Intercooler: How does it work, and what is its purpose?
An intercooler is a heat exchanger that is used in turbocharged engines to cool the compressed air before it enters the engine's combustion chamber
In this article, we'll shed some light on how an air intercooler works, its benefits, and how they help achieve better engine efficiency, increased power, and better fuel economy.
Table of Contents
- What is an intercooler?
- Types of Intercoolers
- Intercooler and most common location
- Benefits of Intercoolers
What is an intercooler?
An intercooler is used in turbocharged engines to cool the compressed air before entering the combustion chamber. The turbocharger compresses the air drawn into the engine, increasing its density and supplying more oxygen to the combustion process. However, this process creates heat, which reduces air density and can lead to reduced performance.
An intercooler helps to mitigate these issues by cooling the compressed air and increasing its density, allowing more oxygen to be delivered to the engine's combustion process. This leads to increased engine efficiency, improved power output, and reduced engine knock, resulting in better performance.
Types of Intercoolers
There are two main types of intercoolers: air-to-air and air-to-water. Air-to-air intercoolers use ambient air to cool the compressed air, while air-to-water intercoolers use a liquid coolant to absorb and dissipate heat.
Air-to-air intercoolers are more common in automotive applications due to their simplicity and lower cost. However, air-to-water intercoolers offer more efficient cooling and are better suited for high-performance applications.
Schematic of a two-stage compressor with intercooler
Intercooler and most common location
The intercooler can have different dimensions and is placed in the engine compartment to have the largest possible air supply. Therefore, the intercooler is most effective when the car moves at the highest possible speed.
Front Mounted Intercooler - located in the front, behind the front bumper
Side Mounted Intercooler - located on the side, in the area of the fender, bumper
Top Mounted Intercooler - it is located on top of the engine, and there is an intake hole on the hood (see cover photo)
Benefits of Intercoolers
Intercoolers offer several benefits to turbocharged engines, including:
Increased engine efficiency: By cooling the compressed air, intercoolers increase density and allow more oxygen to be delivered to the combustion process. This leads to improved engine efficiency and better fuel economy.
Increased power output: Intercoolers reduce engine knock and allow higher boost pressures, resulting in increased power output and improved performance.
Reduced engine wear: By reducing engine knock, intercoolers help to reduce engine wear and increase engine longevity.
Improved reliability: Intercoolers help to reduce the likelihood of engine failure due to high temperatures and other factors.
An intercooler is essential to any turbocharged engine that offers increased engine efficiency, higher performance, and increased reliability. However, since the intercooler is sensitive, it is susceptible to mechanical damage.
This device loses effectiveness if dirt is on its surface, has cracks and holes, or the turbo leaks engine oil into the intake tract. A damaged or dirty intercooler leads to reduced performance and higher fuel consumption.