intercooler vs radiator

Intercooler vs Radiator – All You Need To Know

I have seen where drivers do argue about the Radiator vs intercooler. Most drivers can’t spot the difference between the two. And they can’t even clear how each of them operates. While exerting what they know usually refers to the duties performed by the intercooler as the radiator and that of the radiator as the intercooler.

These two systems have seen a lot of debate and we are happy to be here today to teach you the differences between an intercooler and a radiator. Sit tight, let’s take the ride together.

How Does Radiator Work?

The radiator is in charge of pushing the coolant through its metal fins. In which it transfers heat from your car engine to the outside. If your car came with a fan, the fan is there to propel the heat generated by your car through the radiator.

Engines are known to generate a lot of heat because of their steady use. And there is the propeller of the car and starts everything that must work on the car. so, to prevent your car engine from overheating or knocking, the car coolant system will propel coolant to the veins running through the engine to cool the engine.

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While taking out the heat through the car’s radiator. So, the radiator works in line and sends the air into the coolant. This is just an exchange between the heat and atmosphere.

The radiator is the core performer in the heat transfer process. It regulates the pressure, core, inlet tanks, cap, and outlet as well. Most recent vehicles now come equipped with aluminum or copper radiators.

There are tubes fixed on the inlets and outlet tanks by which the coolant travels. The tubes have tabulators that increase the flow of the coolant in the tubes and make sure it reaches all parts of the engine.

Also, the heat these tubes can push out is dependent on the amount of coolant traveling in the tubes. So, when the coolant pressure is reduced, less heat is taken out from the tubes.

How Does Intercooler Work?

An intercooler on the other side is charged to reduce the temperature of the air that enters the intercooler turbo engines through its forced induction. And this is usually done with a supercharger system or by the turbocharger.

The primary work of the intercooler is to make sure that the hot air temperature in your car is reduced. And this is after it has been compressed by your supercharger before it is transferred to the engine by a propeller.

The turbocharger compresses the air flowing into your car’s engine and makes sure it is solid in nature before getting into the engine cylinders. The compression of the air helps the engine to burn fuel and increase its machine power.

The functioning of the intercooler helps in the rapid emission of heat. And increases the air temperature that gets into the engine. The more the air temperature is increased becomes less compressed and reduces the cylinder’s oxygen content. All these are what goes on for the effective performance of your car’s engine.

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The intercooler regulates the above processes discussed and cools the compressed air thereby providing enough oxygen to your car’s engine. This helps to increase the combustion process in your engine cylinders. Also, this improves your car fuel mileage ratio since it reduces the compressed air temperature.

Type of Intercooler

There are two types of intercoolers which are air-to-air and air-to-water intercoolers.

Air-To-Air Intercooler

The air-to-air intercooler propels the air compressed through the tubes wired and the cooling fins. In this case, the heat generated by the compressed air is propelled to the cooling fins which then send them to the atmosphere. And the fins are also regulated to maintain their cool by utilizing the outside breeze from your moving vehicle.

As the compressed air flows through the intercooler, it’s then transferred to the engine manifold and dumped into the engine cylinders. For turbocharged cars, the air-to-air intercooler is ideal for their smooth operation.

Air-To-Water Intercooler

The air-to-water intercooler makes use of water to cool the compressed air in the cylinder. The water stored in your vehicle is used to cool the air and reduce the heat range as it passes through its unit. In the process of cooling the air, the water also will rise in temperature and will be redirected through the radiator before returning to the intercooler.

Air-to-water intercoolers are smaller in size when compared to air-to-air. So, it’s ideal for a car engine that does not have much space to accommodate an air-to-air intercooler.

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Radiator vs. Intercooler Differences

So far, we have been exposed to know that the radiator and intercooler are there to exchange and regulate heat in the engine. And ensures the engine is receiving enough coolant for proper functioning. But their operation differs, and these are what make each of them unique.



The coolant or water is cooled by the radiator.

The intercooler cools down the hot compressed air.

Engine radiators are water-toair.

Intercoolers are air-to-air or air-to-water.

The radiator pushes the heat generated by the coolant to moderate the engine temperature for optimum performance.

The intercooler transfers the heat out from the post-turbo air to make the intake air into the combustion chamber become denser and colder.

The radiator is specifically made to reduce the coolant temperature that flows through the engine.

Intercoolers are not meant to cool the turbo. It only cools the air compressed through the turbo before flowing into the engine.

The radiator can be found in most car engines.

Intercoolers are best for turbo engines only and will also need the support of the radiator. That means turbo engines are radiator intercooler combo machines.

Radiators can function independently without the support of the intercooler in the engine bay.

Any fast-traveling vehicle will also need the radiator installed.

These are the differences or how to differentiate a radiator from an intercooler.

Final Thoughts

When fixing your intercooler, it’s advisable to place it in front of the radiator. The intercooler performs through an air-to-air medium. And it’s less effective since it must need the support of the radiator. Whereas, the radiator performs through air-to-water and does not need the help of the intercooler to perform.

With that said, when hot air is transferred from the intercooler. It won’t reduce the heat of the engine but will affect the performing rate of the intercooler in reverse.

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