Early Detection of 7.3 Powerstroke Turbo Failure Symptoms to Avoid Costly Repairs

A turbocharger is a vital component of a 7.3 engine as it directly affects the performance of it. You might notice a decline in the performance of the engine, especially when accelerating, smoke from the exhaust, or turbo-related codes on your dash. These and more typically indicate 7.3 Powerstroke turbo failure symptoms.

Recognizing these signs is key to maintaining its lifespan. Being able to detect the issues early on can save you from costly repairs and frequent visits to the mechanic.

Not only should you know the common symptoms of turbocharger failure, but you should also understand the root of these causes and ways to prevent them from happening. In the following, we’ll be discussing all this and more to help you curb any possible turbo issues.

At a Glance – Signs of a Bad Turbo on 7.3 Powerstroke Diesel Engine:

Declining Engine PerformanceWorn out turbocharger operating below its optimal levels, directly affecting the engine.
Excessive SmokeImbalance in the fuel-air mixture and incomplete combustion caused by a faulty turbo.
Unusual NoisesWorn out bearings in turbocharger.
Turbo LagWorn-out turbines, faulty wastegates, etc. in turbo. Poor power delivery by turbocharger.
Oil LeakagesDamaged gaskets and seals within the turbo.
‘Check Engine’ Light SignalAbnormalities in turbocharger performance, could be failure or obstruction in airstream.

6 Symptoms of 7.3 Powerstroke Turbo Failure

The turbocharger in a 7.3 Powerstroke engine operates by supplying compressed air into the combustion chamber, which in return optimizes the engine’s performance. Over time, this constant process puts stress on the turbo and makes it susceptible to failure.

To avoid irreversible damage to your turbocharger, it’s important to look out for the potential failure symptoms to resolve the issues early on.

#1 – Decreased Engine Performance

Since the turbocharger directly affects the engine performance, one of the dead giveaways for a failing turbo is declining performance. Anything from lack of power to fluctuations in acceleration indicates a worn-out turbocharger.

When the turbocharger is worn-out, disruptions are frequent in the stream leading to the combustion chamber, which may cause inadequate levels of air to enter it. This eventually results in reduced power output, causing the engine to react sluggishly.

#2 – Excessive Smoke

Another sign of a deteriorating turbocharger is smoke coming out of the exhaust. Smoke is normal from time to time, but excessive and oddly colored smoke is hazardous. Thick and black smoke is directly linked to a bad turbocharger.

This happens when the turbocharger is not able to supply the right amount of compressed air into the combustion chamber, which results in an imbalance in the internal fuel-air mixture. The incomplete combustion causes fuel to burn and release harmful smoke.

#3 – Strange Noises

Start your engine and closely listen to the sound it makes. Unusual noises from the engine compartment, such as high-pitched whining or whistling, are a sign of turbo failure.

Worn-out engine components make noises out of the blue. Overused bearings inside the turbo cause increased friction, which leads to these noises.

When these sounds occur, it’s best to get your turbocharger fixed or replaced right away as prolonged use might put your engine at risk of permanent damage.

#4 – Excessive Turbo Lag

When you accelerate your vehicle, you might notice a delay in the power delivery to your engine. This is caused by turbo lag.

Typically, the turbocharger should respond instantly and provide the right amount of power quickly. But a failing turbo displays a noticeable delay in power delivery when accelerating.

Turbo lags can happen for a number of reasons. This includes worn-out turbines, faulty wastegates, etc. which all prevent the turbocharger from spinning at the correct speed.

#5 – Oil Leakage

Another issue that occurs with a failed turbocharger is oil leaks. Clean and pressurized oil is used to power the turbocharger. When the turbocharger housing, especially the gaskets and seals, becomes damaged or worn-out, the oil drips out and pools in other parts of the engine.

The oil that collects in the engine can cause damage to it. Also, the turbocharger operates poorly, which results in inadequate air reaching the combustion chamber. This also affects the engine.

#6 – Check Engine Light

The self-diagnosing system of the 7.3 Powerstroke allows you to see the health of your engine from your dashboard. When the engine runs into a problem, the “Check Engine” light blinks on the dash. This light can point to a variety of issues, including turbocharger-related ones.

