oil in the intercooler

Oil In the Intercooler: Causes & Fixes Explained

An oil intercooler cools the air before it goes into the engine, which helps the engine work better. It can also be used with a turbo or supercharger to make the car go faster. Oil intercoolers are used in many different engines, from big ones in trains to small ones in racing cars. They’re also used in car cooling systems, even for engines that don’t use air.

Here, we’ll talk about why oil in the intercooler comes and how to fix it without spending a lot of money. Let’s find out why oil ends up in your intercooler!

What Does It Mean When You Have Oil In the Intercooler?

Oil in the intercooler could mean there’s a problem inside your engine. This might make the engine not work as well, and it could even be dangerous if oil mixes with gasoline and causes a fire. The presence of oil in an intercooler can also result in decreased overall engine performance.

If you see oil in your intercooler or think it got into the passenger area, deal with the problem right away. If your engine isn’t working well or the check engine light comes on, get tests to find and fix any issues.

What Causes Oil To Spill Into The Ducts Of The Cooling System?

Here are a few ways that could result in oil ending up in your intercooler.

Poor quality/damaged intercooler

Poor-quality intercoolers can be a headache for car owners. These intercoolers, made with subpar materials, can lead to oil leaks and reduced performance. If there’s a leak or the fins are clogged, the intercooler won’t work properly, potentially allowing oil to pass into the cooling system.

Defective oil intercooler

Oil intercoolers are designed to cool the air using oil as a medium, and they can be more prone to damage compared to water-based intercoolers. The main issue with oil intercoolers is the potential for oil leakage, which can occur if the intercooler is damaged in an accident or overheated. It is important to note that these problems are relatively rare and typically occur in high-temperature conditions.


When a vehicle is over-speeded, it can definitely impact the intercooler. The intercooler cools down hot air from the turbocharger. When the vehicle is over-speeded, it can create too much pressure in the engine. This extra pressure can overwhelm the intercooler and cause oil leaks or less efficiency. This increased pressure may overwhelm the intercooler, leading to potential oil leaks or reduced efficiency.

Over-speeding can also make the intercooler lose pressure, making it less effective at cooling down air from the turbocharger. This can ultimately lead to decreased performance and potential damage to the intercooler system.

Damaged oil seals

Damaged oil seals in the engine and intercooler joints can lead to oil leakage and cause oil to seep into the intercooler ducting. These seals are crucial for preventing oil from passing through the intercooler. When they break, it can result in oil leaks and potential engine damage. It’s important to regularly inspect and replace these seals to maintain the proper functioning of the engine and intercooler system.

Improper cleaner used on the intercooler

The use of the wrong cleaner on your intercooler can cause some serious issues. It’s important to use the right type of cleaner, like kerosene or a water-based cleaner, to get rid of oil spills effectively. If the wrong cleaner is used, it can stain the intercooler and make oil come into contact with the ducts. It could lead to bigger problems down the road.

It is best to clean it again as soon as possible with the proper type of cleaner if you’ve accidentally used the wrong cleaner on your intercooler. This will help prevent any long-term damage and keep your intercooler in good shape.

Leaking intercooler

There are a few things to look out for if you’re concerned about a leaking intercooler. One way to check is to inspect the air duct of the intercooler for any signs of damage or oil residue. If you notice oil coming out of the intercooler, pay attention to its color. If it appears cloudy with a tinge of blue, this could indicate a leak. Keep in mind that finding leaks in the intercooler can be tricky since it doesn’t have a duct, and it’s not easy to assess its condition directly, especially if the duct is damaged. It is important to note that the amount of oil may be insignificant.

Improperly maintained fuel system

An improperly maintained fuel system can cause a lot of problems. Rust can build up in the system, changing the color of the fuel and potentially clogging up the filters and injectors. This can lead to poor engine performance and reduced fuel efficiency.

Leak in heater tubes

Oil could also start entering the intercooler duct when heater tubes develop a leak, particularly in cold water conditions. This can be a significant issue as the leaking oil can cause damage to the engine. It’s important to address this problem promptly to prevent any further complications.

Use kerosene instead of antifreeze to cool the engine

The use of kerosene instead of antifreeze to cool the engine is a dangerous practice that can lead to serious problems. Kerosene is not designed to handle the extreme temperatures and pressures within an engine, and using it as a coolant can cause damage to the intercooler. This can result in leaks and potential loss of control of the vehicle, posing a significant threat to road safety.

It’s important to use the proper coolant, such as antifreeze, that is specifically formulated to handle the demands of engine cooling.


