Let's talk about the intercoolers [getting rid of that heat at high pressure]

in #stemng5 years ago (edited)

Hello @everyone,

Well, this is not discord so the bot wouldn’t have to eat me or would not actually tag everyone on steemit and if it does, I am extremely sorry. I hope you have been doing well just as I have?

Last week was not so good in Nigeria despite having the most beautiful jersey in the upcoming world cup in Russia, we were defeated by England due to our shitty football. I hope we do not crash out too early in the world cup.
But who knows it might be a tactic just like my dad said, no one wants to get injured before going to the world cup and our coach would not like to ruin his element of surprise by revealing his tactics in a friendly game.

Did I just say tactics?

This is something few people around the world understand and as little as it is, it might be what defines a winner from a looser, it defines what kind of football we see for ninety minutes, it separates winners from losers but it is so little that it stays behind in the dressing room and in the heads of footballers and their respective coaches.

But do you know as a tactic is registered in a player’s head so is the function of a device registered in it? For instance, you can’t have your washing machine do your dishes, it would end up breaking all your dish even though its primary function is to clean but clothes only.

So also, in your vehicle, there are so many numerous devices or components that make the car to function properly and do its job of taking you to your destination even though you can neither see some or know the job they perform to make the car work well. I once read about an invisible part of a vehicle by @rharphelle called the differential you could read about it here. Just recently @temitayo-pelumi made a post on the starting or cranking of a vehicle to achieve self-sustainability. You can find that here.

But today I would be talking about an invisible part you cannot see but does a great job in the car. For some time, I have been talking about the turbo, super and twin charged engines and if you have read them closely talked about a device which the air passes through before returning back to the cylinder. But if you have not read the posts here is the link to the turbo and super charger article and to the twin charged article. I called this device the intercooler.

The intercoolers

Have you ever been in an old vehicle without air conditioning but a fan (I mean those old model vehicles before they started having air conditioners in them)? During hot weather when you are cruising the streets of Lagos with the glass wound up and your fan on. What do you notice?

As for me, I find it hard to breathe in such conditions but I feel more comfortable with the glass wound down, I actually did not know why then till now. The reason is that there is limited oxygen present in the hot air and the ambient air is much better because It feels cooler than the air your vehicle is supplying. I guess this is why vehicles with such fan were out of the market fast.

You may be wondering why the analogy and what it has to do with intercoolers. Well, this is much simple and easy considering the fact that you use air inside your cylinder to combust oxygen and we all know that oxygen very well supports combustion. Therefore, of what importance would it be trying to get air in the cylinder when it has limited oxygen present in it. Of course, it would burn but not as efficiently as it should be, therefore one wouldn’t have used the air tapped by the supercharger and turbocharger well enough and this would lead to wastage of power.

This is why we have the intercoolers, just like the name sounds inter and coolers. Inter probably because they are located between the chargers (super and turbo) and the intake manifold of the cylinder and coolers because that’s what the do, they cool the air that is being trapped or absorbed by the turbine of the chargers. So, they can efficiently be used by the engine cylinders for combustion.

The intercoolers are basically devices that allow the engine to get or derive the best type of air needed for combustion by cooling the air from the chargers before sending them to the intake manifold of engine cylinders. Some intercoolers are just like your liebig condensers used in high school chemistry practical’s while others are simply like your motorbikes with no fan but are cool with the air around just to bring down the air temperature.

Therefore, it is not wrong to say that the intercoolers are heat exchangers because they take away the heat from the body of the air that passes through it almost immediately.

Intercoolers types and working mechanism

The intercoolers are basically of two types which take away heat from the compressed and hot air coming from either a turbocharger or an air conditioner depending on where they are used. If you read earlier I made mention of the lie big condenser this type of intercoolers are referred to as air-to-water intercoolers and another is purely the air-to-air intercoolers.

The air-to-air intercoolers

The air to air intercoolers is called this because of the type of heat exchange or heat reduction they are. They make use of air that is much colder than the compressed air to cool. The air to air intercoolers is placed in a place where there is enough air to blow across and cool the temperature of the compressed air.

