The Ecotec 1.4L turbo engine was developed by GM for their compact cars. You will find it in the Chevy Cruze, Chevy Sonic as well as the Buick Encore.
We are going to look at just how reliable this engine is. The purpose of a turbo is to give a smaller engine more power by compressing and recycling exhaust air into the engine. This pumps in more air into the combustion chamber creating a more powerful explosion resulting in the engine kicking out more power.
That’s a simplified account of how a turbo engine works. In theory, you get a smaller engine with fewer moving parts and low fuel consumption and you give it added muscle and greater power output. This system looks good from a theoretical perspective but in practice, there can be some issues with the system. Let’s talk about these issues.
General Turbo Engine Reliability
Turbo engines work great when everything in the system is functioning as it should. Oftentimes, when one part of the system malfunctions, you can end up losing the power supplied by the turbo system. This can be something as small as a pin in the wastegate.
In essence, turbo engines can be a bit unforgiving in that they require things to be in good working order for you to get the intended effect. Turbo engines can also suffer from not having the advertised fuel economy.
When air is forced by a turbo into the combustion chamber, it raised the temperature significantly which can potentially lead to 2 explosions in the same piston. The first explosion happens when fuel is injected into the chamber.
Because the temperature is already hot, it ignites as soon as it gets in then again at full compression by the spark plugs. To correct this, the system decreases the fuel to air ratio by pumping in more fuel. It fixes the issue but then you lose fuel economy. This phenomenon happens when driving at high speeds with the system at full throttle.
Are Ecotec 1.4L Engines Reliable?
First-generation Ecotec turbo engines had the same challenge like the one described above. When driven at normal speeds, the system was able to maintain fuel economy while giving out added power. When continuously driven at top speeds, however, there was a possibility of suffering the knock effect as described above.
Second-generation engines fixed this problem and are known to be one of the most reliable turbo engines on the market. They have been known to go as much as 287,000km without a problem. This, however, is dependent on the oil used in the engine.
Synthetic oils have been known to give out the best results. Problems often arose when run on organic oil. The recommended oil change cycle that gave the best performance was after every 5,000 miles. When followed, this routine gave the best performance on Ecotec engines.
Different Engine Configurations
Up until around 2017, the 1.4L Ecotec turbo engine was manufactured in the US and Korea. After 2017, it was now the US and Mexico. The question has often been asked about whether the 2 engines had the same reliability since they were manufactured in 2 different countries.
Well, there weren’t many distinct differences that stood out between the two engines and that seems truer today because of the proximity of Mexico and the US. In other words, the components all come from the same location. The current engines have a better-built aluminum construction that solved issues in the first generation engines such as oil leaks over and above the ones already mentioned.
The newer generation also comes in 2 variations. The first has standard engine operation while the second has a stop/start capability allowing giving it better fuel economy. The latter has had some issues as well so it would be prudent to stay away from this particular engine for now.
Conclusion on the Reliability of the Ecotec 1.4L Turbo Engine
If you are looking to buy a car with the 1.4L Ecotec turbo engine, go for one that is a 2016 model onwards and choose the one without the start/stop function. 2016 was the year that the 2 nd gen Ecotec 1.4L turbo was introduced.
It changed the cast metal engine block for an aluminum one eliminating the oil leakage issues and also solved a host of other problems that existed in the first generation. If you are a heavy driver and pile on the miles, you may also consider getting the diesel option which is better suited to that.
Robert Anderson is a world class motorhead who rebuilt his first carb at age 10, his first engine at age 15, and completed his first full hotrod build when he was just 18! Previously, he has ran a part warehouse, delivered pizzas, and managed the service department for a $20 million/year revenue dealership. Robert knows cars like few others and he is passionate about sharing his knowledge.