Intercooler: All you need to know

The intercooler is increasingly present in cars powered by turbochargers as it helps to improve the vehicle performance and fuel consumption.

Discover in the following paragraphs, what it is, how it works, how you can clean it and much more!



The intercooler is essential to ensure the smooth operation of turbo vehicle.

It is being used more and more, thanks to the downsizing of modern vehicle engines.

At this point you may be asking yourself, “but what is the relationship between this component and smaller engines?”

The answer is simple: to reduce pollutant emissions into the atmosphere and maintain the same power output in a smaller engine, a turbo must be fitted to the vehicle’s engine. In doing so, you must also fit an intercooler.


What is an intercooler and what is it used for?

An intercooler cools the air used to power the turbo vehicle.

Its function is similar to the adiator. While a radiator cools the engine’s coolant, the intercooler cools the air that feeds the engine block.

The air entering the engine cylinders must be properly compressed  at a low temperature this is why the relationship between the turbo and the intercoler is so important.

The proper functioning of these two components provides a better performance .


Where is the intercooler located?

The intercoolers is usually located at the front of any vehicle, due to the greater amount of air available at that location.


What are the different types of intercoolers?

  •  Air-type intercooler

The air-type is the most common type on the market and is supplied with outside air to cool down the air inside the system.


  • Air/water intercooler

The air/water type is most commonly used in compact cars and uses water to cool the air .



How does works?

The air compressed by the turbo can reach temperatures of 700ºC. At these temperatures, air has little oxygen dur to its low density.

The greater the amount of oxygen present in the combustion, the more power the vehicle will generate.

Therefore, the intercooler cools the air to a temperature that benefits engine operation.


What materials are needed to clean?

To clean the intercooler you should first follow the recommendations in the user´s manual. You will then need the following materials:

  •  Water;
  •  Specific cleaning fluids

How should be cleaned?

  1. Use the right protection equipment (gloves, mask and goggles);
  2. Remove it by removing each corresponding screw;
  3. Pour the oil present inside the intercooler into a bucket;
  4. Place it in another bucket to be able to wash it with the respective cleaning products;
  5. Spray cleaning liquid, specific for the component in question, on the outside;
  6. Let the residues drip for 30 seconds to 1 minute;
  7. Rub with a wet cloth;
  8. Clean it in water and leave to dry for 2 hours.


How should the intercooler be cleaned from the inside?

  1. Spray the inside with cleaning fluid;
  2. Let the residues drain for a few minutes;
  3. Clean the interior with water to drain off the residues;
  4. Leave to dry for a few hours;
  5. Reassemble it with all the screws in the appropriate places.



What are the main indicators of intercooler problems?


  • Leaky hoses

Installation problems can lead to leaks in the intercooler pipes. These pipes and hoses secured with clamps  can come loose if incorrectly installed.


  • Impact damage

Being placed at the front of the vehicle, is susceptible to impact and damages by stones and road debris.


  • Oil contamination

If you’ve recently had any turbo problems, it’s likely that the intercooler has also been affected.

One problem is the oil accumulation from the turbocharger in the intercooler (thanks to leaks in the turbo), which prevents the air from cooling effectively.


What is the price?

An intercooler costs around 100 euros.

If you want to replace, we advise you to go to your trusted mechanic.

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