How Does a Water to Air Intercooler Works?
An intercooler is an intake air cooling device which is commonly used in turbocharged and supercharged engines.
The basic purpose of an intercooler is to remove heat from the compressed air coming from the supercharger before it enters into the engine’s induction system.
The working mechanism of an intercooler is similar to a radiator; the air is cooled inside the intercooler that is cooler than the compressed air coming from the supercharger.
A water to air intercooler makes use of exchange of heat between water and air.
Water is pumped through the intercooler so that the heat from the charge pipes is transferred to the water.
As this type of intercooler needs water flow, it requires a water pump, reservoir, and a heat exchanger.
Water is used as the heat transfer agent in the water to air intercoolers.
Water is pumped through the intercooler which extracts the heat from the compressed air as it passes through.
The heated water is then further pumped into another cooling circuit and the cool compressed air is allowed to go to the engine.
Water to air intercoolers are smaller than the regular air to air intercoolers and are ideal for installation when space, airflow, and intake length are important considerations.
As water is better suited to handle heat transfers, these intercoolers are more efficient than the air to air intercoolers in handling a wide range of temperatures.
How to Size an Air to Water Intercooler?
Choosing an ideal size of air to water intercooler depends on a variety of factors.
Water to air intercoolers is designed to push water flow across the cooling core and the cooler air to the other side into the engine.
You should take care to select a size which will offer efficient cooling and should also provide you the amount of CFM needed by you.
Smaller sized water to air intercooler will pull too little heat from the charged air coming out of supercharger.
It is also likely to lead to flow restrictions if you try to flow more CFM than the intercooler can handle.
The heat exchanger keeps the water as cool as possible.
The larger the heat exchanger, the more energy it can extract from the water before pumping it into the intercooler.
A larger heat exchanger also helps to avoid heat soak.
A larger heat exchanger allows you a larger capacity of heat that can be extracted.
The air to water intercooler pump plays an important role in ensuring the flow of the good volume of water flowing through the intercooler.
If the pump is unable to flow sufficient volume of water, then the water could be getting heat soaked and taking too much heat before being cycled out.
The air to water intercooler lines should not be undersized.
You should ensure to have sufficiently sized intercooler lines for allowing a flow of the volume of water which is required to efficiently feed the intercooler and the heat exchanger the amount of water it needs.
How Much is a Water to Air Intercooler?
The Water to air intercooler is more technically advanced and complex than an air to air intercooler.
It provides better engine cooling and performance.
Due to this, it is a little costlier than the air to air intercooler.
These intercoolers generally are available from $149 and the more refined ones can go up to $1000 or more depending upon their specifications.
You should check the intercooler model which best suits your needs and will provide the best cooling before deciding to buy it.
What is Water to Air Intercooler Ice Box?
Icebox reservoirs are ideal for drag racing along with a water to air intercooler.
It can be attached to the existing water to air cooler and ice can be added to it.
It allows you to get intake temperatures which are much below the ambient air, thereby providing a drastic enhancement in power to you.
Another added advantage of using an ice box is that as the water system is separate from the air system, it can be mounted anywhere in the vehicle including the trunk, passenger floor, back seat, etc.
without making any compromises to the performance of your engine.
Generally, the icebox comes with four ports on the front for high versatility.
It is ideal to use the top ports for the water return line and the bottom ports for the feed line.
The middle port can be left as it is plugged- or it can be used for an in-tank pump or sensor.
To achieve maximum efficiency, it is highly recommended to wrap the ice box, feed line, intercooler, and the upper intercooler piping with a thermal wrap.
Water wetter can be added each time when the ice is replaced.
Oversize and water-tight filler makes it easier for you to dump ice faster.
How to Install Water to Air Intercooler?
The installation process for different types of water to air intercoolers may vary according to the brand and types.
However, a generic installation process for a water to air intercooler starts with selecting the best spot for it to be installed.
Generally, to ensure lowest intake volume, the best spot for installing water to air cooler will be right on the top of the engine in the same spot as the factory turbo intercooler.
You can use reducing couplers on the inlet and outlet to ensure a smooth and much lower volume air path.
You may also need some bent pieces of aluminum bar stock to hold the IC in place and mount to the engine.
The heat exchanger which is an important part of water to air cooler needs to be fitted in front of the car before the radiator and oil cooler so that it will get the coolest air.
This is followed by installing a good quality air to water intercooler pump.
The pump is important to install as it allows a sufficient amount of water to flow through your water to air intercooler.
In the absence of an adequate amount of water flowing through the intercooler, the water can get heat soaked and take excessive heat before being cycled out.
