Modern car engines are generally very reliable, but also a lot more complicated. They can last a long time, but they require proper care. However, there is a lot you can do to extend the life of your engine. It mostly comes down to maintenance and driving style, especially in the case of the additional components added to modern engines to improve performance, economy, and emissions, like turbochargers and particulate filters – even more so in the case of turbo-diesel vehicles.
Diesels tend to be more sensitive to a lack of maintenance, because even a dirty air filter can be bad for a diesel engine. A diesel runs on excess air and very weak mixtures and, contrary to a petrol engine, it runs hotter when the mixture is rich, and not cooler. A blocked air filter can restrict intake air and cause a richer mixture, generating potentially damaging heat. A diesel engine’s particulate filter can also become blocked during long spells of city driving and require a good distance of highway driving for the particulate filter to clean itself.
Turbochargers use the wasted energy expended through the car’s exhaust system to drive a turbine that pumps air into the engine. The more air that enters an engine, the more power it has, which is why a turbocharged engine can develop the same power as a larger, naturally aspirated engine. However, a turbocharger is not a positive-displacement air pump and produces no boost pressure when turning slowly. It must speed up a lot to build pressure and runs at turbine speeds of 100 000 to 250 000 rpm – that is around 40 times faster than the engine! In addition, the turbocharger is not connected to the engine via a drive mechanism, but is energised by the exhaust gases instead, so a turbocharger’s turbine speed is not related to engine speed at all – your engine could be chugging along at 2 000 rpm while your turbocharger is spinning at maximum speed.
It is therefore a good idea to drive a turbocharged car with a light foot when cold to avoid speeding up the turbocharger and allow it to warm up. It is also good to drive sedately the last few kilometres home to allow it to cool down (in fact, this practice is good for any engine). Never skip services and perform all maintenance diligently. Driven sensibly, your engine can last a long time.
However, resist the temptation to modify your engine for more performance, because you might reduce its life in the process. Rather have a Unichip fitted and we will optimise your engine, giving you the best power and economy without affecting its life expectancy.