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Intercoolers are not there to save a Turbo Diesel engine. They are there to allow further safe power increases on top of a turbo system. A Turbo charger compresses air to the engine and during this process adds some heat to the air. This heat isn’t an issue to a Diesel engine as it uses super compressed-heated air to ignite the Diesel fuel anyway. Think of the last time you pumped up a tire with a compressor, it gets hot as its compressing air. Intercooling is a much misunderstood story that leads to all sorts of wonderful sales pitches and stories.
Why we install an intercooler is so that we can cool down the air going into the engine from possibly 90’C down to 50’C or so. The air goes from hot to warm... not cold. By doing so the air becomes denser and so you end up with more oxygen particles being available to burn with the Diesel fuel. This small increase in oxygen particles coupled with a slightly lower combustion temperature now means you can increase the fuel loadings to the engine a tad to gain power. It’s as simple as that.
Is any air to air intercooler core ok to use and why would you ‘upgrade’ your factory intercooler? Factory intercooler cores are like most other areas on the vehicle built to a price. The type of core on most factory installed intercoolers uses a simple ‘tube type’ core with little to no internal fins to absorb and disperse heat. They look good from the outside but are generally pretty inefficient. Proper ‘bar and plate’ type intercooler cores have the same type of fins inside the tubes as the fins you see from the outside. This means the air rushing through the intercooler is exposed to a high surface area of cooling fins, in turn transferring heat from the turbocharged air more efficiently to the intercooler for cooling. Some cheaper online based intercoolers we have seen have actually looked like a proper ‘bar and plate’ intercooler from the outside but upon inspection inside the core there are no cooling fins!! Be careful and always remember you get what you pay for nowadays. Intercoolers are all about getting heat transferred so be sure that the intercooler you have is effective in heat transfer.