You must then install the air to water intercooler lines, which must be sufficiently sized to allow the flowing of sufficient water to feed the intercooler and heat exchanger with the amount of water it needs.
Why Use Water to Air Intercooler?
Water to air intercoolers helps to reduce the pressure drop.
Pressure drop on a standard water to air intercooler is only about 0.05 PSI.
These intercoolers are designed in a manner to ensure pressure drops which are at least 20 times less compared to the regular air to air intercoolers.
Water to air intercoolers provides you flexible and efficient options for improved engine cooling.
The core can be mounted in the engine bay, and the radiator can be mounted in the trunk, under the car, etc.
In some intercoolers, a radiator is not even needed.
As the water to air intercooler can be mounted directly in the engine bay between the turbo outlet and the throttle body, it provides better throttle response, compared to an air to air intercooler.
Water to air intercoolers circulates water through the core even when the engine is not working meaning there is minimal or no heat soak.
These intercoolers provide another advantage of adding ice, which can drop your temperatures below ambient.
This provides excellent engine cooling and is highly recommended for drag racing.
Overall, water to air intercooler is more refined and provides better engine cooling and minimizes any engine problems.
Which is Better: Air to Air Intercooler or Water to Air Intercooler?
An air to air intercooler uses airflow to cool the air.
These intercoolers are efficient and require no energy to function.
Since it uses no fluids, it is not prone to any type of leakages.
Air to air intercoolers are easy to install and they do not suffer from any kind of heat soak as long as the airflow is good.
However, installing air to air intercooler needs space for mounting which is a limiting factor.
It cannot be mounted anywhere and needs to be mounted in a location to see airflow.
Water to air intercoolers are more complex than air to air intercoolers and make use of water for cooling the airflow to the engine.
The air and coolant do not make direct contact in water to air intercooler as they are directed through different passages.
These intercoolers are more efficient and can be mounted directly in the engine bay, thereby saving space.
They provide the use of icebox which can provide excellent performance during drag racing which is not possible in an air to air intercooler.
Water to air intercoolers provides much better engine cooling and performance compared to the air to air intercoolers.
They allow water flow even when the car is not moving and this provides better engine cooling and reduces any chances of engine-related problems.
However, they are more complex and lead to more technical problems going ahead.
It can also become heat soaked when driving for long hours.
Choosing the ideal type of intercooler depends on your usage and preferences.
For most vehicles, air to air intercooler is sufficiently efficient to handle street and track performance.
If you have the space for mounting the air to air intercooler and do not need short spells of energy for racing, then it is a recommended option for you.
However, if you are into racing and need sudden power boosts, and also lack the space for mounting the air to air intercooler, then water to air intercooler is ideal for you.
Where to Buy Water to Air Intercooler?
Buying water to air intercooler is costly and you should take time to research your options before buying it.
You can buy the intercooler online or offline from a reputed dealer.
Buying from shady dealers can lead you into trouble as they can provide you with cheap rip off intercoolers which can further damage your vehicle instead of improving its performance.
You should check the credentials and expertise of the dealer before purchasing from them.
You should also check if they are providing you after-sales service, technical support, customer service, type and nature of warranty, etc.
before finalizing the dealer from where to purchase.
You should prefer dealers and manufacturers who are customer-centric and are willing to invest time and money in developing the best quality intercoolers for you.
After-sales service plays an important role and should not be ignored before purchasing water to air intercooler.
You should also consider the technology being used in the intercooler before buying it.
Ideally, the technology should be future-proof and should not become obsolete for at least a few years in the near term.
It is recommended not to be influenced too much by the dealers as they may recommend you to buy a bigger size intercooler that what you may actually need.
It is important to note that bigger is not always better as is made out by most dealers, rather it is recommended to buy an intercooler which provides you the best cooling with minimal pressure drop.
How to Maintain Water to Air Intercooler?
Water to air intercoolers requires good maintenance to work efficiently.
These intercoolers should be checked frequently for any problems to ensure they remain in good working condition.
They should be cleaned regularly for best results.
It is recommended to thoroughly read your user manual before cleaning the intercooler.
You should start by taking the bumper off and pulling the intercooler piping off the intercooler for removing it.
You should then unfasten and remove the intercooler.
Check for debris and remove any oil and debris from it.
You should put the intercooler is a large tub or tray and spray degreaser over it.
After some time, hold the intercooler and allow the residue to drip.
This should be followed by dipping the intercooler in kerosene for a few minutes and then pouring out the residue.
You should let the intercooler dry for a few hours before replacing it back.