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you & your car

Turbocharged four-cylinder engines seem to be all the rage these days. How do turbos stand up to Canadian winters? Will they perform as intended after sitting in minus-20 degree weather overnight? Is there anything to be aware of from a maintenance standpoint when making the switch to a turbo charged engine? – John-Paul

You are right, as manufacturers look for more mileage and fewer emissions, turbocharging has become popular. It's a great way to get the same or more power from a smaller and lighter engine while burning less fuel.

Turbos are driven by exhaust gasses that spin one side of an impeller at incredible speeds. The other side is located in the intake stream and, as it spins, it forces more air/fuel mixture through the intake valve(s).

The biggest concerns are speed and heat and the solution is oil. Not only is oil critical to lubricate the spinning parts, it pulls heat away from the turbo as it circulates.

Engine manufacturers run them through test cycles of hundreds of thousands of kilometres at speed, under load, with stops and starts, etc., to ensure long life. After all, they are on the hook for warranty costs if there is a problem – they have a vested interest in making sure there are no such problems.

During that development process, engineers work closely with oil companies, specifically the experts in the lubrication divisions, to come up with oils suited to the extreme heat in turbos.

As for cold conditions? With any moving parts, the right oil is required to ensure lubrication – when cold, that oil is "thin" enough to provide that protection. In a turbo engine it also has to remain "thick" enough at extreme high temperatures to provide the same protection. Thus it is important to use only oils recommended by the engine manufacturer.

Maintenance issues? With approved oils and recommended change intervals, there should be no problems.

I have a 2008 F350 diesel with 47,000 kilometres on it, and still has warranty to April, 2012. Often my truck will belch out blue smoke from the tail pipe, run rough, get clattering sounds for a few minutes, then after a couple of blocks, it stops and goes back to normal. The dealership says it cannot find any problem and to keep coming back with my complaint. Would an additive like Prolong or Duralube help with this? – Chris in Fort McMurray, Alta.

Normally you tackle these problems by looking at the two issues involved with internal combustion engines-fuel or spark. Since you have a diesel and there is no spark involved, that narrows it down to fuel.

As you know, with a diesel the fuel/air mixture is compressed to the stage where it gets hot and self-ignites. There are two factors here that could be at the heart of your problem – the fuel or the timing of its injection into the engine. The timing issue would not seem to be the issue because of its intermittent nature. Fuel quality comes up as the chief suspect.

Try buying your fuel from a different outlet – but check first to see that it gets its fuel from a different source. It is not uncommon for retailers in remote locations to get fuel from the same supplier. You can also ask around when you see others with the same or similar trucks.

All F-Series HD pickups of that generation will have the same engine. Loose, worn or leaking injectors are a possible cause but unlikely at such low mileage. Also, since the issue is intermittent, that would seem to rule out the injectors and the need for any additive. You can try an additive but make sure it is approved by Ford.

Lastly, make sure you keep very thorough records of each and every trip to the dealer. Record the date, time, person spoken to if possible, their response and the mileage at the time of the complaint. If it ever came to a dispute you'd have a strong case whether arguing with the dealer or through CAMVAP (the Canadian Motor Vehicle Arbitration Plan).

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