Does that whiny noise mean my engine is dying...or just the turbo charger?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 01, 1992

Dear Tom and Ray:

My engine sounds like a siren when I accelerate. It disappears after a short time, but happens each time I start and stop. I have a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron with a turbo engine. When I took it to the dealer to check it, the service person told me there was nothing they could do except replace the engine. Would you comment on this?

TOM: Well, Elizabeth, two things are clear to me. One, this dealer is making large boat payments. And two, you have been chosen to be this month's principal contributor.

RAY: That whining sound is the classic symptom of a failing turbo. But rather than just replace the turbo, this guy wants to put in a whole engine.

TOM: The best thing to do is put in a factory rebuilt turbo, which your Chrysler dealer should be able to install for less than $700. And unless there's some additional engine damage we're unaware of, that ought to fix the problem.

RAY: And I would do it, Elizabeth. At some point in the near future, the turbo is going to go up in a cloud of smoke and leave you stranded. Then you'll be out $700 PLUS the towing charges. And it might even do some engine damage when it blows.

TOM: But more importantly, fixing it will do wonders for your nerves. Or maybe you enjoy getting that rush of adrenaline you get every time you hear that "siren" and search your rear view mirror frantically for the flashing red lights?

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