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Engine Turbocharger Wastegate Testing

Pelican Technical Article:

Engine Turbocharger Wastegate Testing

Nick Czerula


5 hours5 hrs






Oxygen sensor socket, universal-joint adapter, flathead screwdriver, socket set (hex, Torx and external Torx)

Applicable Models:

R56 MINI Cooper JCW Hatchback (2009-13)
R56 MINI Cooper S Hatchback (2007-13)

Parts Required:

Turbochargers, fasteners, seals, o-ring, bolt kits

Hot Tip:

Work with a cool exhaust

Performance Gain:

Remedy fault codes and maintain proper running engine

Complementary Modification:

Replace exhaust

Starting with the 2007 R56 MINI Cooper S models, MINI introduced the turbocharged engine. This 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine produces more power (an extra 40 hp) and torque (an extra 80 lb-ft) than the equivalent 1.6 liter normally-aspirated engine. The key to the additional torque and power is turbochargers closely mounted to the exhaust manifolds. As the exhaust is forced out of the cylinders, it powers a turbine which turns a compressor, essentially a high efficiency fan, blowing air forcibly into the intake system. The additional, denser, air increases combustion efficiency and power as needed. This is an efficient way to achieve higher power output from an engine without increasing engine displacement.

Turbochargers spin at speeds of up to 10,000 rpm (or more) and require a very efficient oiling system. Eventually, with wear and tear, a turbocharger may be damaged and lose efficiency.

A faulty turbocharger may cause smoking or produce boost fault codes. I would suggest having your diagnosis confirmed by a professional as this is a difficult and costly repair. A few trouble areas are the wastegate and wastegate vacuum actuator. Check for excessive play at the wastegate lever. Remove the vacuum hose from the wastegate vacuum actuator and apply hand pumped vacuum, does the waste close fully and return open smoothly? If not it is faulty. If you have recirculation valve faults, check for moisture built up behind the valve. Remove the three 4 mm Allen bolts and inspect the actuator diaphragm and seal, replace if necessary. This tech article will show you how to test and confirm if these items are faulty on your turbocharger.

Keep in mind that when your car was serviced before, parts may have been replaced with different size fasteners used in the replacement. The sizes of the nuts and bolts we give may be different from what you have, so be prepared with different size sockets and wrenches.

Protect your eyes, hands and body from fluids, dust and debris while working on your vehicle. If working with the electrical system, disconnect the battery before beginning. Always catch fluids in appropriate containers and properly dispose of any fluid waste. Recycle parts, packaging and fluids when possible. Do not work on your vehicle if you feel the task is beyond your ability.

Vehicle models change and evolve as they grow older, so the vehicle shown in our illustrations may vary slightly from yours. If something seems different, let us know and share your info to help other users. Questions or want to add to the article? Leave a comment below. When leaving a comment, please include your vehicle information.

Start by draining the cooling system and engine oil.

Place the radiator support in service mode. See our tech article on radiator support service mode.

Remove the engine cooling fan. See our tech article on engine cooling fan replacing.

Remove the catalytic converter. See our tech article on catalytic converter replacing.

Read through the procedure before beginning. Be prepared to replace all the bolts, clamps and seals you remove from the engine. Work slowly and take notes. Double check everything as you go. There is not much room for error here. Bag and label the parts and gaskets you remove, note the order of removal to aid when reinstalling. I would suggest grabbing a repair manual as it will have all the torque specs and special tool numbers. The repair manual will also have the factory procedure which varies from the one here.

The turbocharger is mounted to the front of the engine (red arrow) covered by a heat shield.
Figure 1

The turbocharger is mounted to the front of the engine (red arrow) covered by a heat shield. If removing the turbocharger for any reason, I suggest replacing the oil feed and return lines. The oil feed line has a rotating banjo fitting sealed with an O-ring, it always leaks when reinstalled. Do not reuse it.

