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Are Larger Intercoolers For Diesel Engines Worth It?

In the 90s, the introduction of intercoolers to truck and SUV turbo engines was a game changer in terms of performance and reliability. Although stock turbo intercoolers provide decent cooling, they have room for improvement.

When the turbocharger compresses the intake air, it raises its temperature, resulting in limited power gains. The intercooler cools the compressed air down before it enters the intake manifold, increasing the engine performance. 

When the intake air goes through an intercooler, the air is cooled down before entering the intake manifold, increasing the engine performance. Intercoolers on petrol and Diesel engines share the same working principles. As a hint on this question, larger intercoolers do wonders on petrol engines. 

a large turbo intercooler can do for a Diesel engine

 Diesel engines run at higher compression and leaner air/fuel ratios than petrol engines, resulting in higher combustion temperatures. Despite manufacturers’ efforts to keep the engine and coolant temperatures down, the engine bay’s temperatures are often high, affecting components like the intercooler. Big truck engines like the Cummins, Duramax, and Powerstroke, among others, use large turbochargers that work at higher temperatures. Also, engines’ temperature rises when towing, riding off-road, or doing heavy-duty work, and the stock intercooler, designed for average driving, fails to cope with the extra heat.


If you enjoy driving and/or want to make the most from your engine, a high-quality, well-designed, and crafted intercooler like the SPELAB series for heavy-duty trucks can make the difference. A bigger turbo intercooler optimizes the engine’s efficiency by lowering and keeping the air intake temperature steady for long periods, helping keep the rest of your engine components cooler and extending your lifespan.


Larger intercoolers have a larger surface, handle more volume, and have more fins than the OEM, increasing their efficiency. Besides, high-quality intercoolers are engineered to streamline airflow and don’t affect the turbo performance at stock boost. Reduced temperatures lead to noticeable power gains, stock system stability, and outstanding extra performance in tuned engines.

A larger turbo intercooler allows running higher boost pressures without the risk of damaging the intercooler. In addition, it helps to keep the engine temperature low despite the increased air temperature resulting from the extra compression needed to increase the boost. Keeping the air intake temperatures cool helps to prevent premature ignition or detonation issues, commonly found on Diesel engines running too hot.

SPELAB intercoolers


Whether you plan to modify your diesel engine heavily, install a tuner or reflash your truck’s ECU, replace your old clogged intercooler, or just make the most out of your engine, a high-quality turbo intercooler is worth it. At my shop, I always try to work with plug-and-play intercoolers to save my customers unnecessary expenses and time. When you can find a big turbo intercooler that fits in the stock place, the mod is fast, reduces labor costs, and you don’t have to remove original parts or do unnecessary modifications. I have been recently working with SPELAB intercoolers, and they fit so well that it’s a pleasure working with them.
In terms of performance, I have seen amazing results on both stock and heavily modified engines.

Lastly, if your stock turbo intercooler needs a replacement, don’t hesitate to replace it with a larger one; it is the best choice in terms of cost-effectiveness and performance!

My Experience Upgrading My Turbo Intercooler

Hey! After a lot of reading, I finally decided to go for a new, larger intercooler for my RAM.


I have been using it with my Bully Dog for a few years, and my mechanic kept telling me I should get a proper intercooler upgrade if I wanted to squeeze a few HP more out of my engine. 


I wanted to share my findings, as I was researching for insights from people and not just sticking to the manufacturers’ websites. I knew from a big turbo upgrade I made to my GTI a few years back that when installing a larger turbo, improving the intercooler was necessary. In fact, when I purchased the kit, it came with a larger intercooler and larger fuel injectors, among others. However, I was skeptical about my RAM because even when I felt a huge change after installing the Bully Dog, I didn’t think I might need a larger intercooler. 


Talking about it with my friends, some think larger intercoolers only add extra lag, however, all agreed (and it’s something I knew) that a larger turbo intercooler would help me keep the engine cooler and after several pulls, when the stock intercooler starts losing performance, a larger intercooler would keep working efficiently, or at least, wouldn’t lead to a massive performance drop.



Something that worried me was that my truck’s stock intercooler has plastic tanks, and when using the most extreme program on my tuner, it increases the boost pressure a lot. I have started to worry, and something I found on many posts and blogs was that aftermarket intercoolers are sturdier. Besides, thankfully, my truck never overheated, but I can tell how hot it gets when I push it too hard, so the stock intercooler was probably suffering from the extra temperature. I was feeling the power drop after a while, so I finally decided to go for a larger intercooler. After all, it was a matter of testing it and going back to stock if it didn’t work.


I finally decided to go for a SPELAB turbo intercooler as I had already bought some other goodies from them, and it seems the installation wasn’t too complicated because my mechanic didn’t curse so much. He is super cool but is kind of grumpy, especially when people take him parts that don’t fit well. After a few months of using my 6.7 with the new intercooler, I have to say that it runs extremely well; I can’t feel any extra lag, the engine runs cooler, and I don’t feel it loses power as it used to. I’m happy with the upgrade and wanted to share my experience. I hope it helps, and I’m open to questions.

This comes from an automotive enthusiast's share, and SPELAB warmly welcomes more contributions from friends. Please contact partners@spelabautoparts.com for submissions. Moreover, regarding the installation of the intercooler, there's an installation video provided by a fan of SPELAB.


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