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Part of a vehicle's turbocharger system, a wastegate releases built up exhaust gases once it receives a signal from the actuator. Depending on the vehicle, the wastegate may be internal or external. Regardless of the location, the wastegate must open and close in order to perform properly. Sometimes it can become stuck in the open or closed position, in which case it fails. Fortunately, a wastegate provides various signs that it is failing, giving owners the opportunity to fix their vehicle before experiencing serious issues.

The wastegate is open
A spring in the actuator canister ensures that the wastegate stays closed. When the wastegate needs to release pressure, the actuator opens it. Once an adequate amount of pressure is released the wastegate closes, staying shut until it needs to release pressure again. Sometimes, the wastegate sticks open, either fully or partially. Other times, the system forces the wastegate open at low pressures, making it close to impossible for the boost to build up. Both cases lead to various issues that vehicle owners need to address quickly.

Low boost
Since a wastegate regulates the maximum boost, the boost suffers when the wastegate remains open. When the wastegate remains open for longer than it should, the exhaust gases bypass the turbine wheel. The gases then exit through the exhaust, resulting in no boost pressure and drastically reducing the engine's power. An engine that lacks power offers a poor performance, so owners likely notice an issue as soon as he or she attempts to accelerate.

Poor fuel economy
Manufacturers build turbocharged vehicles in a way that makes them powerful and fuel efficient. Owners may notice a reduced fuel economy when the wastegate on their vehicle is stuck in the open position. When the turbocharger system does not function properly, it cannot provide the fuel economy benefits people expect with turbocharged systems.

When engines burn too much fuel, vehicles can emit black smoke. The more excess fuel the engine burns, the more black smoke the vehicle emits. Drivers who notice an excessive amount of black smoke should check the wastegate to see if it is open. If it is, the driver needs to determine why. In some cases, owners can manually manipulate a wastegate to close. In other cases, they must be cleaned in order to close properly. If neither of these options works, the wastegate or actuator may need to be replaced altogether.

The wastegate is stuck closed
In some cases, the wastegate becomes stuck in the closed position. The actuator cannot open the wastegate, even when the exhaust builds up. When this happens various issues can occur, and failing to address these issues can hurt a vehicle's performance. Damage and costly repairs to a vehicle can also occur.

Excessive boost
Failing to release exhaust gases after the turbocharger reaches maximum pressure leads to an excessive boost. The system now has too much boost and no way to release it, leading to back pressure in the engine. The longer a vehicle owner waits to address the issue, the more serious the damage can become. Vehicle owners may even have to replace their entire engine if the problem is not addressed in due time.

Engine overheating
When there is back pressure in the engine, it often overheats. This can cause the engine to detonate and damage the pistons, rings, and rod bearings, and additional damage could happen to the head gasket, radiator, and overhead. These are just some examples of issues that can occur when the engine overheats, which is why it is so important for vehicle owners to fix the problem immediately.

Turbo overspeed
With the wastegate stuck in the closed position, the turbo runs outside of the limits set by the manufacturer and leads to turbo overspeed. Turbo overspeed causes various issues, including damage to the turbine, compressor wheels, or bearings. When owners fail to fix the problem quickly, it has the potential to cause complete engine failure. At that point, owners typically have no choice but to replace the engine.
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