Intercooler Install

Now we don’t want to be feeding our engine some really hot air do we? One of the most effective mods that can be done to a turbocharger setup is the addition of an intercooler. There are two types of intercoolers, air-air and air-water. Air-air intercoolers rely on the ambient air to decrease the temperature of the pressurized air from the turbo, much like how your radiator cools the engine coolant. On the other hand, an air-water intercooler uses water to cool the intake air. A simple air-water intercooler could be an air-air intercooler with a jacket welded over the fins. What happens is a high-flow pump pumps water over the fins of the intercooler, thus cooling the air, then moves the water out to an external radiator, which then cools the water and it gets pumped back into the intercooler. An air-water setup isn’t hard to make if you can weld aluminum, but I can’t, so I went with an air-air setup. Some of the advantages of an air-air intercooler is that it requires much less maintenance than the air-water setup because you don’t have to worry about coolant leaks out of the system or into the intake pipe, or pump or coolant line failures. My setup consists of an aluminum Saab 900 intercooler, some aluminum piping that came with my Volvo turbo kit, some piping that came with the Saab intercooler, and 2 2” mandrel U bends from JC Whitney. My Miata has both power steering and air conditioning, so running the intercooler piping ain’t gonna be easy, and the pipe lengths are going to be fairly long. I ended up going with an under-the-radiator piping setup as it seemed to be the most effective with my conditions with the least amount of bends. The couplers you see are 2” ID flexible exhaust hose from my local boating supply store. At about 5$/ft, and each foot makes 3-4 couplers, this is a steal, and much better than those fancy, expensive silicone couplers. I’m not sure what the exact material is, but it’s mildly flexible and reinforced with a twine mesh, so there should be any problems with these not withstanding the heat and elements. Being a huge fan of the DIY nature, I came across this article in the tech section of the website on making your own fiberglass reinforced silicone couplers. All of the credit goes to their forum member wret for this idea. I decided to try it out and make the reducer couplers on my own since they are expensive and would take about a week to order and get in the mail. The throttle body inlet is 2.5” while the intercooler piping is 2”, so I needed a custom coupler there. The Mass Airflow Meter is 2.75” and needed to mate up with my 2” piping, so I also need a custom coupler there. I also needed a sharp 90 degree elbow coupler coming off of the 2.25” intercooler inlet so that the pipes didn’t hang too low. All in all, these couplers were not too hard to make, they don’t look necessarily all that pretty, but beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and these things work great!

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