The MINI R56 turbocharger can produce excessive intake air pressure; the turbocharger system is equipped with a wastegate to release the excess pressure.
Figure 2

The MINI R56 turbocharger can produce excessive intake air pressure; the turbocharger system is equipped with a wastegate to release the excess pressure. This valve is controlled by the DME based on intake manifold pressure. The intake manifold pressure signal is generated by the manifold absolute pressure (MAP) sensor. A change in the desired turbocharger pressure is interpreted by the DME as a turbocharger or waste gate fault and the MIL (malfunction indicator light, Check Engine light) is turned on. The wastegate shaft can wear over time, creating a situation where the wastgate doesn't fully close, not sealing the wastegate outlet port. To check operation of the wastegate, first remove the catalytic converter, see our tech article catalytic converter replacing. Then monitor the wastegate while operating the vacuum actuator with a vacuum hand pump. The most common fault code associated with this failure is MINI FC (fault code) 2884. Working at the turbocharger wastegate, pull the vacuum hose (red arrow) straight off. Connect your vacuum hand pump to the actuator nipple. You will apply 15" of vacuum when testing. This is the amount of vacuum needed to fully seat the wastegate flap.

This photos shows a normal wastegate, fully open (red arrow) with no vacuum applied to the vacuum actuator.
Figure 3

This photos shows a normal wastegate, fully open (red arrow) with no vacuum applied to the vacuum actuator.

This photos shows a faulty wastegate with 15 of vacuum applied to the vacuum actuator.
Figure 4

This photos shows a faulty wastegate with 15" of vacuum applied to the vacuum actuator. Note how the wastegate flap is not fully seated, allowing air to bypass the wastegate flap, in turn lowering boost pressure (red arrow).

When applying vacuum to the actuator (red arrow), monitor the wastegate shaft and lever (blue arrow), it should move smooth without any notchy or binding actions.
Figure 5

When applying vacuum to the actuator (red arrow), monitor the wastegate shaft and lever (blue arrow), it should move smooth without any notchy or binding actions.

The turbocharger recirculation valve (red arrow) is mounted to the turbocharger.
Figure 6

The turbocharger recirculation valve (red arrow) is mounted to the turbocharger. The recirculation valve is used to prevent unwanted pressure build up when the throttle plate is closed. Also providing faster turbocharger response, preventing turbolag. The valve can fail mechanically, setting fault codes. Remove the valve to inspect the diaphragm for tears or swelling. 

In colder climates the valve can freeze from condensation build up.
Figure 7

In colder climates the valve can freeze from condensation build up. Note the puddle in my subject vehicle (red arrow). This is condensation build up from the crankcase breather system. This can be repaired by simply removing the valve and drying out the turbocharger housing.

