or perhaps by variable intake runner technology (there’s that added complexity again!).  Is high rpm more reliable than a turbo: only time (and the marketplace) will tell.

      Note also that Honda is working on hybrids, compressed natural gas, hydrogen, direct injection, etc., they are not solely using the high RPM route.

    • 0 avatar

      “CR reports on the US car market. As stated in the article, we haven’t had a lot of turbos here”
      I think you forget what CR covers are individual models. For models they don’t have sufficient data, they say so without listing the problem rate of the model.
      There are quite a number of Saab, Subaru, VW/Audi that are turbocharged in the states, though, as a whole, turbo engine is still considered rare until popularized by automakers in the last year or two, e.g. Chevy Cruze, Ford ecoboost, Hyundai.
      The problem I see from relying on CR’s data is it will probably take a few more years to know what is the reliability of the latest turbo engines.

    • 0 avatar

      “Perhaps Honda owes some of their reputation for reliability to the fact that they don’t use turbochargers in their vehicles.”
      Yes they do, it’s called the Acura RDX.  Last I checked, that is a very reliable vehicle.
      I agree with the other commenters in that, if you take the time to properly maintain your car (which you should always do, turbo or no), turbo engines are very reliable.  My ’03 Audi A4 1.8t still runs beautifully, the only issues I’ve had with the engine are a couple of vacuum check valves failing.  I’m pretty religious about get an oil change (synthetic) every 5k miles and make sure to do the scheduled maintenance.  The only other thing I do is let it warm up for a min when I start her in the morn and let it cool down for few seconds before I shut her down.

  • avatar
    bill h.

    As of this week, we now have four turbocharged cars in our family fleet.
    The oldest one (a 2001 Saab 9-3 base model) has nearly 190k miles on it.  During the warranty period (@ about 40k) the Garrett turbo was replaced, not because of an outright failure, but due to a bad O-ring seal that allowed leakage and blue smoke on cold startups.  Since then we’ve had no problems, on that car or on two other turbo vehicles, which all are at mileages of 130+k and 150+k.  We just got another car, which has a bigger oil sump (6 liters vs. 4 on the older cars), which can give an extra measure of insurance to the turbo.  But on all of our cars we’ve stayed with 5k mile oil changes, using full synthetic with ACEA A3/B3/B4 certification.
    The other thing that might be worth mentioning is that with ever increasing numbers of turbos out there, the aftermarket for rebuilt/reman turbos is expanding. Even if your old car needs to have a turbo replaced, you don’t necessarily have to put up with dealer/new parts cost structures to have the work done.

  • avatar

    The entire engine, turbo, and valvetrain on my previous 1985 MB 300D turbodiesel was just as glorious when the odometer stopped reliably counting after 230,000 or so miles as it was when I got the car with about 80,000 miles.
    And that was a setup that encouraged you to use all of the motor and the turbo.
    Granted, I was pretty good about not letting the oil get old and not using crap oil, and I agree with the mention about letting any turbo engine cool down a bit before shutdown, but I think turbos are just like any other part of the car: if it’s designed and manufactured well, it is no less reliable than any other part.

  • avatar

    As the owner of several vehicles that hit 170,000 + miles without special filters, oil or maintenance, I’m not seeing anything here that would make me consider a turbo. If you can afford to put performance before reliability more power to you, I have no choice but to continue to choose vehicles that keep on purring long after the payments are done.

  • avatar

    I’m doing my part:
    ’97 Eclipse GS-T – owned for 3 years: burned oil from day one and blew the #3 cylinder rings TWICE, so clearly something was wrong with that engine. However it was a blast to drive, 0-60 in 6.5 seconds and still got 30 mpg.
    ’00 Passat 1.8T – going on 11 years of ownership (90K) no engine issues other then a coolant leak and a squeaky belts. 30 mpg, very torque-y. In later years this became the sludge and coil pack engine everyone fears, but mine was built before those problems began to show up (’02 I believe).
    ’08 Volvo C30 T5 – just purchased, (used 40K) however all indications are this engine is very reliable as its been a Volvo staple for years.
    All these vehicles get synthetic oil (Mobil One) changed at 5K. The only thing I’ve noticed with my turbos is they run hot and require a cool down period, plus you have to watch the oil level and condition. The other downside: they need premium fuel 91 octane or better. Other then that they are quick to accelerate, fun to drive, have lots of smooth torque and yet still return good mileage. Once you’ve owned a turbo is hard to go back to NA engines due to the torque on-boost power differences. Want more power? A quick ECU flash gains you 30+HP/TQ with the flip of a switch. I always described my Eclipse turbo as Dr. Jekyll, Mr Hyde type deal – the car was either a 4 banger economy ride or a Mustang GT eating machine depending on how much you pushed on the right pedal. It really was the best of both worlds.

  • avatar

    My seven year old car is the first I’ve owned from the start to have over 100,000 miles put on it and the turbo is fine.  What bothers me more is that it requires premium gas which has gone from being 20-25 cents more per gallon than regular to about 40 cents at most gas stations.  I know it’s possible to tune the car to run on lower octane gas (I don’t know much about the ecoboost’s requirements), but I’d think these days plenty of people would be put off by the premium fuel price.

