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Charge Air Cooler Leaks: The Basics

Charge air coolers are an integral part of commercial trucks and heavy-duty industrial equipment. They work in tandem with a turbocharger to supply cool, dense air into the engine, ensuring that your engine has the ability to produce every bit of horsepower your engine was designed for. That’s why having an issue with a charge air cooler can cause serious problems. Leaks can happen slowly over time, making it hard to recognize a loss in power or fuel economy until it’s too late.

As the leading charge air cooler manufacturer, the team from Dura-Lite provides you with some of the basics and why leaks are so detrimental to your vehicle operations.

The Basics of Charge Air Coolers

Charge air coolers reduce the temperature of compressed air from the turbocharger before it enters the intake manifold and the engine. A charge air cooler reduces the temperature from around 450°F as it exits the turbo to only 40°F above the ambient air temperature as it enters the intake manifold. The charge air cooler works in much the same way as a radiator, except a charge air cooler cools the hot turbo air and a radiator cools the engine coolant. Charge air coolers have a core with tubes and metal fins that dissipate the heat from the compressed turbo air, increasing its density.

In tandem, a turbo and charge air cooler supply the engine with higher pressure air at a cool temperature for maximum efficiency of your diesel engine.

The Danger of Charge Air Cooler Leaks

OE (Original Equipment) and conventional aftermarket charge air coolers fail in various ways. The most common issue when there is a loss of engine power is a leaking charge air cooler. But since charge air coolers leak air, not liquid, it’s difficult to determine the issue before it’s too late. When your engine isn’t performing at its best, a leaking charge air cooler may cost you $100K per year on fuel with a fleet of 15 vehicles! Increased fuel consumption, elevated soot levels in your oil, premature piston, ring, and valve failure, Turbocharger or exhaust manifold failure, and elevated coolant temperatures are common symptoms of non-performing charge air cooler.

The harder your heavy-duty truck is working, the more likely you are to develop a charge air cooler leak. Dura-Lite estimates 40% of trucks 2 years or older, have charge air coolers that are leaking out of the engine manufacturers’ specifications.

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Preventing & Repairing Charge Air Cooler Leaks

Charge air cooler leaks can be easily tested with the proper equipment. A leaking charge air cooler unfortunately cannot be effectively repaired. A repair will be short lived, and the crack will return, typically in the same place it started which will most often be between the tube and header joint on the turbo side of the charge air cooler. Dura-Lite offers an easy-to-use charge air cooler tester. With the Dura-Lite Tester-Kit™ you can find out if you have a leak in 20 minutes or less. The resulting savings in fuel alone can pay for the tester and a new charge air cooler in a matter of months. If you have a fleet of vehicles, you can save thousands of dollars a month with a simple testing program as part of your routine maintenance. Check out our Leaking Charge Air Cooler Calculator to see how much you can save!

Contact us today for charge air coolers and more!

If you’re in need of a new charge air cooler or heavy-duty radiator, find your exact replacement in our catalog with the OE part number or your vehicle make, model, and year. For more, contact us online or call (800) 661-1117.

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We offer a large selection of charge air cooler and radiator solutions to meet your performance and durability needs.