Intercooler vs Radiator – Are they any different?

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Just like any other machinery, your vehicle’s engine produces immense heat and friction during its long-haul hours of functioning. This leads to a decrease in efficiency and effectiveness, rendering your engine non-optimized. 

This issue led to the need for a cooling mechanic for the engine that would allow it to function smoothly. However, this need gave rise to a long-running debate between motor enthusiasts that goes on till this day – intercoolers vs radiators. Both products perform similar functions of cooling the engine and reducing the heat produced by friction. Yet they also have several stark differences that set them apart from each other.

This article explores the two most commonly used methods of cooling vehicle engines, and whether they are any different than each other or not.

What is a Radiator

A radiator is a device that possesses the ability to exchange heat or thermal energy between two mediums. In cars, this amounts to the radiator absorbing the heat produced by the engine and transferring it to another medium.

To truly understand what a radiator does, it is essential to understand the proper functioning of one. Radiators generally contain a heat absorbing fluid within them which is propagated to the engine through several pipes called radiator hoses. Through these pipes, the fluid absorbs the heat and the engine experiences reduced temperature.

Since the fluid is heated up pretty fast, it must be replaced continuously. This is done by draining out the heated liquid and replacing it with a new, cooler liquid. 

Picture of a car radiator

What is an intercooler?

Similar to a radiator, an intercooler is a device that regulates the temperature of the engine. However, intercoolers are more often used in supercharged, turbocharged, and high-intensity engines. 

However, its working is completely different than that of a radiator. Compressed air is continuously circulated to the engine to allow it to breathe. This compressed air is cooled and its density is increased. This allows it to absorb the heat from the engine and in turn cool it down.

Intercoolers further have two types.

Air-to-Air – These intercoolers use air to reduce the temperature of compressed air. This is similar to the functioning of radiators, the only difference being air used instead of liquids.

Water-to-Air – These intercoolers use cool water to reduce the temperature of the compressed air. This aligns more with radiators as this type accompanies the use of fluids.


The Bottom Line

Both devices perform the same function of cooling the engine through circulating either air or fluids. The functioning of both devices is fairly similar as well. A vehicle can have either one installed, and it will have no effect on the overall working of your vehicle. However, it all boils down to your car’s needs. If your car has a turbocharged or supercharged engine, having an intercooler can be more beneficial as they provide quicker airflow and heat reduction. On the other hand, radiators are perfect for normal vehicles that are used for everyday uses. 

Get your own intercooler today from Turborevs and take your car’s performance to the next level.

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