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Morning all,

Been wanting to write something about my intercooler testing for a while, but have been holding off untul I had/have enough data to be able to backup what I am saying, which given that we're all currently on coronavirus lockdown, I have had plenty of time to look at the last 12 months of data!

Brief history / spec of car.
I have pretty much owned or tested all of the commonly available intercoolers for the R53 on my car. At one point I spent a whole weekend doing back to back tests of the Pro Alloy TMIC, GRS Motorsport TMIC, Airtec TMIC and my friend's GP.
From my testing I ended up keeping the Airtec TMIC as I felt it offered the best temperature control, whilst sacrificing a bit of boost vs the others.

My R53 has pretty much all of the common mods including a Sprintex supercharger with smallest available pulley (60mm), BVH with larger intake and exhaust valves, ported intake manifold, standalone ECUMaster engine management etc.
With the ECUMaster client interface I am able to access a lot of data, and since fitting a secondary iAT sensor into the FMIC, I can see quite a lot of temperature information, as well as boost etc.

Anyway, enough rambling.

I recently got in touch with Graham about getting one of his FMIC's ordered (wanted the Mk1) and a few weeks later it arrived.
Fitting took us about a day, but we did a few other bits too (ported intake manifold, new sump, new front radiator, ARP con-rod bolts) and a few other small jobs.
Once the FMIC was fitted, I then spent a bit of time sealing the area around it so that the majority of the air hitting the front of the car had to pass through the IC. It isnt totally sealed, but I'm confident I've blocked off most of the areas where large volumes of high pressure air would escape. I also cut a small section from the crash bar, and modified my aero bumper to expose as much of the IC as possible

I'll split the review up into a few key sections... iAT, boost, aesthetics and I'll share some data later in the review.

iATs.
So, with the Sprintex charger and Airtec intercooler which I have around 6 months worth of testing data, 5000 miles and a variety of ambient temperatures, I typically found that on a long cruise, motorway or dual carriageway etc with little throttle input or speed change, the iAT would sit around 11c over ambient.
When on boost, temperatures would climb rapidly - usually in the region of 15c per gear (depending on start RPM obviously) - but this was fairly typical.
Lets say ambient was 15c, that was put my "start" temp in the region of 25c, which would then hit 40c by the end of 3rd gear, 55c by the end of 4th gear.
The other downfall of the Airtec was recovery, which wasn't the fastest, so intake temperatures would remain high for quite a while, even when just coasting down from speed.
With the FMIC, things changes dramatically. Cruising temps are typically 1c over ambient, and often the same as ambient, especially in the morning before the car warms up (whereas the Airtec would pretty much instantly be warmer than ambient).
On boost, the behaviour is quite different - there is a "dead zone of iAT" where lets say you start accelerating hard at 3000rpm/3rd gear... and lets says the iAT is 15c (ambient also 15c) - the iAT will not rise until the car is on boost for a period of time - it will stay at 15c usually for 1-2 seconds without changing, then gradually climb. Typically, around 8c per gear but during even the quickest of gear changes, the iAT will drop 1-2c instantly as soon as the clutch is engaged. Using the same secnario as above, if ambient was 15c, start temp would also be 15c, it would climb to around 22c by the end of 3rd, then drop to 21c, then climb to 29c by the end of 4th.
So absolute performance of how well it rejects heat is considerably better than the "best" TMIC in my testing.
However, the most impressive thing is the recovery speed - which is phenomenal.
Using my ECU to datalog, the FMIC sheds 10c of heat every 5 seconds of being off-boost. The FMIC also is quite happy to return to ambient temperature, whereas I found with a TMIC (any of them) it never really fully recovered back to ambient - it always seemed to heat-soak and stay 8-12c warmer than ambient after you'd got it hot. The FMIC returns to ambient within 10-15 seconds of no boost.

