Ever Wondered how an intercooler operates

3년 전

I was travelling back home a week ago and unfortunately for me I had to board an old vehicle without air conditioning for the first time in a long time, the weather was quite hot on that day and at a certain point the dust on the road was so intense we had to close the windows in the car and the driver turned on the fan in the car. Immediately this happened I was so uncomfortable because I could barely breathe all through the period the windows were closed. But once we moved past the location of intense dust and the windows were wound down, I felt relieved and at that point for the first time I really appreciated an air conditioner

Why was I not comfortable? I was not comfortable because there was Limited oxygen present in the hot air the car was supplying, but once the windows were opened the car becomes very cool as a result of the ambient air which provided sufficient oxygen.

So have you ever taken the Time out to really appreciate how a vehicle really operates? You would agree with me that Several components work together to ensure the vehicle is able to operate effectively, although there are Some of these components that we don’t see but they are equally important.

I’m super excited to be giving you deeper insight into the operations of one of such vital parts of a vehicle known as the intercoolers.


Let’s break down the word intercooler to fully understand its meaning, the word “inter” Is as a result of its location between the intake manifold of the cylinder and the chargers which could either be Superchargers or turbochargers. The word “cooler” is as a result of their primary function which is to cool air which is absorbed by the charger’s turbine. Then the Engine cylinders would effectively utilize the air for combustion.

Basically an intercooler is a device that primarily ensures the engine receives the best quality of air required for combustion. It achieves this effectively by cooling the air that is derived from the chargers before eventually conveying it to the engine cylinder’s intake manifold. Some intercoolers are similar to a lie big condenser which chemistry students use for experiments while some are similar to motorbikes which have no fan. This type of intercoolers is cooled with the air around to effectively reduce the temperature of the air.

The denser the air, the more oxygen available in the air. So Intercoolers are very useful in engineering fields that involves reducing temperature and air compression. For instance, in vehicles intercoolers play a major role in facilitating the smooth running of a vehicle, without them the wastage of fuel would be inevitable as well as incomplete combustion and quite a lot of damages of parts of the engine would occur. Sometimes a damaged intercooler might cause an engine to knock.

So it’s not surprising that Intercoolers are referred to as heat exchangers by some folks since it immediately removes heat from air that moves through it. However, there are majorly 2 types of intercoolers that are effectively utilized by an air conditioner or a turbocharger to remove heat from the hot and compressed air they produce depending on their usage. We have the Air-to-Air intercoolers and the Air-to-Water intercoolers

Let’s take a look at how the two types of intercoolers operate

The Air-to-Air intercoolers

This intercooler derives its name from the heat exchange or heat reduction they utilize. As their name implies the compressed air is cooled down efficiently in this type of intercoolers by utilizing air that is colder. These type of intercoolers are not just positioned anywhere within the machine but rather they are appropriately positioned in a location where sufficient air is available to be effectively used to blow across the compressed air, this would ultimately cool down the temperature of the compressed air as the process continues.

Let’s take a look at a car to illustrate this further, when hot compressed air is sent from the turbocharger of a car through pipes to the intercooler, at this point as the process occurs the compressed air ultimately loses pressure and this leads to the loss of heat to the environment.

This process is quite similar to how cooling takes place in the radiator of a car as the water is cooled down, if you open the bonnet of a car you would notice a fan which is utilized primarily by the radiator to effectively cool down the temperature of the water which has moved round the engine. The major difference In this case of this type of intercooler is that the hot compressed air travels only from the turbo chargers or superchargers then goes through the intercoolers but aside this the process described is typically what takes place.

A typical example of air-to-air intercooler is a bar and plate design type of intercoolers, which is inexpensive as a result of its uncomplicated design and lightweight. Typically, in a vehicle air-to-air intercoolers are positioned right at the front, this facilitates the loss of pressure of air since the air would have to travel a longer distance.

The Air-to-water intercooler

Basically just as the name implies the compound to be cooled is the air, and what is utilized in this type of intercoolers to cool the air is water. This type of intercoolers can be positioned anywhere, the important thing is for the water nozzle to reach it and effectively circulate all over, this is one advantage it has over the air-to-air intercoolers which are restricted to certain locations.

Majorly the water required by the intercooler is supplied by the radiator and it utilizes a mini pump that is responsible for returning water back to the radiator. Typically, the operation of this type of intercooler is quite similar to the lie big condenser however the major difference is that unlike the lie big condenser where water passes through, in air-to-water intercoolers it is air that is passed through the middle and exchange of water from the radiator takes place on the side.

So basically an air-to-water intercooler is similar to a system utilizing two radiators, this makes them a better choice. Furthermore, another advantage of using air to water intercoolers is that water is a Good conductor of heat and the cooling fluid can be frequently changed to make it more effective and efficient. Since this type of intercoolers can be positioned anywhere within the system and are not restricted to the front of the vehicle, this would reduce the overall pressure loss of the vehicle.


Intercoolers are efficiently utilized by cars to effectively perform, they are used to reduce the temperature of compressed air which is produced by turbo chargers or superchargers, this would ultimately facilitate maximum power output since the cylinder would be working efficiently. The absence of intercoolers in a vehicle would lead to waste of energy as well as severe damage of engine parts and engine knocks. Intercoolers could either be air or water cooled, they both achieve the same goal but their operation is different.



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