Let us take for instance the case of a car where the turbocharger sends in the compressed air which is always hot into the intercooler through the means of a pipe in the intercooler the compressed air will lose some pressure which will allow some of the heat to be lost to the environment in the process.

This process can be likened to how the water in your radiator cools down if you have opened your car engine the radiator has a special fan dedicated to it which helps to cool the water that has circulated around your engine.
This is exactly what happens except for the fact that the compressed hot air is only traveling from your turbo or supercharger before it goes through the intercooler. A very good example of this type of intercooler is the bar and plate design type of intercooler. This intercooler type is usually lightweight with a simple design of low cost. Most of this type of intercoolers are found in the front of the vehicle which means the compressed air has to travel a lot of distance leading to pressure loss in the air.

The air-to-water intercooler type

The air to water type just like the air to air type intercooler name is gotten from the name of the compound to be cooled (air) and that which takes away the heat from the air (water) so it loses temperature from air to water and this is how they are named.

Unlike the air to air intercoolers, the air to water intercoolers could be located anywhere as long as the water nozzle reaches it and circulates all over. In most cases in a car, the radiator supplies the water needed by the intercooler and it has a minipump which returns the water back to the radiator.

The air to water intercoolers operate just like the lie big condenser but instead of water passing through like the case of the lie big condenser its air that passes in the middle while the water at the sides is being exchanged from the radiator.
I am therefore free to say that in the case of an air-to-water intercooler it is just like having two radiators in your system. They are much preferred to the air-to-air intercooler since the cooling fluid can be changed and they do a more effective job as water is a better conductor of heat. The pressure loss of this system can be reduced since the intercooler doesn’t necessarily have to be in the front of your vehicle as compared to the air-to-air type.

What does this mean?

An intercooler is usually applied in several engineering fields that have to do with air compression and reduction in temperature since the denser or colder the air, the more oxygen that is in the air.
Without intercoolers in one’s vehicle, for instance, a lot could go wrong apart from the fact that fuel wastage or incomplete combustion to detonation in the engine cylinder. If you don’t know what detonation means it simply means knocking which leads to damage to engine parts.

So, your fuels cetane or octane number is not only the cause of engine knock but a bad or a damaged intercooler is another reason or place for you to check when diagnosing engine knock.


The intercoolers are great heat exchangers applied in vehicles to bring down the temperatures of the compressed air from the turbo and superchargers so they can be efficiently used by the cylinder for maximum power output.
The intercoolers are of two different types which are air and water cooled with the air cooled by a fan or the ambient air. While the water-cooled simply use the air from the radiator to cool down the compressed air.

Without intercoolers, there would be severe engine knocks and a waste of energy in form of power. As little as this device is compared to your vehicle you could hate that saloon car in your garage. I hope you have been able to get something from this article.

Let us listen to your thoughts in the comment.


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Another classic piece.
I loved that introduction!!!!

I have sewn cars whose fan is not working...
What is their fate? Seeing that radiator is still working

Thanks @lawkay

If your car fan isn't working then its in a disaster and a very big problem. Because the ambient air would not be enough to bring down your temperature engine apart from overheating of the engine...the intercoolers would not be efficient.

I didn't know about intercoolers until now. But, they are sure life savers.

Nice way to explain such a complex topic.

you really cant see he intercoolers till you have stripped certain parts of your engine down.
thanks for reading.

Intercoolers are one of those silent workers that find application in several useful places, and as usual, you hardly leave anything to your reader's imagination. Keep on keeping on, kudos.

yes they are ....and thanks for your kind words. your presence here is great.

Intercooler are a must have in most air compressing unit. In fact, there are cases where we have aftercoolers if the compression takes place in stages... Nicely written.

Awesome..This is classic..It's nice seeing someone doing more appraisal to a field I enjoy writing about..Heat exchangers are real saviors in our machines

Nice rundown...

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