Turbochargers are an efficient way of achieving more power from an engine. Although the technology isn't new, it seems to be gaining in popularity as car makers try to strike a balance between power and fuel economy. This article will discuss how these devices operate, symptoms of malfunctions and common problems associated with the different kinds of turbochargers. Turbo Component Locations Since the impeller is driven by exhaust gases, most manufacturers locate the turbocharger as close to the exhaust manifold as possible. In light-duty automotive applications the unit is often located in between the exhaust manifold and the catalytic converter pipe. The waste gate and solenoids that operate the exhaust flap are often built into the housing of the unit.Due to its installation in an extremely hot area, cooling and lubricating the component becomes an important factor. Most turbochargers are cooled with engine oil or coolant. The fluid of choice is piped through a cooling jacket and requires an inlet and outlet connection. The final connections on the compressor will be for incoming air from the air filter housing and an outlet pipe that connects to the throttle body on the engine side. These are often highly visible, large diameter chrome or aluminum pipes to facilitate efficient air flow. What is an Intercooled Turbo An intercooled turbo is a term often heard, but rarely understood. It refers to the cooling of the air that enters the engine not to the matter in which the turbocharger itself is cooled. One of the downsides of compressing air into the intake manifold is the temperature rises as it's compressed. Higher temperature air is less dense, which is counterproductive to the original goal of getting more power out of the engine.Automotive designers have figured out a way to get around this problem with the use of an intercooler. This is basically a large radiator type device that fits in between the throttle body housing and the turbo outlet. The heat is removed from the air just before it enters the intake manifold, thereby increasing the density of the air fuel mixture. The larger the intercooler the more efficient it is at removing heat. This is why many performance upgrades include the replacement of the factory intercooler with a large high-performance model. Symptoms of Turbocharger Problems Since the design and integration of a turbocharger into an automotive system is designed to increase power, one of the most common signs of a problem is lack of power. When the turbo is not producing any boost, it's like driving a car without power steering. It still works, but not well. Extremely sluggish performance can often be accompanied by strange noises. One example is if the waste gate gets stuck in the open position, it will exhaust all boost pressure and this will make a whooshing noise as RPMs increase.Another symptom common with turbocharger problems is a large amount of smoke being emitted from the exhaust. The color of the smoke will depend on how the turbo is cooled and lubricated. If the internal seals fail, lubrication oil or coolant can find its way into the combustion chamber. An oil cooled turbo will emit massive quantities of bluish smoke, whereas those cooled with engine coolant will produce large amounts of white smoke. Diagnosing and Repairing Turbo's Although diagnosis should always be performed before replacing any parts, a large amount of issues does require the replacement of the turbocharger unit. Many of the components prone to failure are contained right on board the housing. Internal seals, bearings, waste gate and solenoids are often not serviced individually, but rather as an assembly. It's for these reasons when problems develop sourcing a replacement turbocharger is often the end result.