Intercooler Oil Problems: Causes, Effects, and Solutions for Turbocharged Engines

Intercoolers play a crucial role in keeping things cool and efficient in your turbocharged engines. But sometimes, intercooler oil problems can creep in. They put a damper on all that fun. One of the non-negligible problems is oil leakage into the intercooler in turbocharged engines. It will not just stop here!

Intercooler oil problems will cause many other problems. Overheating of the turbocharged engine is one of the problems. If you don’t fix them, they will decrease turbocharged engine performance. This can also cause other detrimental effects. Intercooler oil problems arise due to many factors, like component wear, design flaws, and improper maintenance.

Fortunately, there are solutions available to address intercooler oil problems. That’s why I’m here to dive into this topic. I’ll help you understand the causes, effects, and possible solutions for these pesky issues. Now, let’s get a little technical for a moment and get started on our journey.

What is an Intercooler for Turbocharged Engines?

What is an Intercooler for Turbocharged Engines?

An intercooler is basically a mechanical device. It is used to cool the compressed air on turbocharged engines. As a result, this reduces the temperature before it reaches the engine. According to its working mechanism, it is fitted with a forced induction system. Moreover, this device is used to improve the efficiency of an engine.

The intercooler is positioned between the turbocharger and the engine’s intake manifold. This device usually consists of a network of tubes or fins in order to maximize heat dissipation. Intercoolers come in various sizes, shapes, and types. This is dependent on the specific application and packaging constraints of the vehicle.

Thus, I can say that intercooler pipes are a crucial component in turbocharged engines. Their responsibility is to cool down the compressed air from the turbocharger. It increases air density by lowering the air temperature. This results in increased power output.

Common Intercooler Oil Problems for Turbocharged Engines

There are many intercooler oil problems for turbocharged engines. But here are the five most occurring problems that can’t be ignored.

  1. Excessive Crankcase Pressure
  2. Dirty Air Filter
  3. Oil Draining Issue
  4. PCV System Issue
  5. Turbo Gets Worn Out

Intercooler Oil Problems for Turbocharged Engines – [Problems and Solution Guide]

Let’s begin our guide about intercooler oil problems and solutions for turbocharged engines. But before that let’s go through a few causes and then symptoms of these problems for better understanding.

Causes of Intercooler Oil Problems for Turbocharged Engines

Causes of Intercooler Oil Problems for Turbocharged Engines

Highlighted below are a few worthy causes of intercooler oil issues for turbocharged engines.

  • Poor quality old core/Bad core
  • Damaged turbocharged engine parts
  • Clogged air filter
  • A twisted or trapped oil return pipe
  • Wrong gaskets
  • Fixing the wrong turbocharger
  • Blocked air filter intake
  • Very high oil pressure
  • Compressor End
  • Intake hose splitting
  • Incorrect fitting of the intake hose/pipe

All these causes lead to intercooler oil problems. It’s important to discover the cause of a problem before getting into solutions.

Also Read: Low oil pressure at idle – Possible Causes and Solution

Effects of Intercooler Oil Problems on Turbocharged Engines

A few effects of intercooler oil problems for turbocharged engines are given below.

  • Reduced cooling efficiency leads to higher engine temperatures.
  • Increased risk of engine knock and detonation.
  • Turbocharged engine damage and premature wear and tear.
  • Increased fuel consumption.
  • Higher chances of oil degradation and carbon buildup.
  • Elevated risk of turbocharger failure and reduced lifespan.
  • Deceased power output due to reduced air density.

Thus, neglecting intercooler oil problems can make your vehicle compromise a lot.

Problems and Solution Guide

Problems and Solution Guide

Let’s deep dive into the gory details of intercooler oil problems and then their possible solutions.

Problem 1: Excessive Crankcase Pressure

Excessive pressure builds up in the crankcase of the turbocharged engine. This is an intercooler oil problem that occurs due to a faulty PVC system. Worn piston rings are also the reason behind this problem. Mainly this is the issue that leads to oil leakage and contamination of the intercooler.


A simple compression test can be performed here. It is about the analysis of the excessive crankcase pressure on your turbocharged engine. This test gives surety that an excessive crankcase pressure is not coming up in your turbo.

Moreover, it’s a clear signal that your engine is blow-by. It is a sign of oil leakage in high-boosted situations. Check the steps below to do a simple compression test.

  • You’ll require a compression tester, safety goggles, and a wrench or socket set.
  • Now, make sure the engine is cool and totally turned off.
  • Remove the spark plugs. Disconnect the ignition coil or fuel injector. It will prevent the engine from starting.
  • Identify the spark plug holes on the engine. They are usually found on the cylinder head. They are accessible once the spark plug wires or coils are removed.
  • Screw the compression tester into the first spark plug hole securely. Ensure a tight seal to prevent air leakage during the test.
  • Disable the fuel system by disconnecting the fuel pump or injecting the system. It prevents fuel from entering the cylinders.
  • Observe the pressure gauge on the compression tester. Note the highest reading displayed.
  • Repeat steps 4 to 6 for each cylinder in the engine. Make sure to record the compression readings for each cylinder.
  • Compare the compression readings after completing the test for all cylinders.

