Painting An Intercooler – All You Need To Know

Painting An Intercooler – All You Need To Know

Many people are thinking of painting their intercooler to give it a unique look. But they don’t know whether it’s a good idea and how to go about it.

If you, too, are looking for such answers, then you’ve come to the right place.

This article will be an all-inclusive guide to painting an intercooler.

Painting an Intercooler GÇô All You Need To Know

We’ll cover everything from your paint to sanding, masking, priming, prep, and even how to troubleshoot some common issues you may run into while painting.

Is It A Good Idea To Paint Your Intercooler?

People have different opinions when it comes to painting an intercooler. Some engineers claim that painting an intercooler can reduce its efficiency.

They say that the paint acts as an insulating layer and doesn’t allow the proper heat exchange.

This insulating paint layer inhibits the intercoolers from cooling down the hot air running in their pipes.

But many car mechanics have experimented on this claim, practically affirming that painting has a negligible impact on the efficiency of intercoolers.

They assert to have painted numerous intercoolers and haven’t received a single customer complaint yet.

If you want to keep your intercooler from rusting, painting it will work pretty well.

The intercoolers tend to start to rust away after a while on old-model cars because they’re not coated anymore. It means that the protective layer is starting to wear off.

Also, you can spray paint on your intercooler to make it look better and shinier instead of dull and rusty looking.

Car parts look much better when they aren’t rusted, so this is a good solution if you’re looking for something simple to do.

What Is Kind Of Paint And Color Best To Use On An Intercooler?

Some people suggest painting the intercoolers black because black is a good conductor of heat and thus releases heat more quickly.

However, this characteristic has nothing to do with the working of intercoolers. Intercoolers cool down the air through their cooling fins installed between each intercooler.

Therefore, the color selection doesn’t bother the working of intercoolers. We can pick any color that appeals to us.

Generally, the original look of intercoolers is silvery because of its constituent, i.e., aluminum alloy.

Some car owners adore the very first look of the car and strive to keep every part the same as they purchased.

They keep it unpainted or anodize it in aluminum to form a silver coating.

Step-By-Step Guide To Painting An Intercooler

Before you start painting the intercooler, it’s helpful to know some basics, such as what tools to use and how to avoid common mistakes.

Below, we’ve provided you with a step-by-step guide on successfully painting an intercooler.

Materials You’ll Need

It is the first and the foremost priority to arrange all the required materials to proceed further. So we’ll have to ensure the availability of the following things.

  1. The required paint (any color you desire to have).
  2. A spray gun or an air compressor.
  3. Wet and dry sandpapers (to remove rust from the intercooler).
  4. Dust extractor (to clean the intercooler thoroughly).
  5. An electric sander (remove the already coated paint layer and smoothen it).
  6. Masking tapes.
  7. Safety dress like glasses, face masks, etc.

Clean The Intercooler

After arranging the required materials, we first need to remove the intercooler from the car and wash it thoroughly.

We’ll introduce water from one of its pipe holes with tremendous pressure. The water will rush out of the other hole taking away the inner dirt.

We can also use soap or detergent to remove the stains and marks from the intercooler’s outer surface.

After washing the intercooler, please place it in the sunlight for a while and let it dry.

Painting an Intercooler

Watching Out For Corrosion And Rust

Once we’ve cleaned the intercooler, it’s time to remove the corrosion, if any.

We’ll observe each part of the intercooler and mark the corroded parts. Then we’ll use the sandpapers to remove the rust.

It’s essential to remove the rust for coating an even layer of paint. The painted layer won’t last long if we fail to remove the rust.


The sanding process effectively removes the paint from an object and prepares it for fresh paint.

A new layer of color doesn’t stick over the old coating. So, it is necessary to remove that layer first.

Sanding also helps eliminate the corrosion in the deep parts of objects where our hands don’t reach.

Besides this, sanding makes the surface of the specimen a bit rough. This rough surface firmly holds the paint.

Warning Note

Take appropriate precautionary measures before using an electric sander because using it carelessly can be dangerous.

Operating it without any helmet or goggles can result in severe facial injury or may cause permanent eye loss.


When painting an object, a primer can be used as a basecoat and provide a better grip for the paint to adhere.

If sanding has already been done on the intercooler, it might have fine particles that will decrease the durability of the paint.

For this reason, it is best to clean the surface first with a dirt extractor or vacuum cleaner before applying the primer and top coat of paint on an intercooler.

Do not use cloth damped in water as this can cause rusting.

Mask Off Areas That You Don’t Want To Paint

Before painting an intercooler, we’ll mask off the areas with the help of masking tape that we don’t want to paint.

For example, if we paint the intercooler black and want its logo shiny, wrap it with tape. Then paint it silver once the black color is dry.

We should mask off both openings of the intercooler with tape to prevent the paint from getting inside it.

When the color enters the pipe, it can block the airflow by narrowing its width.


After covering the areas not meant to paint, we’ll prepare the required amount of paint we want to apply.

Fill the air compressor or spray gun with the necessary color and evenly spray it on the object.

Move the spray gun in to and fro motion to spray a uniform layer of paint. Let the first layer dry for 5 to 10 minutes and then spread the second layer.

Don’t touch unless the final layer dries completely.

Warning Note

You can paint the intercooler with a spray gun instead of a brush. It will keep the layers thin and will prevent clogs in the tubing.

A Final Word Of Caution

After painting an intercooler, ensure that the spaces between its fins aren’t blocked.

Blocked fins will reduce the intercooler’s ability to cool the air going to your engine to a large extent, which would lead to serious trouble.

To avoid this, check the spaces between the fins after painting and unblock them if they are blocked. You can unblock them with intense air pressure or a wire.

The Takeaway

Painting your car’s intercooler can be an excellent way to add some individuality to your vehicle. But, it’s essential to know that not all paints are created equal.

It would help if you thought about many different things before painting the intercooler.

If you don’t piece everything together perfectly, your paint job will look like something from a graffiti artist.