What Are Charge Coolers And How Do They Work?

A charge air cooler, also known as an intercooler, acts as the middleman between the engine and the turbo. It is situated in front of the vehicle's radiator to absorb the hot, compressed air from the turbo and cool it down before it reaches the engine. This accelerates the engine's power and efficiency. Therefore, the main idea is to produce optimum energy from the combustion process within the machine.

Depending on the engine, charge air coolers differ in size. Typically, the smallest in length are attached to automobiles and are commonly referred to as intercoolers. In contrast, the largest ones weigh several tons and are used for huge marine diesel engines or in power plants. 

Damaged or leaking charge air coolers can lead to power loss, increased fuel consumption, increased emissions, and escalated exhaust temperatures leading to distressing engine damage. 

What are the features of a charge air cooler?

Following are some of the top-known features of a charge air cooler:


Apart from enhancing the engine performance, the charge air coolers offer various other benefits. The lower air temperature reduces the capacity to knock. "Knocking" refers to the uncontrolled combustion or spontaneous ignition of fuel in power engines. 

Value retention

The decreased level of combustion temperature ensures that the transformer is subjected to lower thermal stress. The engine's service life increases along with the alleviated propensity to knock.  

Environment protection

The use of charge air coolers lowers the combustion temperature, reducing NOx emissions. Furthermore, the increased amount of oxygen in the combustion chamber leads to better engine efficiency.


At the same volume, cold air consists of more oxygen than warm air. Charge air coolers are either air or water-cooled. In water-cooled devices, the heat is discharged to a specific cooling circuit. However, the cooling effect of air-cooled charge coolers is increased by being sprinkled with water. 

How does a charge air cooler work?

Turbo’s and diesel engines work together like crackers and cheese. The science is straightforward: exerting more air pressure into your engine will equip the machine to create more power. However, the inefficiency is caused majorly by the following two scientific principles that work against each other:

  • Compression generates heat
  • Cool air is denser than the hot air

Therefore, the turbo's compressed air is piped to a cooler. Here, the hot air passes through several small tubes in the center of the charge air cooler that cools the air while maintaining the pressure. 

The charge air cooler reduces the temperature from 450 degrees to 40 degrees Fahrenheit above the ambient air temperature as it enters the intake manifold. This is necessary because hot air contains less oxygen and, therefore, negatively affects the engine's torque, power, and emissions.

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