What is an intercooler and why do you need one?

What is an intercooler and why do you need one?

If you've ever thought of modifying your car or cranking up its performance, then you've probably already thought of buying an intercooler.

What is an intercooler?

Just like many other types of machinery, vehicle engines produce an enormous amount of heat caused by the heavy combustion process that takes place in order for the engine to work. Radiators were created to prevent the engine from overheating. A radiator's purpose is to control the heat within the engine. 

However, with vehicle modifications on the rise, these devices were no longer efficient at keeping newer, more powerful engines cool. For this reason, intercoolers were invented. Intercoolers are a type of heat exchanger.

To put it simply, intercoolers take warm air entering your engine and make it colder through heat exchange. Intercoolers play an essential role as without cool air, the turbocharged engine would become overheated and inefficient.

Hot air passes from the engine through several tubes and fins, allowing for the surface area of the heat exchanger to be maximised. The air is compressed and cooled down while passing through these tubes, returning to the engine much cooler. This extra cooling will increase the density of the intake air, increasing the amount of oxygen for the same volume of air. More oxygen means more combustion, meaning more power. Reducing intake air temperature has a direct effect on power.

You can find universal intercoolers for your car, however, there are many disadvantages to a universal intercooler such as decreased airflow from leaks. This can have a negative impact on your engine, making temperatures higher than that of the stock intercooler.


  • Consistent Performance - An aftermarket intercooler will give you consistent performance again and again. The engine will be less 'tired' during higher-spirited driving, meaning performance will not be affected over time.
  • Safer Operating Temperatures - Especially on tuned cars, lower intake temperatures can make a huge difference in engine safety. A drop in air temperature results in a reduced exposure to detonation, and more or less eliminates the "power fade" experienced in back-to-back runs without intercooling. Reducing the risk of detonation means you can run a more aggressive tune and higher boost pressures.
  • Increased Engine Power - Technically, an intercooler doesn't give you more power in terms of BHP. It prevents your engine from heat soak for a longer period, giving your car maximum power for longer. An effective intercooler design can provide 5% to 10% more power than that of a heat soaked engine.
  • Aggressive Aesthetics - If you're into car modifications, you'll know an uprated intercooler when you see one. One of the first signs of a modified or tuned car is a bigger, upgraded intercooler visible through the front bumper, usually resulting in a more aggressive look.


Do you need an intercooler? - If you have a turbocharged or supercharged car and are seeking maximum performance, then the simple answer is - yes. If you don't have one of these cars then the answer is no as an intercooler wouldn't make much difference, if any on a naturally aspirated car.

The larger the intercooler, the longer it resists heat soak. So if you are looking for the maximum performance from your car you need to obtain the optimum size intercooler for your car.

In summary, getting a bigger intercooler will provide much better intake air cooling, increase power and provide safer engine operating.

If you require additional information about the best intercooler for your car, get in touch with us at MTC Motorsport. We have been providing our customers with top-quality, affordable intercoolers for years.