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Turbochargers: Avoid Failure with Proper Oil Changes

By Junior Damato, June 24th, 2017

strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2011 Chevy Cruze with a 1.4L turbo engine. I bought it new and recently the "check engine" light came on for a turbo under-boost condition. The car runs fine. My mechanic says the car needs a new turbo, a new intercooler, and a few related parts for a total repair cost of $2,000-plus. I have only 28,000 miles on the car, but the turbo warranty expired 18 months ago. That's a huge expense for a six-year-old car with low mileage. Have you heard of turbochargers failing in these cars? John

Manufacturer photo: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze
Manufacturer photo: 2011 Chevrolet Cruze

strong>Dear John: I'm starting to see turbocharger failure from owners of vehicles who do not change the oil as recommended, as well as those who don't use the correct engine oil. Recently, I had a customer with a Subaru whose turbo failed for the second time in 16 months. The reason was a leaking oil line to the turbocharger and infrequent oil changes. He asked if we could get a rebuilt turbo so we ordered one. It came in overnight and was much cheaper. The $2,000 cost is inexpensive compared to $20,000 for another car.

strong>Dear Doctor: I have an erratic fuel gauge on my 1999 Toyota 4Runner. When I fill the fuel tank and top it off the "low gas warning" blinks. However, when I fill the gas to half-full it shows the correct gauge reading. Can you explain or suggest remedy for it? H.D.

strong>Dear H.D.: It sounds like the problem is with the sender in the tank. On many of these vehicles there's an access panel under or behind the rear seat to get to the fuel pump/sender, or at least the wires. The technician will check the OHM reading by logging into the Alldata database. There are even instructions for the correct method to check the circuit. I sometimes see this problem when a vehicle is put away for the winter and simply from sitting.

strong>Dear Doctor: I have a 2003 Chrysler PT Cruiser with 100,000 miles. I have a "check engine" light that began after a fill-up at an isolated station, tier one brand. Many parts have been replaced in the fuel and emission system. This last winter, we had a fairly long sub-freezing spell, and the problem went away, but returned after a couple of warmer days. Would this be an indication of water in the gas tank? I've been using Heet Isopropyl Fuel System Dryer, hoping it would remove any water in the tank. If there is water in the tank is there a method to remove it, or does the tank have to be removed and drained? Bob

strong>Dear Bob: I recommend you bring the car to a shop that employs ASE technicians. The technician will check for fault codes and examine the data to determine when the event happened. I suggest your technician take that information and check on the Identifix web site for any available information from the community. Take these above steps before spending money on draining the gas tank. There's no magic additive to remove water from a gas tank.

strong>Dear Doctor: My 2000 Buick LeSabre with over 100,000 miles has been very good to me all these years, but I have not been good to it. I have overlooked changing the transmission fluid at the time it should have been done. I did have a problem when the transmission was banging when it shifted, so I poured in Lucas Transmission treatment, and all went well. Now I thought I would change the fluid, but no one will do it because of the mileage. What are my options? Chris

strong>Dear Chris: I suggest getting a technician to drop the transmission pan and change the filter and fluid. The transmission holds around 13 quarts of fluid and this pan drop and filter will only require 6 to 7 quarts of fluid. I have never had a negative result changing the fluid this way. (It's not the same as a transmission fluid flush where 95 percent of the fluid is replaced).

strong>Dear Doctor: I own a 1999 Volvo S80 sedan with 168,000 miles on the six-cylinder engine. The "check engine" light came on intermittently about four years ago, but has stayed on continuously for the last three years. My mechanic was not able to diagnose the problem so I took the car to a Volvo dealer, but they too, were unable to diagnose the problem. The car runs very well: I get about 24.5 mpg local driving, and up to 29.5 mpg on a trip and it uses no oil. Do you have any idea why the check engine problem cannot be diagnosed, and who might be able to diagnose it? Vince

strong>Dear Vince: The computer system has to store a fault code for the "check engine" light to come on. The 1999-2000 model years have fairly simple systems, unlike today's late model vehicles. Call your local AAA office and ask for AAA-approved shops in your area. To be a AAA-approved shop there are very strict guidelines, including having ASE-certified technicians employed on site. These approved shops will likely subscribe to both Alldata and Identifix. To make the best diagnoses, the check engine light should be on when the car is brought into the shop.

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