Do intercoolers increase horsepower?

Everything you need to know about how intercoolers affect horsepower

Does your car have a turbo or supercharger?

Then you’ve probably heard of intercoolers before, which can be found in many modern passenger, modified, performance and racing vehicles just to name a few. And – if you’re searching for the right option for your car, you’ve also probably encountered the age-old question. Do intercoolers increase horsepower?

Well, we’re here to tell you our take. There’s debate among the automotive industry on this topic but if your car has a turbo or supercharged engine, was recently tuned or needs high performance cooling then an intercooler is certainly a good option for optimal engine performance. Read on to find out how intercoolers and horsepower relate.

Natrad supplies a large range of off-the-shelf intercooler parts for a variety of vehicles. Looking for something a bit more special? Natrad has access to quality custom-made fabrication services.

Do intercoolers increase horsepower?

Before we delve into the relationship between intercoolers and horsepower, let’s find out what an intercooler does and how.

What does an intercooler do?

An intercooler is a form of heat exchanger, known as a cross-flow heat exchanger. This is where the cooling fluid (either, air, water or oil) is moving at ninety degrees to the warm fluid (air, water or oil). This process is very similar to that of a car radiator, where coolant is circulated through the tubes and air passes through the fins. For more on how an intercooler works, read on here.

How does an intercooler work?

These diagrams illustrate the function of an intercooler, as an air-to-air or liquid-to-air intercooler. The gist of these coolers is that the air enters the air intake, which is passed through to the turbo or supercharger.

The charger compresses the air which is then directed to the intercooler. It either enters the intake of the intercooler, or the air flows through the fins. The end result is the same, cool compressed air entering the combustion chamber.

Air-To-Water Intercooler
Air-to-water (image credit: Stillen engineering)

air-to-air intercooler

Air-to-air (image credit: Stillen engineering)

Yay or neigh to horsepower?

To put it bluntly, intercoolers do influence horsepower but they do not create it. Horsepower is a force created by load, which mathematically can be measured as torque multiplied by rpm.

The laws of thermodynamics dictate that the larger the temperature difference, the more energy is converted in combustion. More combustion means more power.

The temperature in this instance refers to the air entering the fuel/air mixture during combustion and the combustion itself. With this in mind – colder intake air in contrast to combustion in the chamber –results in a bigger temperature difference, and therefore, more power.

Adding the correct intercooler to your cooling system can help ensure you have maximum engine performance and avoid overheating.


For additional power, supercharged and turbocharged engines compress the air that enters through the air intake, which ensures that MORE air enters the combustion chamber. More air equals more combustion which = more power output.

Compressed air

The process of compression makes the air very hot. Hot air has reduced density and oxygen, which is not ideal for the combustion process. The role of the intercooler is to cool the air between the turbo/supercharger before it enters the combustion chamber for maximum energy output.

Tune in to your engine

Intercoolers are also commonly found in tuned engine applications. Tuned engines with superchargers or turbochargers are often house excess heat. Just why is that?

Well, a tune typically consists of adjusting the ECU of a car to yield optimum performance – often for the sake of power, economy or durability. With the production of more power, there is also the extra production of heat. Without efficient cooling methods (such as an upgraded radiator or intercooler), you can run into problems.

This is where a performance intercooler comes in, which helps absorb and remove that excess heat. This in turn allows the engine to produce more power.

Repairs, replacements and upgrades

Now that you know that intercoolers can help produce more power, you might be asking yourself what’s next. If you want to know how to choose the best option for you, read here for a detailed guide.

BUT if you’re looking at repairs or replacement, you’re in the right place. Replacing an intercooler can be pretty simple. Whether you’re looking for a direct replacement for your existing intercooler, or for an upgrade, Natrad can help.

Natrad has experienced technicians that can advise the best option for you, whether you need an off-the-shelf part or something custom made to suit your individual needs. They can supply intercoolers for a large variety of vehicles including performance cars, race cars, 4×4’s, trucks and more.

Nip into Natrad today for knowledgeable advice and a friendly team that can guide you towards your next intercooler product.