Removing Carbon from Diesel Engines

Have you recently had a failure in your turbocharger? You're not alone! 

We get a lot of turbocharger cores coming through, so we've seen a lot of different causes of failure. One that we see often is carbon buildup. This can cause major problems, and not just for your turbocharger. Carbon buildup can cause issues throughout your diesel engine, but often causes your turbo to fail.

Curious about carbon buildup in your turbocharger? We also go into this in our video:



Think you've got carbon buildup in your turbocharger? Our ASE Certified Technicians are here to help you out!

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How Does Carbon Buildup Affect My Diesel Engine Turbo?

When we get a turbo core in, diagnosing the failure is always one thing we do. Every week we'll tear all the turbos down and understand any failure point on them. We'll evaluate why they failed, so that we can learn going forward in our rebuilding process. 


turbocharger carbon buildup failed turbo with carbon | Highway & Heavy Parts


What we'll typically find is that the inside of the turbocharger has a heavy caking, if you will, of carbon built up inside of it. (You can see the buildup in the image above.)This prevents the proper movement of the turbocharger components.

For example, a nozzle ring that needs to move 12mm back and forth, which is a precise movement needed to keep the oxygen ratio and the back pressures inside an engine running properly, is restricted by carbon. 


turbocharger carbon buildup turbine closeup | Highway & Heavy Parts


The carbon is coming from the engine, usually because the diesel engine isn't running properly. But usually we find that it causes the turbocharger to fail. 

So the turbo fails, you replace the turbo, and you're back up and running again. You've fixed the problem and you're good to go, right? 

Not necessarily. 

The carbon buildup problem is still there. If your turbocharger failure is caused by carbon buildup, it should be an alert for you. You need to address the larger issue, otherwise you'll likely face a failed turbocharger again in the future. Like any failure, it's very important to find the root cause, otherwise you're wasting money on repairs you'll have to do again. And who wants that?

Read our blog, Common Diesel Engine Problems, for other issues that can pop up in your engine.  


What About Anti-Polish Rings?

While not a part of your turbocharger, anti-polish rings are a newer development that can help stop carbon buildup.

We go through some of the details below, but if you want a more in depth look, check out our article, Anti-Polish Rings (APR) Explained.

The main purpose of APRs is to remove carbon buildup from the piston. The ring protrudes from the interior wall of the piston slightly, meaning it will contact the topland of the piston. No space is allowed between the piston and the ring. The ring scrapes any carbon that builds up on the piston before it becomes a problem.

Even more than just removing carbon, though, APRs also help prevent liner polishing  caused by carbon buildup. Carbon can polish the liner, meaning that it wears down the bore surface finish needed for optimal performance. (This function is where the ring gets its name!)

This polishing can cause other, more serious issues in your engine, including increased oil consumption, DPF regeneration, increased oil filter flow, problems with your VGT actuators, and clogged oil filters. 


Overall, carbon buildup inside the turbocharger is our enemy and that's what we're trying to prevent!


Think your turbocharger has fallen victim to carbon buildup? Our ASE Certified Techs can help you out! Call us at 844-304-7688, or you can always request a quote online!