Painting Intercooler Black: More Effective? (Full Guide)

By December 2, 2021Intercooler

Painting the intercooler black actually reduces its effectiveness. The air won’t be as cold. Because of the black paint, more heat is retained in the compressed air (when it goes through the intercooler, extra heat is retained).

I have personally tried painting my car’s intercooler black and observed a reduction in its efficiency.

I observed no difference in the horsepower of my car’s engine while driving. This made me curious to find out if painting the intercooler black actually makes any difference. 

Want to know what I found out?

In this article I will be talking about the following things about painting an intercooler:

  1. Why Painting Intercooler Black Makes It Less Effective?
  2. Temperature Loss from Painting Intercooler
  3. Horsepower Gain from Painting Intercooler
  4. Best Materials for an Intercooler?
  5. Should You Paint Intercooler Black?

So, let’s dive in.

Why Painting Intercooler Black Makes It Less Effective?

Painting intercooler black makes it less effective because black color acts as an insulator. This prevents heat from leaving the air flow. Hence, it lowers the performance of an intercooler

Intercooler works by convention (Heat from compressed air is transferred to the intercooler metal fins, and as you drive, the blowing air picks up the heat from the metal fin).

The blackbody (emissivity=1 on a scale from 0 to 1) is typically the most radiative object. This might lead some folks to believe that painting your intercooler black will help it emit more heat and cool the air inside faster.

In theory, it appears to be a good idea, but the intercooler was not designed to get rid of heat through the process of radiation. It actually uses convection.

An intercooler captures the air molecules as they move through its inlets while you drive at speed. The heat from the intercooler will be transferred to them, lowering their temperature and compressing the air inside.

Painting the intercooler black has the effect of slowing down heat transmission to the air. The process is not only halted, but it’s actually hardened because the intercooler is now coated in a “protective” layer.

Black intercooler

Black Intercooler is not effective for performance.

Temperature Loss from Painting Intercooler

Black painted intercoolers will not improve temperature loss. It’s insignificant and can even reduce the efficiency of the intercooler – The paint adds a thin layer of insulation to something meant to distribute heat via airflow.

In the video given below, Mighty Car Mods installed a painted (black) vs. non-painted intercooler, using a fan to move air over the intercooler and a heat gun to pump hot air through the core. The black intercooler was 3°C less efficient than the standard one.

The painted temperatures were reduced by 97°C and the non-painted temperatures decreased by 100°C. Sure, it’s only 3°C or 6°F but that’s the difference you are going to face.

Therefore, you might face a temperature loss after painting your intercooler black. Here’s the video that will help you understand more about the temperature loss:



Instead of painting your intercooler, I recommend looking into heat wrapping or shielding your intake instead..

Heat wrapping and heat shielding air intake can gain you minor horsepower – about 5-10 horsepower, depending on how hot the engine bay is. 

Both heat wrapping and shielding keep heat away from the intake – resulting in even cooler air to the combustion chamber and more power.

Heat wrapping and heat shielding air intake work by keeping heat away – which should result in a cooler intake for air to pass through. If you are confused about wrapping and shielding, here’s an article that I wrote earlier.

Heat Wrapping & Shielding Intake: Does It Gain Horsepower?

Horsepower Gain from Painting Intercooler

You cannot get horsepower gain from painting an intercooler. As discussed earlier, the slight difference in the temperature is insignificant and won’t add horsepower to your car.

Due to a small change (3°C) in the temperature, the car’s engine is not going to gain any horsepower. Therefore, forget about gaining HPs after painting your intercooler black. 

Intercoolers are basically used to cool down compressed air (from the turbo) before feeding it into the combustion chamber. 

Intercoolers are not designed to increase the horsepower of your vehicle’s engine.

Painting an intercooler black isn’t effective at all.

Air filter heat shield

Heat shielding can provide much more cooler air and is the better option to gain horsepower.

Best Materials for an Intercooler?

The finest material for intercoolers is aluminum, owing to its many advantages. Aluminum-made intercoolers help cool down the engine in an efficient manner. 

Most of your off-the-shelf intercooler kits will be constructed of aluminum, which has a high thermal conductivity and heats up fast and cools down quickly. 

It’s light and simple to shape because it’s soft and can be welded with an AC TIG welder. Additionally, aluminum dissipates heat far more efficiently.

There are just a few intercoolers tank options available, such as:

    1. Plastic (not ideal for performance)
    2. Stamped (found in older turbo vehicles)
    3. Welded aluminum
    4. Cast aluminum

A welded or cast aluminum tank will give you the best performance and durability. Welding bonds are quite strong and durable, with aluminum having thicker walls to resist wear and tear.

Should You Paint Intercooler Black?

You should paint the intercooler black only if you want an aesthetic look. Otherwise, you should not opt for this option because it won’t give you any horsepower gain.

Moreover, if you are looking for power and cooler air, painting the intercooler is not the right option.

Also, the temperature difference (3°C) is insignificant which means you won’t be able to feel any difference while driving your car.

Why shouldn’t you paint the intercooler black?

The amount by which you’ll be observing a decrease in your car’s performance is highly determined by a number of factors. In many situations, it may only be a minor difference, but it’s still worth noting. 

The key takeaway is that you won’t observe any benefits from painting your intercooler black unless your car never moves, and you don’t use convection to cool the intake charge.

Ifandi L.

Ifandi L.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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