Factors To Consider When Selecting an Intercooler

Factors To Consider When Selecting an Intercooler

Selecting the right intercooler is paramount when it comes to enhancing the performance of a turbocharged engine. An intercooler’s main function is to cool the compressed air that the turbocharger heats up during the forced induction process, thereby increasing the air's density and allowing the engine to produce more power.

If you're an automotive enthusiast or professional mechanic looking to optimize turbocharger performance, review several critical factors to consider when choosing the ideal intercooler.

Core Material and Design

Intercooler cores are made of different materials, but they are mainly comprised of aluminum and copper. Aluminum intercoolers are popular due to their lighter weight and excellent thermal properties, but copper cores offer superior heat absorption despite being heavier. The design, either air-to-air or air-to-liquid, should align with your performance needs.

Air-to-air intercooler cores are suitable for most street applications and some racing scenarios. In contrast, air-to-liquid systems offer better cooling in compact spaces, which is why they are often used in high-output engines.

Intercooler Size

The size of the intercooler should be proportionate to the type and size of the turbocharger, and the power output of your engine. A correctly matched intercooler maximizes cooling efficiency without adding unnecessary turbo lag. An oversized intercooler can cause excessive lag, while an undersized one may not cool sufficiently, negating performance gains.

Location and Mounting

The location of the turbo in the engine bay can dictate the mounting position of the intercooler. You want to ensure it gets the highest possible airflow with the least restrictive path. Front-mount intercoolers are common, but in some cases, a top-mount or even a side-mount may be necessary due to space constraints. Keep in mind that the chosen position should avoid a significant pressure drop.

Pressure Drop

Speaking of pressure drop, it’s a performance pitfall to avoid. When selecting an intercooler, you want to avoid choosing one that creates a high-pressure drop that can reduce the efficiency of the turbo, hindering its ability to produce the desired pressure. When selecting intercooler cores, prioritize low-pressure drop options.

Inlet and Outlet Size

A perfect fit is essential for maintaining optimal airflow without any restrictions. Choosing an intercooler with incorrect sizing can lead to significant airflow bottlenecks, resulting in diminished efficiency and a noticeable decrease in your engine's performance. To avoid these issues, always verify the compatibility of the intercooler's dimensions with your engine's requirements, ensuring seamless integration and optimal functionality.

When upgrading your turbocharged system, remember that the intercooler works in tandem with other components. Selecting the right intercooler will keep temperatures down, improve engine efficiency, increase horsepower, and give you that edge on performance you’re seeking. For more information, browse our selection of intercooler cores and contact our team to help you find the best fit.