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What is a Charge-Air System?
There are two major components of a charge-air system, the turbocharger and the charge-air cooler (or intercooler). These products work in conjunction with one another and most often than not when one is working irregularly the other is also. These two components depend upon one another almost as much as the vehicle they are in depend on them running properly.
Charge-Air Coolers Explained
An intercooler, or "Charge-Air Cooler", is an air-to-air or air-to-liquid heat exchange device used on turbocharged and supercharged (forced induction) internal combustion engines to improve their volumetric efficiency by increasing intake air charge density through isochloric cooling. A decrease in air intake temperature provides a denser intake charge to the engine and allows more air and fuel to be combusted per engine cycle, increasing the output of the engine.
The inter prefix in the device name originates from historic compressor designs. In the past, aircraft engines were built with Charge-Air Coolers that were installed between multiple stages of supercharging, thus the designation of inter. Modern automobile designs are technically designated aftercoolers because of their placement at the end of supercharging chain. This term is now considered archaic in modern automobile terminology since most forced induction vehicles have single-stage superchargers or turbochargers. In a vehicle fitted with two-stage turbocharging, it is possible to have both an intercooler (between the two turbocharger units) and an aftercooler (between the second-stage turbo and the engine). In general, an intercooler or aftercooler is said to be a Charge-Air Cooler. See our Charge-Air Cooler Offering by clicking here.
The turbocharger was invented by Swiss engineer Alfred Buechi. His patent for the turbo was applied for use in 1905. Diesel ships and locomotives with turbochargers began appearing in the 1920s. A turbocharger, or turbo, is an air compressor used for forced-induction of an internal combustion engine. Like a supercharger, the purpose of a turbo is to increase the mass of air entering the engine to create more power. However, a turbo differs in that the compressor is powered by a gas turbine driven by the engine's own exhaust gases. Learn more about Turbochargers by clicking here.
How the Two Work Together
Use the illustration below to follow what's basically happening inside a charge-air system.