Different types of vehicle intercooler

When it comes to your vehicle, the intercooler is one of the most important components. This plays a crucial role in optimising the performance of the engine, and helping your car function more effectively. The intercooler will cool the compressed air before it enters the engine’s combustion chamber. But what are the different types of vehicle intercooler? And what are the differences between the two?

What are the two different types of vehicle intercooler?

 There are two different types of intercoolers, the air to air intercooler and the air to water intercooler. Each type of intercooler can bring benefits and advantages to your vehicle, contributing to the efficiency and performance of your car. 

What are air to air intercoolers?

Air to air intercoolers are the most common type of intercooler. These operate on the principle of transferring heat from the compressed intake air to the ambient air passing through the intercooler’s fins. This cooling process reduces the air temperature, increasing its density and oxygen content before entering the engine. This type of intercooler is usually mounted on the front of the vehicle, and uses a range of tubes or passages to allow the compressed air to flow efficiently. Each tube is surrounded by a series of fins that can aid in the transference of heat to the ambient air. 

What are the advantages of air to air coolers?

There are a number of advantages and benefits to air to air coolers, which include:

  • Simplicity- air to air intercoolers do not require additional components such as a separate coolant system, making them relatively simple in design and installation.
  • Lightweight- compared to air to water intercoolers, air to air coolers tend to be lighter, which can benefit overall vehicle weight distribution and handling.
  • Low maintenance- because they have fewer components, air to air intercoolers require less maintenance and are less prone to failure.

What are air to water intercoolers?

Air to water intercoolers are also known as liquid to air intercoolers. These use a different cooling system to the air to air system, by transferring heat from the compressed intake air to a liquid coolant. This liquid coolant then dissipates the heat through a separate heat exchanger, often referred to as a heat exchanger or radiator, before returning to the intercooler to repeat the cooling process.

An air to water intercooler has two main components, the intercooler core and the heat exchanger. The intercooler core is designed for the compressed air to flow through this, with tubes through which the coolant circulates to cool the compressed air. The heat exchanger is responsible for transferring heat from the coolant to the ambient air, usually located in the front of the vehicle similar to a traditional radiator.

What are the advantages of air to water intercoolers?

There are a number of advantages to air to water intercoolers, and these include:

  • Efficient cooling- air to water intercoolers can achieve more efficient cooling than air to air intercoolers due to the higher heat capacity of liquid coolant compared to air.
  • Consistent performance- By making use of a liquid coolant, air to water intercoolers can maintain more consistent intake air temperatures.
  • Flexibility- The separate heat exchanger allows for greater flexibility in placement and sizing, optimising cooling performance for different vehicle configurations.

Here at MRS Heat Transfer we are radiator, car heater, intercooler, and air conditioning experts, and we have the skills, knowledge and expertise to resolve any air conditioning, intercooler, or car heater problem. Why not get in touch today to find out more?