To not waste water while still being very effective, an intercooler water spray needs to be use an intelligent, adaptive-learn controlsystem. Here we background the development of the superb (and very cheap!) AutoSpeed / Labtronics intercooler water spraycontroller. But before we get into the nuts and bolts of the intercooler water spray, you gotta understand how an intercooler works inthe first place. Reckon you know that already? You might be surprised....
It seems straightforward enough. An intercooler acts as an air/air radiator for the intake air, cooling it after the compression of theturbo has caused it to get hot. The compressed air passes through the intercooler, losing its heat to the alloy fins and tubes thatform the intercooler core. This heat is immediately dissipated to the outside air that's being forced through it by the forwardmovement of the car. (We'll get to water/air systems in a moment.)The trouble with this analysis is that - for a road car - it is not entirely correct. Huh? So what actually happens, then?I've watched turbo engine intake air temperatures every day for the last 11 years. All have been displayed on digital gaugespermanently stuck to the dash of the six different turbo road cars that I have owned - a Commodore VL turbo, Daihatsu Mira turbo,Subaru Liberty (Legacy), C210 RB20DET Skyline, R32 Nissan Skyline GT-R, and an Audi S4. This list includes cars with boostpressures of up to 21 psi (the Mira), air/air intercoolers (GT-R, VL, S4) and water/air systems (Mira, Liberty, C210). And - irrelevantly- the list also includes turbo three, four, five and six cylinders! You might say that I've watched intake air temperature gauges onturbo road cars for more than a quarter of a million kilometres.So what?The reason for this build-up is that what follows is likely to be seen as incorrect by many people. For example, someone whomeasures intake air temps while running a turbo intercooled car for a power pull on a dyno, or who drives it around the block, or who sits back and simply theorises, is almost certain to think that what follows is wrong. But, it isn't.
In road cars, intercoolers act far more often as
rather than as
. Instead of thinking of an intercooler as beinglike the engine coolant radiator at the front of the car, it's far better to think of it as being like a heatsink inside a big sound systempower amplifier. If an electric fan cools the amplifier heatsink, you're even closer to the mark.In a sound system amp, the output power spikes are always much higher than the average power - for example, big output spikesare caused by the beat of a bass drum. Each time there's an output power spike, extra heat is generated by the output transistorsand dumped into the heatsink. But because the heatsink has a large thermal mass (it can absorb lots of heat with only a slighttemperature rise) the actual working temperature of the transistors doesn't increase much. And because the fan's hard at workblowing air over the heatsink, this inputted heat is then gradually transferred to the atmosphere, stopping the heatsink temp fromcontinuously rising.Importantly, because the power spike is just that (a spike, not a continuous high output signal), the heat that's just been dumpedinto the heatsink is dissipated to the air over a relatively long period.
This means that the heatsink does not have to get rid of the heat at the same rate at which it is being absorbed.
Now, take the case of a turbo road car. Most of the time in a turbo road car there's no boost occurring. In fact, even when you'redriving hard - say through the hills on a big fang - by the time you take into account braking times, gear-change times, trailingthrottle and so on, the 'on-full-boost' time is still likely to be less than fifty percent. In normal highway or urban driving, the 'on-full-boost' time is likely to be something less than 5 per cent!So the intercooler temperature (note:
the intake air temp, but the temp of the intercooler itself) is fairly close to ambient most of the time. You put your boot into it for a typical quick spurt, and the temperature of the air coming out of the turbo compressor rockets from (say) 40 degrees C to 100 degrees C. However, after it's passed through the intercooler, this air temp has dropped to(say) 55 degrees. Where's all the heat gone? Traditionalists would say that it's been transferred to the atmosphere through theintercooler (and some of it will have done just that) but for the most part, it's been put into the heatsink that's the intercooler. The