An oil leak in the intercooler could start when a car’s body is damaged in a collision. This happens because the impact can disrupt the seals and connections that keep the oil contained. It is important to note that oil leakage can also occur in other parts of the car after a collision, not just from the intercooler.

Leaking radiator

A leak in the engine block or an overheated engine can cause water to seep into the radiator and then into the intercooler. It can lead to further damage. If the radiator is damaged in an accident, there’s a higher risk of oil reaching the engine. It can be dangerous for your vehicle. So, if you notice a leaking radiator, it’s important to address it as soon as possible.

Oil Leak at Crankshaft

An oil leak at the crankshaft can be a serious issue for your engine. The oil usually flows from the bearings to lubricate the camshaft, so if there’s a leak, it can cause the engine to freeze up. This is typically due to a crankcase oil leak, and the oil may also leak from the piston tops and sideways.

How To Clean The Intercooler And Oil-Spilled Pipe

Here are some steps for cleaning the intercooler:

Remove the intercooler

When you remove the intercooler, it’s important to take out the entire pipe to prevent future issues. Make sure to wear gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection for safety. When cleaning the intercooler, be specific and detailed to ensure it’s done properly. Avoid producing scratches on the intercooler and other parts to prevent leakages.

Removing the intercooler along with the entire pipe can help prevent potential problems down the line. Wearing protective gear like gloves, long sleeves, and eye protection is crucial for your safety during this process.

Flush the intercooler duct

Flushing the intercooler duct is an important maintenance task for your vehicle’s performance. To do this, attach a water hose to the filler cap and let water flow through while the engine is on. Make sure to check your vehicle’s manual for exact steps, as they may differ depending on the type of car.

Flushing the intercooler duct can result in clean water, but if you see orange water, it might mean there’s an issue with the water heater. In that case, you may need to replace the heating system and flush out the whole system to get rid of any impurities.

Use degreasers and gasoline to remove oil

The use of degreasers and gasoline to remove oil from your car’s intercooler and engine can be risky. Gasoline is highly flammable and can pose a safety hazard, while degreasers may contain harsh chemicals that can damage the surfaces they’re applied to. It is safer to use specifically formulated automotive degreasers or oil-removing products designed for engines and intercoolers.

Use a pressure washer to clean the intercooler

The use of a pressure washer to clean the intercooler can be a quick and effective way to get rid of built-up dirt and debris. Just be sure to carefully follow the instructions for your specific pressure washer model, and avoid holding the nozzle too close to the intercooler to prevent damage. Once you’ve removed the intercooler, use the pressure washer to clean both the intercooler and the surrounding pipes thoroughly. With this method, you can have your intercooler looking as good as new in just a few minutes.

Use a vacuum to pick up the debris

The use of a vacuum can be a helpful method for picking up debris while cleaning an intercooler. To clean out the intercooler, use a special vacuum attachment to pick up any oil or debris inside. Wear gloves and eye protection when working with the intercooler. If you take it out, make sure to clean the whole pipe, too.

Remove and clean the oil drain access holes

Removing and cleaning the oil drain access holes is important for keeping your engine running smoothly. These holes help to remove water and dirt that can build up inside the engine, which can cause damage over time. If the drainage holes are clogged, you may notice oil and debris accumulating in the intercooler, which can affect its performance.

By removing and cleaning the oil drain access holes, you can ensure that your engine stays free from buildup and operates at its best.

Look for any issue with the pipe

It is important to check the pipe for any issues before removing the intercooler. One common problem to look out for is clogging, which can hinder the flow of air. This can be easier to spot once you start removing the intercooler. There may also be other issues with the pipe that need to be identified before proceeding.

Replace the pipe

Worn-out or old intercooler pipes should be replaced. The issue with an old pipe is that it can become contaminated and develop rust, which can affect the performance of your vehicle. If the pipe has been punctured or broken, it’s necessary to replace it to ensure the proper functioning of your intercooler system.


The presence of oil in the intercooler can be caused by a variety of factors, including turbocharger seal failure, oil cooler malfunction, or worn piston rings. It is essential to address this issue promptly to prevent potential damage to the engine and ensure optimal performance. Regular maintenance, such as checking and replacing seals and filters, can help mitigate the risk of oil contamination in the intercooler. The use of high-quality synthetic oils and monitoring oil levels can help reduce the likelihood of oil leakage. By staying proactive and addressing any signs of oil in your intercooler, you can maintain the efficiency and longevity of your vehicle’s engine.


How does oil in an intercooler affect engine performance?

Oil in an intercooler can reduce the efficiency of the intercooler process, leading to decreased power output and potential damage to other components.

What is oil in an intercooler?

Oil in an intercooler is when engine oil enters the intercooler system, usually through a malfunction or failure within the engine.