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What to Know About Charge Air Cooler Leaks

When it comes to commercial trucks and heavy industrial equipment, every bit of horsepower matters. A common part of the induction system of truck and heavy equipment engines is the charge air cooler (CAC). A charge air cooler and turbocharger work together to inject cool, dense air into the engine cylinder. The result is more horsepower and better fuel efficiency. That’s why a charge air cooler leak can be a serious drag on your equipment.

Charge Air Cooler Basics

You might sometimes see a charge air cooler referred to as an “air-to-air” cooler. That means it exclusively uses cooler air, rather than water, to lower the temperature of the warmer air passing through it. No matter what the configuration is, a turbocharger system is all about keeping intake air at just the right temperature and density to improve fuel combustion.

So, what are the basic parts of the charge air cooler? The process starts with the turbocharger (or supercharger) taking in warm air and compressing it using exhaust gases. The compressed air then flows to the charge air cooler itself, which cools the air.

The cooling process in the charge air cooler works like most other types of radiators or heat exchangers. A core with metal fins and tubes transfers heat away from the compressed air, which also increases its density. The greater density is what allows the air to “turbocharge” the engine as it enters the intake. As the engine runs, warm air is expelled and the cooling process begins again.

charge air coolers

The Danger of Charge Air Cooler Leaks

Like any engine component, charge air coolers and turbochargers can break down and fail. The most common cause of failure is a charge air cooler leak. Since the system is leaking air and not oil or water, it can be difficult to detect before it’s too late. A significant air leak can decrease engine horsepower and fuel efficiency by as much as 50%!

The most common causes of charge air cooler leaks are heat stress, constant engine vibration and vehicle accidents/collisions. Basically, the harsher the environment in which your truck or equipment runs, the more vulnerable it is to charge air cooler problems. A leaking cooler is one that can’t do its job, and is hurting your productivity. In extreme cases, leaks can lead to exhaust overheating and even fires.

How to Prevent and Repair Charge Air Cooler Leaks

But wait, here’s the good news! You can minimize the danger of charge air cooler leaks with regular preventive maintenance. At Industrial Radiator Service, we service and repair charge air coolers and radiators for diesel truck and heavy equipment engines of all models and sizes. That includes Detroit dieselCaterpillarCummins and MTU engines. We’ll recommend a plan to check for air leaks before they become a big issue and to make sure all cooling systems are working properly.

If your charge air cooler is already in need of repair or replacement, we can take care of that, too. We’ll even handle the radiator service logistics and make it easy to get your equipment to and from your location. There’s no excuse–don’t let a leaking charge air cooler get you heated! Contact Industrial Radiator Service today.


  1. Shaylee Packer

    I didn’t realize that a charge air cooler leak could cause a decrease in horsepower on the truck. My neighbor who is a truck driver, was saying the other day that he has noticed that truck isn’t pushing as hard as it used to. I will have to let him know that it may be a leak in the charge air cooler. https://www.westernsuburbsradiators.com.au/car

  2. […] Several of the most common malfunctions with these parts involve leaks. For example, if there is a charge air cooler leak, it can cause higher than normal fuel consumption, elevated coolant temperature, loss of engine […]

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