  • avatar

    One more issue to keep in mind: the exhaust of a gas engine is much hotter than a diesel’s. Diesel turbos probably have a lower failure rate for that reason alone, although supposedly newer materials have compensated for that difference.

  • avatar

    psarhjinian oil cooking is more common with turbos that only have oil cooling, most modern turbos are also watercooled. also many manufacturers still use sleeve bearing turbos which are more sensitive to oil quality and sudden shutdowns – main reason for cooking. there are no factory stock electronics to prevent cooking – only thing you can do is buy an aftermarket turbo timer for 100 bucks. Best kind of turbo is watercooled ballbearing turbo, but you can even ruin this one with old low quality oil and misuse of the car.

    Paul – diesel engines are more prone to failure compared to gasoline turbo engines. Complicated EGR systems are more widely used on modern diesel engines than on gasoline turbo engines, goal is to reduce NOx emissions, which diesel produces many times more than gasoline engine. Carbon buildup in EGR system and intake manifold are one of the most common reasons for modern diesel engine failure. There are lot less problems with gasoline turbo engines. the turbo itself can more often fail if it is too complex – all variable geometry turbos are more prone to failure. vw/audi used/uses them widely on their diesel engines – the moving geometry blades got stuck (carbon buildup) and the vacuum oparated rod that regulated the blades often failed etc. now porsche uses variable geometry on their gasoline turbos, but I have no data how durable and failsafe this system is.

    • 0 avatar

      I’m not sure I agree that diesel turbos are less reliable than turbos in gasoline engines.  I have 3 trucks with over 1 million miles on their original turbos and they are running fine.  I also have a couple of trucks with EGR systems and the jury is still out; the turbos seem to be OK but the rest of the EGR system is a maintenance nightmare.
      Must truck engine guys (even at the OEM service locations) will tell owners to rebuild and keep running their old motors vs. buying the new ones.

  • avatar

    To be fair, both the turbo, and the CVT in my 2003 Audi A4 “worked fine” Looking through my records this morning I see the oil was changed about every 2500 miles.

  • avatar

    Adding complexity adds additional failure pathways.

    To offset this added complexity the additional components must make the existing components more reliable, for example, by taking some operating stress off of them.

    I cannot see how adding a turbocharger accomplishes this.  In fact it would seem to add stress to existing components, for example, by raising underhood temperatures.  (See the final generation RX-7 for an example of this).

    As a general principle, in the overall cost of ownership equation complexity ultimately hurts.

    Note that I am not saying that turbos aren’t cool technology, that they aren’t fun to drive, that they aren’t a selling point to the consumer.  I am saying that for every gizmo you add (which is necessary to operate the car) the greater your chance for a dealer visit down the road.

    The cost of a dealer visit negates the cost savings of a more fuel efficient vehicle.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s true of virtually everything on a vehicle, the model T probably suffered from this also.
      Let’s stop using windshield wipers, pneumatic tires, power steering etc . Just more things to go wrong!
      But cars are more reliable today than ever.
      The last RX7 turbo was produced 20 years ago, technology moves on. Turbochargers are part of our automotive future.
      A replacement turbo for many cars is less than $500 and many will go more than 200,000 miles.

  • avatar

    Oil “cooking” is called “coking” and is more an issue with the non-water cooled turbos from the bygone eras.  Routine and diligent maintenance, however, goes a long way for turbo longevity.  Nissan turbo-charged their 1981 to 1983 280zx and there are many examples with 250,000+ miles on the original engine and turbo.

    Idling after highway cruising is silly.  The intake manifold is under vacuum during cruise and the wastegate is open.  This allows the exhaust gases to by-pass the exhaust turbine and therefore not develop boost.

    Idling after a spirited run is recommended run before shut-down only if you have not had a chance to simply cruise.  Your engine runs cooler when driving than when idling.

    My 2006 WRX has 95,000 miles without a single issue and there are many drivers with over 200,000 miles.

    VW does a great job with their turbo-charged engines.  They do get the fuel economy of a 4-cylinder with the power of a 6-cylinder.  Subaru, on the other hand, gets the fuel economy of an 8-cylinder with the power of a 4-cylinder (considering that many modern V-6s are up to 300 hp now).

  • avatar

    Looking over the manual to my recently purchased used Volvo C30 shows why the T5 doesn’t fail: 6 quarts of oil… in a 5 cylinder 2.5l engine. That is the same amount as the 8 cylinder 4.7l in my Dodge Dakota! Seems Volvo knows a thing or two about turbos.

Read all comments

Back to TopLeave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Recent Comments

  • Dan: Keystone wasn’t one decision this January that wouldn’t have affected production nor prices 6 months...
  • ajla: EVs becoming a normie culture war battleground will be bad for everyone so I’m sure it will happen.
  • ajla: The Keystone Pipeline decision may not be impacting current prices but I do think it is worth debating the...
  • Inside Looking Out: It is not that we lost civility. The problem is that spoiled children who become young adults now...
  • Inside Looking Out: @dal20402: It is the learning experience for you. Next time you will go directly to local shop. I...

New Car Research

Get a Free Dealer Quote

Who We Are

  • Adam Tonge
  • Bozi Tatarevic
  • Corey Lewis
  • Mark Baruth
  • Ronnie Schreiber