Bar & Plate vs Tube & Fin Intercooler

Updated: Oct 16, 2021

Here's a question you've probably been asked a few times: "What's the best intercooler for my car?"

You probably know the answer: "A high-performance intercooler system is a must for any performance car!"

And you're right. But what makes a high-performance intercooler?

In this complete guide, we'll go in-depth on the different types of intercooler, the bar and plate vs the tube and fin intercooler.

bar and plate vs tube and fin intercooler

What Is an Intercooler?

The intercooler is a component of an air-to-air induction system.

It is designed to reduce the charge air temperature from the engine into the engine's air intake.

The intercooler is often a crucial part of a turbocharged engines intake system.

Intercoolers use metal fins that the ambient air passes through to take heat away from the charged air.

Charged air passes through internal air galleries filled with tiny metal fins; these air galleries attach to many other small metal fins on the outside.

These metal fins take heat away from the internal air galleries when ambient air travels over them, cooling down the charged air.

An Intercooler

Bar & Plate Intercooler

Bar and plate intercoolers have more rectangular air galleries, which allow a higher volume of compressed air to pass through the intercooler.

But because these galleries are not as aerodynamic, there is more resistance to airflow passing through the core.

A bar and plate intercooler is usually more robust and can withstand higher pressure than a tube and fin, but they are less efficient.

They are also heavier and usually have less of a pressure drop.

bar and plate intercooler
Bar & Plate Intercooler

Tube & Fin Intercooler

Tube and fin intercoolers have curved-edged air galleries.

Because of these curved edges, they make the overall capacity less.

However, the tube and fin intercooler produce less resistance to the ambient air as it passes through the intercooler to cool the compressed air.

Tube and fin are usually more efficient and lighter, but they are not as strong.

Therefore, they can't take as high boost pressure as bar and plate intercoolers.

Pressure drop is also higher in tube and fin intercoolers.

tube and fin intercooler
Tube & Fin Intercooler

Bar & Plate vs Tube & Fin Intercoolers

Bar and plate are denser cores from a build standpoint; they take longer to heat soak.

Some people see this as an advantage; the flip side is they also take much longer to cool down after heat soaking.

They do not flow air as well, making them inefficient.

They were never actually designed for automotive applications.

Some people prefer bar and plate intercoolers because they are sturdy, but they are also heavier.

Tube and fin, on the other hand, were always designed for automotive applications.

They flow air better, but they can heat soak faster, though they also cool down more quickly due to better crossflow.

In cars, tube and fin intercoolers are much more efficient.

Mishimoto even swapped their design from bar and plate to tube and fin.

Even more advanced tube and fin intercoolers are now on the market.

They are called square tube and fin and are in the middle ground between a bar and plate and original tube and fin designs.

They are more robust and lighter yet still have excellent crossflow.

Overall, tube and fin are more effective; however, they are not as robust as bar and plate intercoolers.

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