When the turbocharger is failing, the engine system detects the abnormalities in the performance and alerts the driver. The problem could be the turbo itself or the components surrounding it. So, it’s good to have it properly diagnosed by a mechanic.

Know More: Ford 7.3 Bad Glow Plug Relay Symptoms

Why Does the 7.3 Powerstroke Turbo Fail?

Turbochargers are just like any other component of a vehicle. Once they exceed their life expectancy, they decline in performance and eventually fail. However, many factors contribute to the failure of a turbocharger.

Knowing the reasons why turbo failure happens can make you more mindful of how you use your engine and prevent premature failure –

● Lack of Lubrication

The turbocharger has moving parts like the turbine blades. These need proper lubrication to spin at the desired speed and therefore function properly. Insufficient or contaminated oil leads to increased friction which wears out the parts.

If this prolongs, it causes failure. So, remember to get regular oil changes and use high-quality oil. This will maintain proper lubrication and reduce the risks of overall turbocharger issues.

● Clogged Air Filters

The turbocharger plays the vital role of supplying air to the combustion chamber. When the air filter is blocked or dirty, airflow is restricted.

Due to this, contaminants enter the turbocharger and affect its performance. Debris, dirt, and other pollutants stick to the turbines and reduce their speed.

As a result, insufficient air is supplied to the combustion chamber, causing poor engine performance. Also, the turbocharger quickly wears out and fails. This is why it is important to replace the air filter at advised intervals.

● Overboost or Overspeed Conditions

Systems that use forced induction, like turbochargers, produce a lot of speed and pressure. A continuous overboost or overspeed condition in the engine can put the turbocharger under excessive stress, causing early wear and even failure.

Overboosting is when the turbo operates at a higher than normal pressure, and overspeeding is when it spins beyond its limit.

To avoid both these conditions and preserve the lifespan of your turbo, keep an eye on these limits and maintain the recommended pressure and speed parameters.

● No Cool-Down Period

After a long drive or traveling with heavy cargo, it is highly recommended to allow the turbo to cool down before turning off the engine.

Abruptly turning off the engine without a cool-down period can cause oil to pool in the turbocharger and cause blockages.

By giving the turbo a cool-down period, the excess heat dissipates and the oil exits the turbocharger properly.

How to Avoid 7.3 Powerstroke Turbo Failure

To prevent your turbo from premature failure, you can try out these tips –

1. Regular Maintenance

The turbines of a turbocharger can get dirty very quickly. The buildup of contaminants weighs down the blades which prevent them from spinning properly. So, make sure to have your turbo cleaned regularly.

2. Routine Inspections

There is a plethora of problems related to turbochargers that cannot be detected by the inexperienced eye. One of them being worn-out bearings and seals. Have your local mechanic run a thorough inspection of your turbo whenever you can and have it fixed or replaced if needed.

3. Improve Driving Habits

Most of the time, the turbo fails due to excessive strain on its components. Maintaining good driving habits such as not over-boosting/overspeeding, avoiding prolonged drives, carrying less cargo, and giving the turbo time to cool down can significantly increase its lifespan.

4. Use High-Quality Oil

Poor quality oil gets dirty quicker and burns even faster. Its affinity to contaminants is highly detrimental to a turbo’s health, which also directly affects the engine. So, invest in a high-quality oil that suits your engine requirements.

Also Check: Ford 7.3L Powerstroke Diesel Rebuild Cost.


Is it okay to drive the 7.3 Powerstroke even if the turbo fails?

The vehicle will likely still run on a failed turbo. However, a failed turbo leads to a failed engine. Unless you want to run the risk of possibly being stranded midway, we highly recommend not driving when the turbocharger has failed.

How often should I change my turbocharger?

The interval for replacing and servicing or turbocharger is assigned by the manufacturer of your engine. If you are still in doubt about when to change it, consult a professional mechanic to properly assess the situation.

Can you fix a failed turbocharger?

Most of the time, yes, you can resolve the issues related to your turbo. However, this depends on the severity of the damage done. If your mechanic says that the turbo is beyond repair, it’s best to have it replaced.

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