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When to Change EcoBoost Mustang Intercooler

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Like any power adder, horsepower equates to more heat. If you're looking to push more PSI out of your EcoBoost, an intercooler is highly recommended. Not only will it extend the life of your turbo by reducing heat, it'll also increase power by cooling the air charge. Win-win.

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Turbochargers in the Mustang lineup has opened up a new field of performance modifications and accessories. Wastegates, upgrading turbos, boost controllers, tune management, boost gauges, fuel maps - these are all common terms bandied about when discussing turbo mods. One area that doesn’t surface as much as is heat exchanging. An intercoolor has a massive impact on heat, and therefore performance as well.

American Muscle

What is an Intercooler?

The exhaust portion of the turbo is often referred to as the hot side (as it routes and transfers the hot exhaust gasses) whereas the induction portion is referred to as the cold side. As we know turbo chargers use hot exhaust gasses to spin a turbine, which is connected to and spins a separate compressor to draw in fresh air for combustion. When air is compressed, it heats up. Hotter air is less dense which hampers performance.

An intercooler brings down temperatures, and it's essentially a small, secondary radiator that is plumbed into the inlet side of the turbo system between the turbocharger and cylinder head. Cool, unpressurized air is drawn into the turbo where it is compressed (creating boost). As it's compressed, the air is heated and exits the turbo as pressurized hot air. In order to reduce the air charge temperature, it will then pass through an intercooler where some of the latent heat is drawn away, lowering the charge temperature entering the combustion chamber.

There are two types of intercoolers: air cooled and liquid cooled. An air-to-air intercooler works by passing exterior air over the fins of the intercooler, drawing heat away from the air inside. A liquid cooled intercooler (air-to-water) hooks up to the cooling system of your Mustang, which is then used to transfer and dispose of the heat from the pressurized inlet air.

S550 Ecoboost Intercooler Kit

Why Should I Change My Intercooler?

Just like an efficient cooling system is critical to the overall health of the EcoBoost engine, an intercooler is vital for turbo engine performance. As mentioned, the primary purpose of the intercooler is to lower the intake air temperature charge. This colder air, however, has two significant benefits.

  1. Maximize oxygen density to make more power
  2. Cooler inlet air = cooler cylinder head temperature, mitigating detonation

Colder air makes more power by itself, but what's really cool is you can double dip from this benefit. Cooler air charges carries over to cooler cylinder head temperatures. This means we can increase boost or timing a bit more without worry of detonation or pre-ignition (of course fuel and the engine tune must be factored in as well).

Aftermarket intercoolers are typically larger and more efficient, therefore dropping intake temperatures across the entire operating spectrum. Because of these lower initial temperatures, you can then bump up the boost to unleash a few more ponies. What’s not to like?!

2015-2016 EcoBoost with Airaid Cold Air Intake Tuned by Bama

When Should I Change My Stock EcoBoost Intercooler?

In order to answer this question it is perhaps easier to ask a slightly different version of it. Is there a bad time to change my intercooler?

A really cool aspect about intercooling is it can’t really hamper performance. Unlike the engine cooling system where too efficient of a system may keep the engine below optimal operating temperature, a super efficient intercooler will just further lower the intake charge. And as we discussed, this is a good thing! With that said, do you need a mega-snorker intercooler on your stock EcoBoost ‘Stang? No, this is not necessary. The Mustang will run fine as is. Could you benefit one? Certainly, there is nothing to lose! In a scenario where you want to turn up the boost, then yes, replacing the stock intercooler with an upgraded aftermarket model is something you should consider.

Fitment includes: 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, EcoBoost