Thursday, 22 November 2012

Intercooler Cores Comparison , Bar&Plate vs Tube&Fin

There are many designs of Intercooler cores in the market. The common breakdown is the Tube&Fin vs the Bar&Plate. Both have different advantages with their own pro's and con's.

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Tube and Fin
Generally weighs about half as much as a bar and plate core of similar dimensions
Generally less expensive
Generally less flow restriction within the core than bar and plate designs
Less flow restriction through the exterior allowing better flow to the rear of the core and to a radiator, AC condenser, tranny or oil cooler, etc. which may be behind it

Those with less flow restriction than bar and plate cores offer less heat rejection
Generally have more fins which means they're more likely to be damaged by rocks/debris which cuts down on cooling efficiency
Charge air entry extends beyond core wall making it more difficult for air to enter the core cleanly

Bar and Plate
Generally off greater heat rejection than tube and fin design
Those with turbulators offer even greater heat rejection
Offered in tons of varying shapes and sizes
Less likely to be damaged by rocks and debris
Charge air entry sits flush with core allowing for cleaner entry

Weighs about twice as much as a similarly size tube and fin core
More expensive
Blocks more airflow to radiators, etc. which may be behind it
Those with turbulators have greater flow resistance to charge air

Remember that there's a balancing act between cooling and airflow restriction within the core. The more densely packed turbulators are within a bar and plate core the more cooling will be done as the air passes through, but the greater flow is restricted.

There are many crappy cores for sale on Ebay and they are now becoming a common item at so called performance shops. In the product images they show the cores and you can see right down them because there are no turbulators present. Without these all you have is big chunk of metal with poor cooling. People are always saying the ebay ICs flow great. Sure they do, straight pipes with no restrictions do flow nicely.

In terms of the core itself, some bar and plate cores use radiused ends (not end tanks) to promote flow. I made a quick drawing to illustrate this. You can see how the airflow will enter the core more readily when the ends are radiused rather than flat. Air is less likely to collide and swirl, and more likely to curve in.

I made some quick drawings. Please try not to laugh.

And here are some pics which illustrate what I meant when I said the charge air entries on a bar and plate sit flush with the core...and the tube and fin entries protrude:

Before someone asks, I'm a bar and plate guy myself. A properly designed bar and plate intercooler being fed ample airflow in the front of a vehicle offers exceptional cooling efficiency that translates to lots of consistant power. Any flow restriction is easily overcome by sizing it large enough for your needs, as long as you can make room for it.


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