Boost
A lot of people say you lose boost pressure with a FMIC, which is true... but not as bad as I was expecting. Unfortunately, my test data is not entirely FMIC here, as I also fitted a ported intake manifold at the same time (unlikely to make much difference... but).
During my TMIC testing, I found the Airtec to perform the worst with regards to boost pressure, it dropped more pressure than any other intercooler.
With the Sprintex setup, my peak boost pressure in 4th gear (near max rpm) was as follows:
Airtec TMIC - 16.9psi
GRS Msport TMIC - 17.8psi
Pro Alloy TMIC - 17.2psi
GP TMIC - 18.5psi
Stock TMIC (!!) - 19.3psi
GRS FMIC - 16.7psi (also fitted ported intake manifold at the same time)

So, yes you do lose boost compared to some of the TMIC's out there, but if you have an Airtec TMIC then the difference really is negligable (less than 0.5psi)
Most people are unlikely to go from standard top mount to the FMIC, so I would say most people will be going from either the GRS or Airtec TMIC, so typical boost loss would be 1psi over that setup. Compared to the standard intercooler, then yes, there's around 2.5psi loss.

Aesthetics (sound, looks)

I just love the way it looks, but the way it sounds is even better. The supercharger whine is so pronounced with it - even when you start the car up and it revs up, the supercharger whine is very apparent.




Data:

 

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A good read and confirms my overall beliefs concerning upgraded top mount coolers....a waste of money. The physical location of the cooler is it’s biggest issue, not it’s internal core design or size (which is very limited).

Hey that’s my opinion, based on my experiences of a range of modified turbo charged car (the Mini remains my only supercharged car), I’m no scientist nor engineer.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I wouldn't say an uprated TMIC is a waste of money... the difference in intake temperature reduction of the Airtec vs the standard intercooler is enormous - you lose some boost as a penalty, but with a reduced pulley you need some way to control the heat.

I still believe the best pulley size for the R53 is a 13% with a GRS TMIC. That combination would be more than enough for most applications.

Its all horses for courses, but the standard intercooler is pretty much useless for anything other than retaining boost pressure
 

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Thanks for the write-up, good work! Regarding the temps and recovery with TMIC's, did you do your testing with the scoop in the pics?

Really surprised about the boost loss with Airtec compared to others. I've had GRS (non-motorsport version) and Airtec myself, but got disappointed in the slow recovery and went back to stock (I'm using E85 to cool the intake charge ?). Didn't see that much difference in boost, but I also didn't really test them back-to-back at the time.
 

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I wouldn't say an uprated TMIC is a waste of money... the difference in intake temperature reduction of the Airtec vs the standard intercooler is enormous - you lose some boost as a penalty, but with a reduced pulley you need some way to control the heat.

I still believe the best pulley size for the R53 is a 13% with a GRS TMIC. That combination would be more than enough for most applications.

Its all horses for courses, but the standard intercooler is pretty much useless for anything other than retaining boost pressure
Great Post, thanks for sharing. Not to be nit picky, but would have been nice to have had the OAT next to each boost pressure reading under your boost findings for each setup, as the outside air temp, can have a drastic effect on the final boost number.. Obviously is rather difficult testing under the same temperature each run under different parts of days, and to make it even more difficult there is the varying atmospheric pressure which changes day to day which will also have a big effect on final boost numbers. But regardless appreciate your time and effort with this

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Isn't the main problem with the available front mounts is that they use the original horns and have to be routed down over the intake manifold? This increase in pipe length looks ugly and drop's pressure. I can't believe the R53 has been out 18 years and there still isn't aftermarket horns available either as part of a FMIC package or separate to DIY it. My plan is to go front mount and either make my own inlet/outlet supercharger horns or hope that one of the mx5 kits fits.


Sent from my ONEPLUS A6013 using Tapatalk
 

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Useful stuff to see Nick as there are generally few examples of testing several things on one car. I'm sure very few people would contemplate such an IC change from TMIC to FMIC on a road car but the subject rarely seems to come up. Steady state low IAT isn't a measure of much really imo, if not using the engine hard and it isn't clipping anyway with a stock IC it's just a potential starting temp, performance differences between cars or the affects of clipping on some can vary significantly. People often review Airtec IC's stating this type of drop claiming it a success, but push the car and it isn't so good.

An FMIC can cost 20hp, certainly an Airtec. Never usually mentioned is what a temp clipping car might be actually losing in HP? Is it known? Is it proportionate? It might clip 10deg condition dependant but what is that in lost thrust? Where on a circuit might it be losing it to be of significance? Halfway down a straight or almost the end of it? Through a sequence of turns? For how long? If an FMIC has strong recovery does it make enough of a difference overall, that such an IC change is 'truly' valuable? Factoring in a potential 20hp sacrifice? How might such a power drop compare with a clipped HP and/or TQ value?

