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What are some early signs of a turbo starting to go bad?

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smoke coming out of your exhaust, except when at full throttle, is a sign that your seals are going bad, pull the intake pipe off reach in the turbo and see if it has any movement in it(back and forth) look and see if there are any fins missing etc....
 
My turbo didn't smoke at all before it died, but I guess from reading that most do.

Some other early signs to look for are if the turbo just seems to spool slower lately at all.

NOSNUSE is right about checking the turbo for any play. While the car is not running, and cold, take the intake boot off of the turbo, and push it to the side somewhere, so you can reach your fingers into the intake of the turbo. You will feel a nut on a shaft and behind that if your fingers can reach is the intake turbine. Spin it, and make sure it spins freely, without contacting the turbine housing (push it towards the housing while spinning it to see if it contacts at all). Also, if the turbine can move in and out of the housing (towards the driver and passenger sides of the car)

-Jesse
 
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