When you drive a vehicle, having a bit of knowledge about the components can go a long way towards helping you choose auto parts and knowing what to do in an emergency. In this article, we are looking at the function of intercoolers and the role they play in a vehicle.
An intercooler will cool the air taken in by the engines. This is a mechanical device. You can find an intercooler kit in an online auto parts store. These intercoolers are used on engines that have a forced induction system. The supercharger or the turbocharger will compress the air and afterwards, the air will be cooled down by the intercooler before entering the engine of the vehicle.
When the turbocharger compresses the air, density of air is increased. When the amount of air that is entering the cylinder increases, the engine is able to burn fuel more efficiently and gives more power to the vehicle. But the compression of air is a process that creates a lot of heat and if this compressed air is directly routed to the engine, hot air will be entering it. And hot air is significantly less dense than cooler air. So when hot air enters the engine, the amount of oxygen in the cylinders will be reduced and this will have an impact on the performance of the vehicle.
An intercooler is used to cool the air that is compressed so that the engine receives more oxygen leading to effective combustion in the cylinders. This also contributes to the reliability of the engine. There are different types of intercoolers as well that vary in the way they function. There are air-to-air intercoolers and air-to-water intercoolers. The compressed air is directed through small tubes and cooling fins in air-to-air intercoolers. The heat from the hot air is transferred to the cooling fins that are kept cool by the flow of air from outside of the vehicle when it is moving.
The air-to-air intercoolers are quite simple in their function and they are also low cost. Because of these reasons, they are mostly used in turbocharged vehicles. You have to place the intercooler where there is a better airflow so most of the time these are found at the front of the vehicle behind the grille. If the engine layout doesn’t allow for this placement, the intercooler will need to be placed on top of the engine.
In air-to-water intercoolers, water is used to cool the temperature of compressed air. Cool water pumping through the unit is able to absorb the heat from the heated air. The water will then heat up which is then pumped through a cooling circuit or a radiator. This type of intercooler is more compact and small in size when compared to air-to-air intercoolers.
They are best recommended for engines where space is limited and it is able to absorb a temperature at a wider range because water is able to conduct heat better. But these units tend to be more complex and therefore come at an increased cost. The weight of the unit is also more than the air-to-air intercoolers.