Reader Question: Turbo Longevity

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Rick asks: Is the same reasoning for turbos also apply to VW GTI? I own one get 32 on the highway, just wondering about my car. Love your articles, very informative and spot on, thanks!

My reply: I think so, yes. Turbos have historically been used to increase the power of engines in sporty vehicles; not as replacements for displacement – which what is what they are being used for now. The reason being (as I’ve ranted about in my . . . rants) that turbos increase the stress on the engine on internal parts; also, of course, there are more parts – and so at least the potential for more things to break down or need work at some point during the car’s life.

Of course, an engine can be built with heavier duty parts – engineered to handle the additional stress. But the stress is still higher than the stress experienced by, say, a larger displacement engine that makes comparable  power but without being subjected to boost.

In sum: I think turbos are fine (and fun!) in cars like your GTI. But I would not want a turbo in a daily-driver I intended to keep for 12-15 years because of the possibility of a turbo or turbo-related failure – which can get very expensive, especially proportionate to the value of the car after it’s ten years old or so.

. . .

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  1. To be fair with a VW, there will be lots of other things that break or wear out before the Turbo or engine does.

    • Hi Heath,

      Maybe. But the relevant point in re the poster’s question is that the car is a sporty car. I think turbos are fine in sporty cars. It’s understood the car may not be as practical – and more maintenance intensive – than a daily driver/grocery getter. It’s a trade-odd for the extra power/performance; the fun.

      But in a daily-driven appliance? To replace displacement?

      I submit that’s not smart if the object of the exercise is to keep costs and hassles down.


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