Guides to Understanding Air To Air Intercoolers

Intercooler is one of the indispensable components of turbo-charged vehicles which works to reduce air temperature inside the car engine. The installation ensures a cool and safe engine- hence a great drive. The article here is a brief guide explaining the air to air intercoolers.

Let’s start with the function of intercoolers. Well, there has been much debate regarding how the intercooler works. As per one particular group, an intercooler works like heat sink which absorbs thermal energy derived from incoming air and prevents the unwanted heat from getting to the engine. Another group describes intercooler as radiator where flow of air over the very engine part extracts heat from inlet air-charge.


The fun part is that both the points are correct. Air passing through intercooler doesn’t spend much time inside & slowing that down for better thermal exchange would prevent the air from getting to engine- limitation on power. As air spends fewer spans in intercooler, the engine part comes with multi passages, fins and internal ribs to optimize surface-area contact in between intercooler aluminum & compressed air-molecules. The overall intercooler volume & the overall internal surface area acts akin to heat sink absorbing heat energy from compressed air. Thus, it’s always said that bigger the intercooler, more powerful and functional it is. Besides, more intricate and complex are the internal intercooler passages, more heat would be extracted.

Now, when the vehicle starts out, its intercooler stays cold and gets warmed up with the 1st power run when warm compressed air passes through the system. As the hot air starts running in, heat gets transferred to heat sink leaving out cooler air for your engine. Thus, the intercooler is already heated up post the 1st power run & if there is another power run immediately, your intercooler won’t be able to absorb much heat as it’s heated up beforehand. It’s where the description of intercooler as a radiator fits in. The heat which was passed on from air to intercooler core, should be passed away by cross-flowing the air in air-to-air intercooler.