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Mission In-pipe-sible – Intercooler Piping R&D, Part 1: Stock Review

This hot hatch is heating up our headquarters! We have several projects in the works, so if you have not had a chance to check them out, you can do so on the Focus RS section of our engineering blog.

Stock Focus RS intercooler piping
Stock Focus RS intercooler piping

Often, one of the first modifications to turbocharged vehicles is the intercooler. However, this time we wanted to give the spotlight to its lesser known siblings, the intercooler piping. If you have not yet had a chance to take a look under the hood of your Focus RS, we’ll save you the trouble; it’s tight in there. Not the best news for those of us who aim to squeeze every bit of power out of our RS. Increasing the flow to the turbo via the piping has power potential, after all.

Stock Focus RS intercooler piping
Stock Focus RS intercooler piping

The stock piping is complex in shape and constructed of plastic and rubber couplers. Overall there are eight connection points in this set of piping. The cold-side piping is fairly short, but the hot-side piping is nearly triple the length, extending diagonally across the bottom of the RS. The photos below show the path that the piping takes under the Focus.

Underside of the Focus RS without intercooler piping
Underside of the Focus RS without intercooler piping
Turbo outlet for the hot-side pipe
Turbo outlet for the hot-side pipe

Goals

Our goals for this project are to construct the piping out of a more durable material as well as increase the diameter of the piping. In addition, we will create the two pipes out of as few pieces as feasible to eliminate possible fail points. This is easier said than done, given that the path that the hot-side pipe takes is under the Focus, wedged between the oil pan and the transmission. This gives us little room to increase diameter without rubbing or clearance issues. Not to worry. Like the seemingly doomed hero dangling from a cliff in an action movie, we still have a plan. Since things tend to be a bit boring without a challenge (and the office is rarely boring here at Mishimoto), we set out to design some upgraded piping.

The Plan in Action

The first step was to get some general measurements of the stock cold-side and hot-side piping, allowing our engineers to increase the pipe diameter, thus creating our prototype. We began by designing all-aluminum, one-piece versions of the intercooler pipes as our first prototype.

Mocking up Focus intercooler piping on the RS
Mocking up Focus intercooler piping on the RS
Mike slicing up some piping for our prototype
Mike slicing up some piping for our prototype

Thanks to the quick work of Dan, our engineer, and Mike, our fabricator, we soon had some intercooler piping tacked together and mocked up on the RS.

Prototype intercooler piping on the Focus RS
Prototype intercooler piping on the Focus RS

Now that we were certain of fitment, we could fully weld our piping for a more finalized prototype. Fire up the welder Mike!

Mike welding Focus RS intercooler piping
Mike welding Focus RS intercooler piping
Focus RS hot-side intercooler piping
Focus RS hot-side intercooler piping
Focus RS cold-side intercooler piping
Focus RS cold-side intercooler piping

With our first prototype complete, we installed it on our RS to evaluate our piping more in depth.

Cold-side Focus RS intercooler piping
Cold-side Focus RS intercooler piping
Hot-side Focus RS intercooler piping
Hot-side Focus RS intercooler piping
Hot-side Focus RS intercooler piping
Hot-side Focus RS intercooler piping

We expected a tight fit all around, but we still encountered some areas where the increased diameter just did not fit. We do not want to sacrifice piping size, so it was back to the drawing board, or rather the Solidworks. Although our first escape attempt may have been thwarted, we are not ready to succumb to the enemy just yet. We intend to elude the clutches of the cramped engine bay by creating excellent flowing intercooler pipes, just in the nick of time!

Coming Up!

We are in the process of updating our intercooler pipe design to accommodate the space constraints in the RS. In our next post, we will provide a closer look at our re-design and how we intend to improve upon our original prototype. Stay tuned! In the meantime, let us know what you think of the intercooler piping on the Focus RS in the comments below.

Thanks for reading!

-Sara

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