North American Turbocoupe Organization

Turbo Care - Oil Changes
andrewjs18 Offline
Turbo Care – Oil Changes
By J. C. Petz - March 2004

One thing many of us take for granted is oil changes.  Special care is required when conducting oil changes on a turbocharger-equipped engine.  Oil and filter changes should be conducted about every 3,000 to 3,500 miles, depending on conditions.  Conditions that may require more frequent changes are extreme dirty/dusty driving, prolonged hot and slow driving (read: Summer rush hour traffic), or especially “hard” driving.  Synthetic oil is highly recommended…. specifically Mobile-One.  When using synthetic oil, you can extend the oil change cycle to 5,000 miles if you choose to do so. Semi-synthetic oils are also a good choice such as Valvoline Durablend or Castrol Syntec Blend.  Semi-synthetic oils offer a little more protection than regular oil.  Oil changes should still be performed every 3,500 miles when using semi-synthetic oils.

After talking with Pete, many of us graybeard turbo owners take for granted that new turbo owners already know there is one important requirement/step that must be conducted during an oil change on turbo-equipped engines.  We forget that new turbo owners probably do not know about it.  This extra requirement/step that must be conducted after an oil/filter change and prior to starting the engine is to “prime the oil system”.  Otherwise, if the engine is started with an unprimed oil system and empty filter, the turbo will not be receiving any oil for the first few seconds of operation.  The oil system is primed by simply disconnecting the coil to distributor cap wire lead and cranking the engine for 10-15 seconds.  In order to prevent flooding of the engine, hold the gas pedal all the way to the floor so the computer does not fire the injectors.  Conduct the dead cranking of the engine twice.  This dead cranking fills the oil filter and primes the engine oil passages.  After this simple step is complete, the coil lead is reconnected and the engine can be started.

Another tip provided by Gary Furman is to Pre-oil the oil filter.  While waiting for the oil to drain from the oil pan take the oil filter you will be installing and a fresh quart of oil that you will be putting back in the crank case. Put oil in the large hole in the middle of the filter. Put it back in the oil filter box (or any other place to keep it from tipping over). After a few minutes you should be able to fill it to the threaded portion again. Let it set a few more minutes, take the filter and slowly tip it as if you would be placing it on the engine. If no oil runs out you should be able to fill it up one more time…let it set while you remove the old filter. Then install the new filter (pre-oiled) on to the engine. If the filter is too full and it looks like the oil will run out while installing it you can put your thumb over the hole and turn the filter upside down for a few minutes. This will saturate the top half of the filter and should reduce the level just enough to get it installed without oiling yourself or the garage floor. Now take a look at the oil bottle you used to pre-oil the filter, in most cases it is half full (or empty depending on your outlook on life). To me this is 12-20 ounces of oil the pump doesn’t have to move to the filter, less time the engine is spinning without oil, and it gives you something to do while you are waiting for the oil to drain.

A few additional Dos and Don’ts that should be specifically adhered to for the proper care and feeding of turbo-equipped engines:
  • Don’t shut the engine down immediately after driving the car hard.

  • Do idle the engine or “take it easy” driving for a minute or two after getting into the turbo prior to shutting the engine down.  This prevents “coking” of oil on the turbo bearings.

  • Don't gun the engine just prior to turning the key off.  Gunning the engine has two deleterious affects on the engine.  One, the turbo is spun up and left spinning with no oil to the bearings.  Two, extra fuel coats the cylinder walls washing the oil off leaving dry/bare cylinder walls for the next restart.

  • Do take special care to prevent dirt/objects inadvertently dropped down the turbo compressor discharged opening while/when the intercooler is removed. The same goes for the front side of the compressor if the VAM hose is removed/opened.

  • Don’t run a turbo equipped engine without an air filter.  Self-explanatory…

  • When installing a water injection system:
Don’t install the water injector prior to the turbo.
Do install it after the intercooler fins and prior to the throttle body.
87_T-Bird.T.C likes this post

Rob H Offline
Senior Member
I have NOT been doing this but I want to make sure I do from here on out.
This makes so much sense but I really didn't know. For some of us less mechanically inclined, is there any way this thread could be updated?
Kind of a "For Dummies" thing, like this
Step 1: Disconnect the coil to distributor cap wire lead(with picture)
Step 2: Crank the engine for 10-15 seconds
This next step is one I think I get but not sure...
Step 3: Repeat step 2??
Step 4: Reconnect the coil to distributor cap wire lead

I think I SHOULD be able to figure out that step 1, but a picture would probably be helpful. Also clarification of step 3. Is that step necessary because you don't want to run the starter too long? If so, should there be an additional step where you wait a short time or something?

Saw this in a recent post since I asked about this:

"Prime engine/turbo after every oil change. If you hold gas pedal dead on the floor while cranking, the engine will not start as long as the gas pedal is matted to the floor. Doing it this way, the system thinks you are trying to clear a "flooded" condition, hence it won't start until your foots off the gas pedal. "

Does this advice super cede the instruction I was asking about? That would be great, don't even have to get out of the car! Smile

Stumpnav Offline
Junior Member
I have never owned a turbo before, but I am longing to get a TC. How in the world can I learn about the dos and don'ts of a turbo?

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