What Type of Oil is Suitable for Turbocharged Engines?

You may be only too eager to paint the town red in your new Porsche 911 or Toyota Solara – and why not? When I got my Mazda CX-7, I truly felt like the world was my oyster, that it’s not summertime without the rooftop down while you’re breaking 95 on the highway with wind and trees whipping past, and on the whole, using a whole lot less fuel than you would be if you had a naturally aspirated engine that requires a continuous intake of air through a vaccuum. With the considerably smaller, yet much more powerful engine of a turbocharger, you’re light as a feather as you cruise down the highway or make that once in a lifetime cross country trip.

However, before you put your foot to the medal, or rather, before you write that check to the dealer – there’s a few things to consider before you switch over to turbo, and more so, a few things I wish people had told me. You might already know that you need to find a mechanic who specializes in turbo engines – to come to your rescue if you experience any number of God-forbidden moments, but you need to know some things too about just basic maintenance so you can reduce the risk your beloved set of wheels stays out of the shop in the first place – namely, what kind of oil do you use – what keeps your engine purring along happily and doesn’t void your warranty?


The most important thing about a turbo engine – and one of the things that, literally, makes them not so hot, is that they tend to be very sensitive to extreme heat, be it from weather or from too much work. You need a good baseline oil that will keep it nice and insulated against high temperatures. The 20W50 is an excellent choice when you’re looking to get the best performance possible out of a turbocharge engine, and perhaps it’s the real secret weapon I’ve used to smoke Hondas back in my racing days.


It’s a synthetic blend – which is great for reducing any friction your engine might carry from the inevitable wear and tear, and also self-sealing, so when I put it in, I knew I was giving my all to helping the CX-7 have a long and happy life, and here she is seven years down the line, with all of her spark still in. For those of you out in the Heartland, or anywhere else your car may take a hit from the extreme lows, I recommend their 5W30 line for year round use. Pennzoil also makes a decent synthetic for turbocharged engines.


Always bear in mind the viscosity rating – W means an oil tested under cold temperatures. Even if it might cost you a few bucks extra, synthetics are the best oils to give your turbo as they typically have a rating of 150, which makes them a “thin oil,” less vulnerable to thickening which natural motor oil is often prone to do. It may seem like an obvious one, although many people might balk at the thought – but find out what the manufacturer of your car recommends – a good rule of thumb is that the lower the viscosity, the better.

A lot of things can be learnt just by asking questions when you buy your car. I missed this opportunity, I’m sorry to say, but a number of manufacturers offer turbo timers, a great feature in which the car continues to circulate oil for a few minutes after the ignition is turned off. So, to keep it simple, keep your eyes open when you go for your next oil change, be good to your car, and it will be good to you.

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