A charge air cooler is a heat exchanger that takes hot air from the turbo and cools it before it enters the engine’s intake manifold. This lowered intake air temperature increases the output of the engine and maximizes engine efficiency.
The main causes of charge air cooler leaks are:
- Thermal Fatigue: Caused by the ongoing thermal expansion and contraction cycles that a CAC endures during its operation. This leads to Tube-To-Header failures.
- Vibration: Caused by engine operation and road conditions can lead to metal fatigue over time. This fatigue may result in cracks or weakened areas in the charge air cooler, eventually causing leaks.
- Dust and Dirt: Road grime accumulates on the charge air cooler's surfaces. Over time, this buildup restricts the airflow and prevents efficient heat exchange, leading to leaks.
- Manufacturing Defects: Low-quality charge air coolers have manufacturing defects such as poor welding, insufficient design and quality control, and flawed materials. These defects lead to premature failure and leaks.
- Over pressurization: Caused by excessive turbo pressure, possibly due to a malfunctioning turbocharger, wastegate, or other components. This increased pressure will lead to leaks if the cooler is not designed to handle such pressure.
- Corrosion: Over time, the charge air cooler can corrode due to exposure to moisture, contaminants, and other environmental factors. Corrosion weakens the metal structure of the cooler, leading to leaks. Corrosion is more common in regions with harsh climates or where road salts are used.
The Dura-Lite Difference
For over 30-years Dura-Lite’s Patented High Temperature Silicone Grommet Tube-To-Header Leak-Free Seal System has continued to lead the Charge Air Cooler industry.
Dura-Lite™ Evolution® Charge Air Coolers are engineered for performance, durability, and longevity. Our tanks are reinforced to reduce premature failure. Every cooler is tested under water to assure it is leak-free before leaving the factory.
The advanced features and durability of the Evolution Charge Air Cooler allow us to offer a 7-Year, million-mile guarantee, which is the best warranty in the industry.
In addition, Dura-Lite Covers Warranty Labour. Warranty Labour on any Evolution Charge Air Cooler installed after October 1, 2023 is covered.
How do I find a leak in my charge air cooler?
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How do you pressure test (boost test) a CAC?
Instructions for using Dura-Lite’s Charge Air Cooler Tester-Kit
Dura-Lite’s leak down test kit for charge air coolers is a very quick and efficient method of testing for leaks in your charge air cooler. If your charge air cooler is leaking, you will experience a loss of horsepower and increased fuel consumption!
The really great thing about the Dura-Lite Tester-Kit™ is you can test any cooler while it's still on the truck in 20 minutes or less and ensure efficient operation of your vehicle, keeping it on the road for years to come.
Our Tester-Kit includes rubber plugs starting at 2 ½” [63.5mm] all the way up to 3 ¾” [95.3mm]. Before inserting the rubber plug into the inlet or the outlet of your charge air cooler, make sure that the inlet and outlet are free and clean from any moisture or debris.
How it Works
Once you have removed the piping from the charge air cooler you can select the appropriate size plug required for your application. Simply match up the plugs from the kit with the connection size, if it's too big take the next one down. Once you find the plug that fits, you’ve found the right size plug. In some cases, the plug available may seem too loose and too small, but don't let that bother you. By tightening a plug that is the closest match, it can be expanded to fit the connection. As an example, a 3 ¾” [95.3mm] plug can be expanded very easily to fit a 4” [101.6mm] connection.
Place one of the appropriate size washers (with oval center slot), rubber plug, second appropriate size washer (round center hole), nylon washer, and tightening handle onto the plug stem with male connector. Tighten the tightening handle to expand the plug just enough to make the plug fit snugly inside hot side (passenger side) connection. Make sure the large washer is positioned flush with the end of the connection and then continue to tighten by hand until the plug feels firmly tightened inside the connection.
When assembling the rubber plug assembly, make sure to always use the nylon washer supplied with the Tester-Kit to reduce the friction when tightening the tightening handle or flange nut and to protect the metal and painted surfaces.
In applications where the tightening handle may not be convenient to use because it can’t be easily tightened, that's not a problem, simply replace the tightening handle with the flange nut supplied in the kit. If using the flange nut with a wrench, be careful not to overtighten.
Place one of the appropriate size washers (with oval center slot), rubber plug, second appropriate size washer (round center hole), nylon washer, and tightening handle onto the plug stem solid. Tighten the tightening handle to expand the plug just enough to make the plug fit snugly inside cold side (driver side) connection. Make sure the large washer is positioned flush with the end of the connection and then continue to tighten by hand until the plug feels firmly tightened inside the connection.
The next step is to use the safety clamps provided in the Tester-Kit. Place the clamps over the tightening handle and then tighten the clamp wing nuts by hand until the notched (“V”) portion of the clamp is snug against the outside of the connection and the large clamp bolts are flush up against the end of the connection of the charge air cooler.
The Tester-Kit gauge assembly is equipped with a pressure relief valve, female quick coupler, and a fill valve (which is the same as the one used to fill your tires) and will be used for filling the cooler with compressed air to perform the test. Connect the gauge assembly female quick coupler to the plug stem with male connector on the hot side (passenger side) of the vehicle and then you are ready to fill with air.
The rule of thumb is to pressure up to 30 psig for most Class 8 applications and watch for a 5 psig drop in 15 seconds. Always refer to Dura-Lite’s Leak Down Rate Specifications chart for the applicable specification to test the engine in your vehicle.
For the complete and detailed Instructions for using Dura-Lite’s Charge Air Cooler Tester-Kit, refer to the instructions supplied with each Dura-Lite Tester-Kit.
Charge Air Cooler Leak Symptoms
Detecting a charge air cooler (CAC) leak is crucial for maintaining engine performance and efficiency.
Here are some common symptoms that may indicate a charge air cooler leak:
- Reduced Engine Performance: A noticeable decrease in engine power and performance will occur when there is a leak in the charge air cooler. This is because the engine receives less cooled air, leading to inefficient combustion.
- Poor Fuel Efficiency: Reduced efficiency in the combustion process due to insufficiently cooled air can lead to decreased fuel efficiency. If you notice a sudden drop in miles per gallon (MPG), it may be an indication of a charge air cooler leak.
- Elevated Soot Level in Oil: A leaking charge air cooler causes incomplete combustion which results in elevated levels of soot in the oil.
- Increased Coolant Temperature: A leak in the charge air cooler can result in elevated coolant temperatures. This is because the engine is not receiving adequately cooled air, and the combustion process generates more heat.
- Black Exhaust Smoke: Insufficiently cooled air as a result of a leaking charge air cooler can cause incomplete combustion of fuel, leading to the excessive black exhaust smoke.
- Hissing or Whistling Noises: Audible hissing or whistling sounds near the charge air cooler typically indicate a leak. These sounds are caused when the pressurized air escapes through the cracks or holes in the cooler.
If you observe any of these symptoms, it's essential to address the issue promptly. Ignoring a charge air cooler leak will lead to decreased fuel efficiency and potential damage to other engine components.
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