Such tests are only really relevant done on track imo, it's the only place where consistent corner to corner hard throttle use with true heat build up or recovery and actual highest performance can be measured, that should be the base for any discussion on real performance results or that of so called upgrade or performance parts. If good in that scenario it stands to reason they'd be good to cross over to a fast road car, save for heat soak traffic situations, it doesn't work at all well the other way round imo.

I'm inclined to agree on the optimum pulley being 13% but not with a GRS, only a GPIC in my opinion would excel due to its rapid recovery, again engine spec varies significantly anyway.

Not many cars run a Sprintex so I don't know how the affects of IC's tested with one and boost in particular which also changes with engine spec might compare. Two BVH's actual spec can be some way apart which will affect boost as well as the cam and timing, I don't really know why so many people look at it as they do when a car with lower boost can make more, as well as less from a leak. In comparison to some cars even if yours was clipping, the performance difference could still prove to be a significant advantage perhaps, meaning the affect of clipping on your car may read differently to that of an M45 car perhaps, or your standalone vs stock ECU or stock remapped or ByteTroniK for example. Clipping on my car with its revised gearing will be evident but the affect on actual performance is less because of what the FD say, does for forward thrust/leverage anyway. Twisted logic maybe, but as above, where the engine is affected matters, not just how if that makes sense (probably won't to me tomorrow?).

Really the most relevant info for the majority of people might lie in any test details you have that are related to parts mentioned in your 'brief history/spec of car'. All of those tested on one car in which configuration can be a useful read for some although god knows how you conclude the Airtec to be on top other than cost swinging opinion, many accept the GPIC is the one otherwise, same old argument though isn't it but people still like looking at test stuff ;O)

Still the best test of any would be such parts all run on track. Corner to corner consistent hard use, or people can buy these things tested other ways as they already do, only to later use their cars on track and potentially suffer some disappointment if not actual remorse from the outlay, they won't say though, nobody ever says the kit didn't work so well usually until some time after they've sold it on and discovered something they think is better, then it doesn't matter but some still won't say they made a poor choice.
 

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I can't believe the R53 has been out 18 years and there still isn't aftermarket horns available either as part of a FMIC package or separate to DIY it..
Airtec "borrowed" the designs for the GRS front mount (they copied the 1st version which Graham later refined with a smaller core and pipes).

GRS later did a kit which removed the horns, they don't really advertise it but Graham will make you one up if you ask.
 

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Are there any fmic's that don't require removing the a/c?

And wouldn't water/meth injection make more sense on a road/track day car than upgrading the ic...
I've always hated the idea of water/meth as its something to run out or a mechanical part to fail. Its possible to have an FMIC and aircon, its just theres not enough money in making one in mass production so to speak or someone would have done it, the R53 is a niche car with heat issues that aren't high on the agenda for people solve sadly.

I've toyed around with various ideas on paper but the cost of reality (I can't weld alloy myself) was too great to make it a real option, TBH I'd keep my money for other things.
 

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Are there any fmic's that don't require removing the a/c?

And wouldn't water/meth injection make more sense on a road/track day car than upgrading the ic...
I'm definitely a fan of my meth kit. The results are I rate way better than any intercooler, ie: no boost loss and way more stable temps, then the added benefits of a slight increase in octane and assistance with no detonation. So for me makes way more sense and alot more advantages of going for fmic

Sent from my Infinix X604 using Tapatalk
 

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I'm definitely a fan of my meth kit. The results are I rate way better than any intercooler, ie: no boost loss and way more stable temps, then the added benefits of a slight increase in octane and assistance with no detonation. So for me makes way more sense and alot more advantages of going for fmic

Sent from my Infinix X604 using Tapatalk
All depends on how you use your car. For me meth as a track car is just an added pain in the arse of something else to carry and potentially run out of, which you dont have with other potential solutions like fmic
 

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Are there any fmic's that don't require removing the a/c?

And wouldn't water/meth injection make more sense on a road/track day car than upgrading the ic...
I did exactly this. Just kept the stock intercooler and added a water meth kit as an (cheaper at the time) alternative to an upgraded intercooler. This leads on nicely to a question Sean had about timing being pulled. I've run out of fluid mid pull and it felt like hitting a brick wall. Butt dyno said a 25% power loss, probably 15 degrees of timing. All the more noticeable as it happened all at once, rather than being gradual
 
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