Updated: Dec 11, 2022
There are several types of air-to-air intercooler; bar and plate and tube and fin.
In this article you'll learn the difference between the two types of intercooler.
What Is an Intercooler?
A forced induction engine's intercooler is a part that lowers air intake temperatures by transferring heat from the charged intake air to the outside air.
The most popular form of intercooler is air-to-air, and there are two subtypes: tube and fin and bar and plate.
Intercoolers are often seen on turbocharged or supercharged forced induction engines.
Charged air passes through inner air channels that are lined with tiny metal fins and numerous small metal fins on the exterior.
These metal fins allow incoming ambient air to cool charged air by eliminating heat from the interior air passages.
Tube & Fin Intercooler
Air galleries on tube and fin intercoolers have curved edges, which reduces their total capacity and increases their pressure drop.
The ambient air encounters less resistance as it flows through the intercooler to cool the compressed air due to the tube and fin design.
Intercoolers of tube and fin type are often more effective.
They weigh less.
Less resistant to outside damage.
Can't withstand as much boost pressure.
Faster heat absorption resulting in heat soak.
Bar & Plate
Rectangular air galleries in bar and plate intercoolers provide a greater flow of compressed air through the intercooler.
However, these galleries have less of a pressure drop and they're less aerodynamic, which means there is greater resistance to airflow flowing through the core.
More durable and better able to tolerate damage from the outside.
Can withstand increased boost pressure.
Usually more affordable.
Usually greater availability.
Heat absorbs more slowly.
They weigh more.
Usually less effective.
Which Type Is Best?
Bar and plate intercoolers are less effective because their denser cores take longer to heat soak, which means it takes them longer to cool down. They also don't move air as effectively.
They are heavier but also more durable and can withstand more damage.
Intercoolers with tubes and fins have greater airflow, are more effective, can heat absorb more rapidly, but also cool down more quickly due to improved crossflow.
Tube and fin intercoolers are substantially more effective in automobiles.
Square tube and fin intercoolers, which combine the best features of both tube and fin and bar and plate designs, are currently the most sophisticated tube and fin intercoolers available.
They have better crossflow while being stronger and lighter.
Although the bar and plate type may be preferable in some motorsport scenarios, such as with vehicles that have higher boost pressure or external damage, such as rally sports, the tube and fin type is more efficient at lowering intake air temperature. However, they have disadvantages.