The readings should be relatively uniform/the same across all cylinders. What if one or more cylinders have significantly lower compression? It may indicate a problem with piston rings, valves, or head gaskets.

Problem 2: Dirty Air Filter

A dirty or clogged air filter restricts airflow to the turbocharger. It causes inadequate cooling and lubrication. Now the real problem arises here. It potentially leads to oil breakdown. In the end, engine performance suffers as a result of increased friction.


Cleaning the air filter is indeed a simple fix for the problem of a dirty air filter. Here are the steps to clean the air filter.

  • First of all, locate the air filter housing. It is usually a plastic box or canister located near the turbocharged engine. You can also refer to the manual of the vehicle’s owner.
  • Now remove the air filter housing cover. Use a screwdriver or the appropriate tool to remove the screws or clips securing the air filter housing cover. Carefully lift off the cover to access the air filter.
  • Take out the air filter from the housing. Inspect it for dirt, debris, and excessive clogging. Inspect it if cleaning or replacement is required.
  • If the air filter is reusable, gently tap it on a hard surface. It will dislodge loose debris. Alternatively, use compressed air or a vacuum cleaner to remove dirt and dust.
  • Place the cleaned or new air filter back into the housing. Also, ensure it fits snugly.
  • Reattach the air filter housing cover and secure it with screws or clips.

Clean the air filter periodically. It prevents oil from entering the turbocharged engine.

Problem 3: Oil Draining Issue

Improper oil drainage from the intercooler can occur due to faulty drain valves or blockages. It causes oil to accumulate in the intercooler. Thus, an intercooler oil problem results in the end.


I can bet that it’s an oil drainage issue if the turbocharged engine is not worn out or got old. Just follow the following precautionary measures to overcome this issue or simply solve it.

  • The oil drain line should not get kinked. Make sure it must not flow downward.
  • Also, make sure the oil drain is located at the right diameter.
  • The size of the oil drain opening must be no less than three-quarters of an inch in diameter.

You can also verify the proper oil drain design to overcome this intercooler oil problem. Checking the oil drain intervals and the replacement of faulty components also helps out here.

Also Read: Best Honda CRV Oil Type

Problem 4: PCV System Issue

A Positive Crankcase Ventilation (PCV) malfunctions sometimes. This system often fails to regulate the airflow. So, the pressure within the engine also fluctuates. Again, it leads to oil vapor and contaminants entering the intercooler. The effectiveness of the intercooler will decrease here. But here is a surprise for you. I have a solution given below.


Follow the steps below to solve this intercooler oil problem for turbocharged engines.

  • Open the hood.
  • Now, find the PCV valve and hoses.
  • Inspect the PCV valve for any signs of damage or clogging.
  • Shake the valve. What if you don’t hear a rattling noise? It indicates a malfunctioning valve that needs replacement.
  • Remove the faulty PCV valve by disconnecting it from the hose. You can use pliers or a screwdriver. It depends on the type of connection.
  • Also, check the PCV hoses for cracks, leaks, or blockages. Flex the hoses gently to identify any weak spots or signs of damage.
  • Replace any damaged PCV hoses with new ones. It must match the vehicle’s specifications.
  • Now, install a new PCV valve into the designated hose. Ensure a tight fit.
  • Inspect all other connections in the PCV system. It may include the intake manifold and breather hoses for any signs of damage or leaks.
  • Tighten any loose connections or replace damaged fittings as necessary.
  • You can remove the intercooler from your vehicle. Clean and rinse it thoroughly.
  • Allow it to dry and reconnect it to your vehicle.
  • Start the engine and monitor the PCV system’s operation and intercooler performance. Check for any signs of abnormal pressure fluctuations or oil leakage.

So, follow these specific steps, you’ll end up happy that your intercooler oil problem is no more.

Problem 5: Turbo Gets Worn Out

Rotational speeds and high temperatures cause wear and tear on turbocharger engines. It happens slowly over time. This is a major intercooler oil problem that is often repelled by the mechanics.


There are many solutions in order to solve the problem of the turbo engine being worn out. Let’s discuss each of them below.

1. Regular Maintenance

You can schedule regular maintenance intervals for turbocharged engines. It will resist the tear and wear of the engine. Remember, you can do this by following the recommendations of the manufacturer. Also, make sure it is inspected and serviced by a skillful mechanic.

