Cleaning the intercooler: all the steps

What is the purpose of the intercooler?

The intercooler supplies your engine with cold, compressed air from the turbocharger. Cooling the charge air is particularly important with tuned cars: for your engine’s performance and service life. Because extreme performance boosts result in extreme heat. Through the compression in the turbocharger, the fresh air becomes so hot so that it would be too great of a strain on the engine without the intercooler. Hot air also has a lower density and contains less oxygen than cold air. Without cooling, the engine thus receives too little oxygen and cannot burn enough fuel. But that is precisely the reason for your turbocharger: more oxygen for the engine. If that doesn’t work, you feel it through the plummeting performance and power. And certainly no one wants that.

Why should the intercooler be cleaned?

With time, the intercooler’s flow rate may drop, causing it to lose cooling power. This occurs for one thing just due to heavy soiling (e.g. if you drive through mud). Oil and gases containing oil from the turbo can also be deposited in intercooler. Through the crankcase ventilation and other measures to protect the environment, oily turbo air is also normal. These impurities accumulate, however, until in the worst case, hardly any air passes through and no cooling can occur anymore. If your intercooler gets that dirty, you should urgently clean it or even replace it. Otherwise, you not only risk having your engine overheat. You will also have less fun driving, because the performance will suffer. And what is more frustrating than losing performance with your tuned-up car?

How can you clean the intercooler?

In order to clean the intercooler, you have to remove it. How this works, varies from car to car, of course. For this reason, we only provide rough instructions for removal. Remember during the subsequent cleaning that the intercooler must always be 100 % dry before you install it again. First, you have to expose the intercooler. To do so, the front has to be removed, which means taking off the bumper.

You need these tools:

  • Socket spanner set (box of socket sets) with Torx bits and extension
  • Jack (not an absolute must, but simplifies things)
  • Stool or similar for putting down parts

The individual steps for cleaning the intercooler:

  1. Loosen the bolts of the radiator grille and yank out the grill frontwards with great force.
  2. Unscrew the bolts of the bumper (next to the headlamps), then remove engine cover (using a car jack is the convenient option), and remove the bolts in the wheel arches. Now disconnect the hose and cables. Then you can take off the bumper (it is usually clipped on, so carefully tilt it before pulling it off).
  3. Remove the bumper mount and pull out the plug for the headlamps.
  4. Disconnect the two-part Bowden cable for the bonnet (often a small box above the headlamp).
  5. Remove all bolts and lugs for the front fairing and remove them along with the headlamps. (The intercooler may be suspended from lugs on the carrier. So it’s best to find someone to help you with the removal process.)
  6. Now put something under the cooler, release the clamps and remove the hoses to the intercooler.
  7. Unscrew the oil cooler from intercooler.
  8. Now tilt the intercool downwards and pull out towards the side.
  9. Now you can flush the intercooler with brake cleaner or acetone and shake it. Quite a bit will come out, so repeat the process a few times and take a break for few minutes in between.

10. Now let the intercools dry and air out thoroughly. Especially with flammable liquids, this is extremely important!

11. Once the intercooler is dry again, install it again in reverse order.

This process will take a few hours if you carry it out in your home garage. If you don’t have any experience tinkering with cars yourself, you’d best leave the task to professionals.

Clean or replace the intercooler?

If you are satisfied with your intercooler and ‘only’ are experiencing little drops in performance, it is probably sufficient to clean the intercooler. If you really want to tune up your ride, it is more worth it to replace the intercooler. In our shop, you will find intercools with a ton of power for top performance and power. Take a look at the intercooler section!

Got questions about cleaning your intercooler?

We would be happy to help if you have questions about the topic. Alternatively, we can also install one of our upgrade intercoolers in your car. Just make an appointment with us. You will find our contact form here.

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