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Pretty F-150’n Cool – Intercooler R&D, Part 1: Factory Review

As any traveler can tell you, it is an unparalleled experience to be an American abroad and take in so many of the mesmerizingly different facets of the world. This is to be expected, but one thing that first-time travelers often don’t so readily anticipate is the way in which being abroad empowers one as a representative of his home country. (I probably should have expected this; some good friends of mine are Canadians residing stateside, and they are practically walking billboards for Tim Hortons™.) Being a walking window into American culture not only elicits patriotism, but also prompts one to join his international friends in examining the USA from the outside-in.

One pervasive international perception of the US is that of our capitalist ideals and consumerism. This is polarizing stuff, but just about everyone with whom I spoke could agree on at least on one thing: When it comes to being consumers and producers, Americans are damn good at it. We know how to make a product, and we vote ruthlessly for the best one with our hard-earned dollar bills and then celebrate the hell out of it; there’s a reason that American culture is so wide-reaching.

So what does that say about the vehicle that has sold more units annually in the US than any other vehicle for over three decades?

F-150 Performance Parts
F-150 Performance Parts

It’s a damn nice truck, that’s what.

The F-150 shines as a resilient example of how to do a truck right, and the 2015+ EcoBoost varieties continue that tradition. They are light, they are quick, they are torquey, and they are excellent examples of Detroit’s reinvigorated drive to innovate. At Mishimoto, we share those values, and it is in that spirit that we have begun development on a new F-150 EcoBoost intercooler to make this already-great truck even better.

Efficiency and Performance

An intercooler is an integral component in any forced-induction engine, and the F-150 EcoBoost intercooler is no exception. The primary purpose of an intercooler is to lower the temperature of inlet air as it travels from the turbo’s compressor to the engine; colder air is denser air, and this makes it possible to squeeze more of it into a cylinder. This means the ECU can add even more fuel to create a larger, more powerful combustion event, all while maintaining ideal stoichiometric air-fuel ratios. The end result of this is a larger smile on your face when you press the go-pedal – this is science at its finest, ladies and gentlemen.

The moral of the story is this: We can squeeze more power out of the engine by improving the cooling efficiency of the F-150 EcoBoost intercooler. Especially for trucks with other Ford F-150 performance parts, a more efficient intercooler can provide significant gains. This can be done in a variety of ways, but often entails increasing the height or width of the intercooler, or perhaps both. Our engineers are already hard at work on a prototype F-150 EcoBoost intercooler, but let’s take a look at the OEM system first.

Factory Review

 

Ford F-150 Performance Parts
Ford F-150 Performance Parts

This F-150 is a workhorse that requires quite a bit of cooling. Looking at the front of the truck, we can see a variety of cooling apparatuses, including the thin transmission cooler that sits in front of the AC condenser, with the radiator behind that (not visible). The F-150 EcoBoost intercooler is actually hidden behind the massive steel front bumper, and air is channeled to that heat exchanger through the ducting right up front.

Ford F-150 Performance Parts
Ford F-150 Performance Parts

As our engineer, Jason, so expertly points out above, there is a piece of plastic shrouding that separates the main cooling compartment behind the grille from the lower compartment that houses the F-150 EcoBoost intercooler. Without this ducting, air entering through the main grille would travel to the area of lower pressure created below the front of the car, and the radiator would not see adequate airflow. Unfortunately, this separation limits the height of the intercooler, but Jason has some ideas on how to handle that and implement some awesome Ford F-150 performance parts.

There is some other trickery going on here as well; both the main grille in front of the radiator compartment and the smaller grille in front of the intercooler feature active shutters that open and close with the help of an electric motor. In conditions where temperatures allow it and airflow is adequate through other means, the ECU will close off these compartments to improve the aerodynamic profile of the truck and help out with fuel economy.

Ford F-150 Performance Parts
Ford F-150 Performance Parts

Here is Jason again, very helpfully illustrating the functionality of these active shutters. He is demonstrating on the main grille because it is larger and easier to see (and remove!), but the smaller one functions the same way.

Ford F-150 Performance Parts
Ford F-150 Performance Parts

With the F-150 EcoBoost intercooler out of the truck, we can see that it utilizes a tube-and-fin construction as is common on many OEM intercoolers. The end tanks are made of plastic that is crimped onto the aluminum core; this is typically the most common fail point on a factory intercooler. Our F-150 EcoBoost intercooler will be all aluminum with welded end tanks.

Ford F-150 Performance Parts
Ford F-150 Performance Parts

There is a plastic bypass valve incorporated into one of the end tanks, which Jason will also be including in his design.

Ford F-150 Performance Parts
Ford F-150 Performance Parts

Condensation Issues

As I’m sure many of you are all-too-familiar with, the EcoBoost engines are sometimes prone to having water condensation problems that can lead to bogged-down throttle response and perhaps other issues. Jason’s got some plans to address this, but we will go more into that in a later post. (Although, those of you that are familiar with our 2011–2014 F-150 EcoBoost Intercooler R&D might have some idea as to where we’re going with this…)

Coming Soon…

Very soon, we’ll be able to take a closer look at exactly what our plans are to make this F-150 EcoBoost intercooler even better. I’m looking forward to sharing some of our CAD models and 3D-printed prototypes so you can have an even better idea of how solid these Ford F-150 performance parts will look.

Thanks for reading, and until next time!
-Gardiner

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