The internal combustion engine found in today’s cars is basically the world’s most mass produced heat pump. It converts what are basically the remains of dinosaurs into heat through the process of combustion. The combustion is used to force the pistons in the motor downward creating a torqueing motion on the crankshaft. This motion is converted by the transmission into usable power at the wheels of the car. A car equipped with a turbocharger or usually referred to as turbos for short uses an external device that is considered a power adder. A turbo is basically an air pump that forces more air into the cylinders of a vehicle.
When a turbo begins to build “boost” which is the slang term for the pressure that the turbo build in the engine a large amount of heat is created. This heat can be damaging to a motor is not removed from the system and it robs horsepower from the motor as well. The more heat the air carries the more space the air will need to occupy. The device used to cool the air that is compressed by the turbo is referred to as the intercooler, this unit is basically a radiator that cools air.
The basic idea of the intercooler is that compressed hot air is spread out across a larger area than the pipes in the intake system. Once spread across this larger area the air will deposit its heat on the surface of the intercooler where it is released into the air. To add to the cooling ability fins are placed on the channels where the air travels, these fins allow the heat to be transferred more efficiently out of the system.
Once the air has been super cooled it is returned to the normal pipe size and it continues to the motor. The cooler air also needs less space which means that even more air can be forced into the cylinders of the vehicle. The more air, the more fuel that can be added to the cylinder and a more powerful combustion stroke can be achieved. A more powerful explosion in the cylinder means more power to the crank shaft and thus more horsepower at the wheels of the car.
For more information on intercoolers check out our Repair Intercooler page in our How To section, CLICK HERE