Are Volvo turbos reliable?

A Volvo turbo engine uses less space and is quite a bit lighter than conventional aspirated engines. Volvo turbo engines are also fuel-efficient and reliable.

The reliability of a Volvo turbo engine depends on how its owners manage it. This includes the kind of coolant utilized and how often you top or replace it. The type of gas you use, your driving habits, and your boost level also have a huge role to play here.

Volvo turbo engine reliability depends on drivers

While Volvo’s turbo engines promise longevity and performance, their reliability depends on their users. If you are a negligent driver or sloppy about turbo maintenance, you will spend more than you can imagine on repairs. Worse, your engine may end up completely breaking down when it gets too tired from too many repairs.

How it performs and how long you can keep it depends on what you do to it. How you care for your turbo engine is also linked to how it performs. Let’s take a look at some of the things that determine the reliability of Volvo turbo engines.

Type of gasoline

Volvo turbos can run on regular gas with an 87% octane level and achieve good performance. The turbo engine won’t knock or give any sort of gasoline-related problems. However, a premium gas with a 91% octane level or above will provide better performance and keep your engine in good shape.

Oil type

It is often recommended to use synthetic oil on cars running on turbo. This is because turbo engines produce a high amount of heat, and synthetic oils are stronger at withstanding this heat without breaking down quickly.

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If you run your turbo on petroleum oil, however, the oil will break down quickly. Petroleum oils are not strong enough to withstand the kind of heat that turbos produce and can lead to sludge in the turbo. If petroleum oil breaks down quickly, you will need to change the oil more frequently.

For example, if you have to change petroleum oil every 3k miles, you would only need to change a synthetic oil every 7k miles. Synthetic oil can serve you longer than petroleum oil. The problem comes when you use petroleum oil and treat your turbo like you’re using synthetic.

How often the oil is changed and topped

Whether you use synthetic or petroleum oil, they get dirty after a while and the oil needs to be changed. Contaminated oil can clog the inlet and return lines of a turbo engine, causing improper air and gas flow. This can invariably damage the exhaust system. Also, note that a clogged feed line can eat up the shaft.

So, it is advisable that you change the oil once in a while, based on the type of oil you use and your manufacturer’s recommendation (check your owner’s manual). And when the oil is getting low, the best would be to top it. If the oil is not sufficient, it can cause the turbo to knock out.

Boost level

Turbo engines naturally function at a particular boost level. If you go beyond that, it will cause the turbo to work more than it should and shorten its lifespan. Most car manufacturers recommend turbos run on anything below 12psi. Driving under too much pressure can damage the turbo, and lower run pressure can expand its lifespan. It’s that simple.

Turbo design and what you do with it

Understanding the kind of design your Volvo turbo utilizes could extend or shorten its lifespan. Turbo engines produce a high amount of heat. This heat, if not adequately controlled, can lead to engine build up, causing it to “coke up.” So, how do you make sure this heat doesn’t coke up the oil?

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Recently produced Volvos comes with water-cooled turbos. A water cool turbo uses water to cool the turbo as you stop your engine. When the engine is off and the circulating oil stops running, the oil inside won’t get fried up by the engine because the engine is cool already.

For much older Volvos that don’t come with the water-cooled turbos. You can cool the turbo by idling before shutting down the engine. A car at idling has no load it’s carrying, so the engine will cool down. Then when you finally shut off the engine, the flowing coolant stops and meets a cool engine. This way, the coolant doesn’t burn up.

Not utilizing the idling method when you don’t have a water-cooled turbo isn’t suitable for your turbo. Because the oil will fry up, prompting you to change it earlier than required. If you fail to change the oil and run your turbo on burnt oil, it will knock out. This will either cause you to spend money on repairs or a new turbo.


How long do Volvo turbos last?

Volvo turbos can last 60,000 to 160,000 miles or longer before being replaced. The engine can even last the entire lifetime of the vehicle. This, however, depends on the user. Proper maintenance and the right running pressure will extend the turbo’s life. Neglect it; the reverse would be the case.

When should you replace Volvo turbo coolant?

When to replace Volvo turbo’s coolant depends on how often you drive and the coolant you use. Synthetic oil doesn’t break down quickly, so it will need to be changed once in a while. But petroleum oil will need to be changed at short intervals because it can’t withstand turbo heat and will break down quickly.

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The more you drive, the more oil gets dirty, so you will need to change the oil more often. You can change turbo coolant after every 5,000 or 7000 miles. Or better still, consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommendation on when to change the oil.

What fuel and oil should Volvo turbos utilize?

Volvo turbos can run regular fuel without giving issues. But for optimal performance, it’s recommended you use premium gas. Synthetic oil is the best for Volvo turbos because they can withstand the heat a turbo engine produces. Since it doesn’t break down easily, you won’t need to change it at short intervals.

How do you know your Volvo turbo is faulty?

Put your hands on the compressor inlet. Excess oil close to this inlet could mean something is wrong with the turbo. If your turbo operates on half the boost it usually runs on, it means the turbo is badly damaged, the exhaust actuator spring is weak, or there is a heavy boost leak.

Can you drive with a faulty Volvo turbo?

You can drive with a faulty turbo, but not only will it give a crappy ride, it will also damage other components connected to it. You can drive the car with a light pedal if the turbo seizes, but the seals have not blown out.

However, if the seals get blown, burned, or partially burnt, oil will enter the catalytic converter and exhaust system. This action will lead to the failure of the catalytic converter and everything associated with the exhaust system. Plus, you will lose oil quickly. So, the best advice is to not drive with a bad turbo.

Osuagwu Solomon

When I am not writing about cars, I’m in a mechanic garage troubleshooting and fixing cars. I started writing automotive articles to provide accurate information to car owners and fellow mechanics.

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