Comments and Suggestions:
dethbrd Comments: good question is what is the adjustment spec on wastegate actuator travel. there are nuts on the rod to adjust it, so what is the proper procedure to do that? it is very possible for the wastegate to be worn to the point that it does not close as in your pictures. to check it without taking half the car apart all you would need is a proper travel spec for the rod or arm. you could also look into the o2 sensor hole with an inspection camera and check to ensure the door closes with said 15" of vacuum applied to actuator. i am chasing this low boost and reduced power mode problem on my car. i just found my wastegate to be well out of adjustment. pulling and holding 15" of vac on act. did not close my wastegate. i looked all over the internet for hours to try to find a spec to adjust this to. i found a youtube video by JMTC turbo shop that says the travel on the wastegate arm should be between 1/2"-5/16ths". i set mine at 1/2" and test drove the car. i went from 12psi to 16psi. i adjusted it to 3/8ths" and put the heatshields back on. im leaving it there for now until i get some better info. i know it closes now when it gets 15" of vac but its loose as hell, rattles when the car is running, and its obvious it needs repair. you certtainly can get the parts to fix this issue. mambatek turbo sells the housing with wastegate as does jmtc. they are on ebay as well. they are less than 200 bucks i think. all though you can get the parts, i would not recommend tearing into your turbo to just anyone. i believe turbos are assembled in a clean room at the manufacturer. at least they were back in the day when i went to school for this crap. i would tear mine down in my garage and fix it without hesitation, but i spent over 25 years as an ASE and MECP certified GM tech.
December 8, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: MINI does not publish a spec, so I have none to share. If it is not returning, it is likely staying open and faulty.- Nick at Pelican Parts  
Indy Comments: Hi how is the wastegate shaft preloaded?
October 5, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: The vacuum actuator has an internal spring. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
M Della Comments: I have a turbo that is still spinning correctly and creating pressure however the wastegate has issues its not operating as it should. At this point is the only option to replace or refurbish the entire turbo assembly? Current dealer estimates for this replacement are around $4500 and local shop estimates hover around $3500. But this is only the turbo, doesn't address may other issues that should be looked at if we actually pull the engine apart that much. This kind of cost turns my JCW into a very expensive paperweight. I can still drive as the wastegate is in the open position to all excess drops out, but there is obviously no pressure buildup without the wastegate closing completely. EXTREMELY obvious when I take the vehicle over 6000ft elevation... At 8000ft, can barely get up to 30mph :-
September 17, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I do not know of replacement parts for the turbo assembly. As far as I know, it has to be replaced as a unit. Give The Pelican Parts parts specialists a call at 1-888-280-7799. They can figure out what part or repair kit you need.
- Nick at Pelican Parts
Mad at MINI Comments: 1 can the 2885 fault code be caused/ is it commonly caused by the recirc valve condensation issue, or does that throu a different fault?

2 if there is a waste gate issue play in linkage or bad actuator can either of those be repaired without replacing the whole turbo?

3 thank you so much for these tech articles!!!
August 18, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: 1. Yes, usually the valve.

2. No parts available as far as I know.

3. Thanks!! - Nick at Pelican Parts
Reddog Comments: I have the dreaded code 2885 boost deviation fault. It is easily duplicated after clearing the fault. In 3rd gear at 4000 rpm code will come back and go into limp mode. I have replaced the turbo I had very loose exhaust housing wastegate problem, checked vacuum source to wastegate diaphragm, bypass valve, decarboned valves, checked valve timing,smoked intake,pressure tested intake all with no results. I tested back pressure in exhaust at front o2 sensor it measured 3.5 psi at 3500 rpm in 3rd gear. What am I missing? 2885 is the only fault I have. Could I have a failing pressure sensor? Software problem? It is 2009 jcw thanks. Any help greatly appreciated
June 18, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: back-pressure is too high. Should be 0.5 psi or less. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Willie Comments: Would a faulty turbo or waste gate keep the car from starting?
June 16, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: no. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Jeff Comments: How does the waste gate shaft actually move? Back and forth? It is hard to see the actual linkage by the blue arrow. Mounting a turbo wrap and want to make sure that it does not foul movement of the linkage.
June 2, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: It moves on a plunger actuated by vacuum. - Nick at Pelican Parts  
Chadder Comments: I am experiencing similar problems to a previous thread MCS od JCW, code 2C57. I've replaced the diverter valve to no avail. The thread does not come to a conclusion. I've applied vacuum to my wastegate and it functions smoothly. Is my next move to check the wastegate? Is there anything aftermarket to cure this? 2012 N18 with 85K.
February 12, 2017
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: I have seen faulty turbocharger cause that fault if the diverter is OK. - Casey at Pelican Parts  
NB Cooper Comments: This is a good article with great pictures. Perhaps it could be improved by explaining how the waste gate valve reopens as there isn't a return spring to hold the valve in the open position. Vacuum closes the valve when commanded by the DME and exhaust pressure opens the valve when vacuum is removed. This is just so when people are testing the movement of the valve, they understand that the valve needs to be manually opened after vacuum is bled off. Just a thought.
Nice work and thanks for the ongoing support to the Mini community.
November 23, 2016
  Followup from the Pelican Staff: There is a spring in the vacuum diaphram. Thanks for the feedback.- Nick at Pelican Parts  

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Page last updated: Wed 2/21/2018 03:24:16 AM