2. Proper Engine Warm-up and Cool-down

Let the engine warm up before operating the vehicle under heavy loads or at high speed. After driving, let the engine idle for a few minutes to cool down before turning it off. This helps prevent oil coking on the intercooler pipe. It also reduces stress on the turbocharger.

3. Avoid Engine Idling

Minimize unnecessary engine idling. It can lead to excessive heat buildup and poor lubrication. If you anticipate a prolonged stop, consider turning off the engine.

4. Monitor Oil Levels and Pressure

Regularly check the engine oil level. Try to maintain it within the recommended range. Monitor the oil pressure gauge or warning light and address any abnormalities promptly.

How to clean oil from intercooler pipes of turbocharged engines?

How to clean oil from intercooler pipes of turbocharged engines?

I have composed the solution to this query in the form of the following steps. So, you can now easily clean oil from the intercooler pipes of turbocharger engines. Let’s begin.

  • Remove the turbocharged engine intercooler from your vehicle. For doing this, first, you need to remove the front bumper from your vehicle. Keep in mind that you will also detach any hoses, piping, or other attached stuff from it.
  • Now, remove all seals and grommets. It will help you to protect your engine from cleansing chemicals. These chemicals can damage your turbocharged engines badly.
  • Next, position a container/pan beneath the turbo intercooler to collect and remove debris and oil during the cleaning process. Most people miss this step and end up in a mess.
  • Subsequently, apply a small amount of degreaser to both the exterior and interior surfaces of the intercooler. Make sure to have thorough coverage. Leave it for more than 15 minutes. It’ll facilitate drying and effective degreasing.
  • Finally, wash your intercooler with water. So, the intercooler will be free from gunk.

Pro Tips to Avoid Intercooler Oil Problems

Pro Tips to Avoid Intercooler Oil Problems

Apart from regular maintenance what else can you do to avoid intercooler oil problems? Here are a few pro tips to avoid intercooler oil issues.

  • Regularly inspect and change oil according to the recommendations of the manufacturer.
  • Always monitor your vehicle’s oil levels regularly. They must be within the recommended range. Low oil levels can lead to intercooler oil problems.
  • Use high-quality engine oil that meets the manufacturer’s specifications. Low-quality or incorrect oil can get your intercooler pipes in trouble.
  • Keep the intercooler clean from debris, dust, and dirt. Use compressed air or a soft brush to remove any buildup.
  • You can address coolant leaks too. Coolant leaks can contaminate the intercooler and cause oil-related issues. If you notice coolant leaks, have them repaired as soon as possible.
  • Consider installing an oil catch can in the PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) system. This can help prevent oil vapors from reaching the intercooler.

Remember, prevention is key when you want to avoid intercooler oil problems for turbo. By following these pro tips, you can help ensure the longevity and optimal performance of your intercooler system.

Also Read: Castrol vs Pennzoil: The Battle of the Motor Oil Giants


Can a faulty intercooler damage the turbocharged engines?

Yes. Intercooler is directly linked to the turbocharged engine. Intercooler failure means turbocharged engine damage. So, a healthy intercooler indicates the robust performance of a turbocharged engine.

What happens if your intercooler is blocked?

If your intercooler is blocked, it will transfer less heat. In other words, the ability to transfer heat from the intercooler will be reduced. Furthermore, engine power will also drop. All this results in increased fuel consumption issues.

How much oil is normal in an intercooler for turbocharged engines?

Ideally, there must not be oil present in an intercooler for turbocharged engines. But realistically, many people suggest that a 1 mm or less thick film of oil is normal in an intercooler. On the other hand, some tech-savvy lovers are suggesting that it’s bad and it simply means burning oil.

Is it normal to have oil in the intercooler for turbocharged engines?

No, it is not normal to have oil in the intercooler for turbocharged engines. The intercooler’s primary function is to cool down the compressed air from the turbocharger before it enters the engine. It is not designed to handle oil. If the intercooler is having oil then it’s an issue. I have discussed the intercooler oil problems in the above sections.

How do I know if my intercooler is clogged?

There could be many symptoms that indicate that your intercooler is clogged. For example, smoke from the exhaust, a grinding sound coming from the turbocharged engine, and the engine light coming on are the major signs. These symptoms tell you that your intercooler is clogged or there is an intercooler oil problem.

What happens when an intercooler for turbocharged engines fails?

If an intercooler for a turbocharged engine fails, the vehicle will fail. It will consume more oil, horsepower will be affected, fuel mileage will reduce, and emissions will also be affected badly. Thus, an intercooler plays a vital role in the efficiency of a vehicle engine.

Can you drive with a broken intercooler? No. Driving with a broken intercooler is not recommended. The broken Intercooler must be replaced with a new one as soon as possible. Driving a vehicle with a broken intercooler or a boost leak may result in engine failure.