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Your Intercooler (Turbo Intercooler) worn out? » Read more about common malfunctions • Repair • Replacement manual
Increase performance with an intercooler
The intercooler is a component that is particularly common in supercharged engines. It serves to cool the air that flows into the cylinder head. Cooler air is denser, wherefore more oxygen atoms are contained per cubic centimeter. This increases the engine's combustion efficiency.
Design and function of an intercooler
The intercooler reduces the specific energy in the air that flows into the cylinder head. The more oxygen reaches the combustion chamber, the more of the injected fuel mist can burn. This reduces the emission of pollutants, reduces fuel consumption and increases performance. Although there are also experiments involving use of intercooling in non-charged cars, typically intercoolers are only used on vehicles with superchargers, which compress the intake air. G-loaders, electrically powered superchargers or turbochargers are used for this. The purpose of compressed air is the same as that of cooled air: More oxygen per cubic centimeter improves the combustion in the engine. All types of chargers have in common, that the compressed air becomes very hot. Temperatures can reach up to 140 °C. This is puts a great strain on the intake tract's plastic and rubber parts, which can lead to a reduction of their durability. An intercooler reduces the compressed and heated intake air by up to 50 °C. This can increase engine performance by up to 30% without any increase in fuel consumption. Nowadays, intercooling is particularly important for the reduction of pollutants.
The intercooler can be cooled with air or water. Air-cooled intercoolers are technologically simpler and less susceptible to problems. They employ simple cooling fins. Air-cooled intecoolers are less powerful than water-cooled designs. Water-cooled intercooling is technically compatible with a normal heat exchanger. They are based on the same principle as the vehicle radiator or the interior heating. The heat from the compressed air is led through a large metal surface, through which it passes into the flowed in cooling water. The water is permanently lead away and cooled down.
An intercooler can begin to leak, both on the air side, as well as the coolant side. Reasons for this are obsolescence or mechanical damage. Corrosion can also occur, but is relatively rare. Intercoolers are made of aluminum. This makes them largely resistant to rusting. An intercooler with a defect at the air side is detectable due to so-called "leak air". Compressed air will leak out of the intercooler and no longer be available to the combustion chamber. Typically, the control unit will register this defect and display an error message. It may also cause a hissing sound. A fogger, such as a cigarette or some incense, can assist in locating an air leak.
If the intercooler's defect exists at the coolant side, it will be leaking water. If it leaks, it is visible as a mist or spray. If leakage occurs in the direction of the charge air side, water enters the combustion chamber and emerges from the exhaust in the form of white vapor. A defective intercooler is generally determined through a significant decrease in performance.
Yet, a loss of oil at the intercooler does not indicate that the device is defective. A slight loss of oil is relatively normal. This comes from the turbocharger. The charger's inner shaft is permanently lubricated, thus the high load of this component can always result in a minor film of oil. However, if the oil leaks in the form of a trickle, something is wrong with the car's oil supply. In the best-case scenario, too much oil was filled in. In the worst case, the piston rings are broken. Repairing an intercooler with quality parts The intercooler itself cannot be repaired. It can only be replaced with a new part. Its installation is very simple, for it is easily accessible. The intercooler is connected to the air system with two hose clamps, and to the cooling water system with two nozzles. Once these are loosened, the intercooler can be removed. Despite their technical complexity, intercoolers are relatively inexpensive. Depending on the vehicle, these components may be available for as low as 80 euro. ATEX is a well-known brand manufacturer of high-quality intercooler.