Stay Cool: How Intercoolers Work And Why You Need One

Boosted horsepower and intercoolers go together like peanut butter and jelly — you need to have both in the right amounts to have a tasty treat. It’s important to have the correct intercooler for your application, so it’s good to know how one of these heat-fighters works. In this video, our friends at Haltech break down the science of intercoolers to explain how they cool air before it goes into your engine.

An engine is going to make the most horsepower when it’s feasting on the cold air that’s packed with plenty of oxygen. The atmosphere only has so much oxygen in it that can be used during the combustion process — that’s where forced induction comes into play. A turbocharger or supercharger helps to cram more oxygen into your engine, but that comes at a price, the air charge coming into the engine is now hotter thanks to your power-adder of choice.

This is where the intercooler comes into play, as its job is to act as a middle-man of sorts to cool down the air charge that’s coming from the turbocharger or supercharger. This is accomplished thanks to the radiator-like design of the intercooler. There are two styles of intercoolers: the first is the air-to-air that uses air flowing over the core of the intercooler to cool the boosted air that’s flowing through it before it reaches the engine. The second type is an air-to-water intercooler that functions more like a radiator, using chilled water to cool the boosted air before it flows into the engine.

This video from Haltech goes into great detail about how an intercooler works, and how you can tell if your intercooler is doing its job. It’s a video you need to watch if you’re new to forced induction or want to learn how to get the most out of your boosted engine.

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About the author

Brian Wagner

Spending his childhood at different race tracks around Ohio with his family’s 1967 Nova, Brian developed a true love for drag racing. When Brian is not writing, you can find him at the track as a crew chief, doing freelance photography, or beating on his nitrous-fed 2000 Trans Am.
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