The Guide to Upgrading the Intercooler on a 2.3L Ford Ranger. A larger intercooler reduces intake air temperatures, resulting in more power, more consistent performance, and a healthier, more reliable engine. The Ranger’s stock FMIC is adequate for stock power levels, but when mods are applied, it can rapidly become overwhelmed, resulting in power losses.
Even if your Ranger isn’t tuned or altered, adding the intercooler is a great idea for anyone who frequently tows with their Ranger, especially if you live in a hot climate. Towing puts a lot of strain on the turbo, resulting in greater engine and exhaust gas temperatures, which can create a variety of reliability difficulties.
This tutorial will go through the performance benefits of upgrading the Ranger FMIC, numerous factors to consider when choosing an intercooler, such as design and sizing, and give some recommendations on our favorite items on the market.
The Fundamentals of Ford Ranger Intercoolers
Historically, prior model Rangers did not have intercoolers because their engines were entirely naturally aspirated. Because the new Ranger features a turbocharged 2.3L EcoBoost engine, it now has an intercooler and other additional components like as a downpipe.
Turbochargers generate a lot of heat, which raises the temperature of the air they compress. Because hot air is hazardous for engines, it must be cooled before entering the combustion chamber. As a result, “charge air,” or air that has been compressed by the turbo, is sent into the intercooler and cooled before being put into the engine.
The Ford Ranger has an air-to-air intercooler integrated into the front bumper. It uses outside air to cool the charge air inside the intercooler. The intercooler has air galleries, and the outside air goes through these galleries, cooling the air inside.
As previously stated, the factory intercooler is adequate for a stock engine. It’s also adequate for towing, but that doesn’t mean that upgrading it isn’t worthwhile. When you install a tuner on your Ranger, boost pressure rises, and the stock intercooler becomes ineffective, resulting in performance concerns such as power loss, heat soak, and knock. Furthermore, towing frequently, especially in hot weather or at altitude, can result in greater engine temperatures, higher EGTs, and a negative influence on reliability because heat is bad for engines.
Upgrading to a performance intercooler will increase cooling capacity and efficiency, resulting in lower intake air temperatures, lower EGTs, increased power, consistent performance, and a more reliable engine.
Size and Design of the 2.3L Ranger Intercooler
Performance FMICs differ from stock systems in several respects. The first consideration is size. Aftermarket intercoolers will have a larger core and a larger surface area to store and efficiently cool more air. The more air an intercooler can cool and the more effective it is, the larger it is. There is, however, such a thing as going too big. Second, intercoolers are classified into two types: bar and plate and tube and fin. Each design has advantages and disadvantages, which we will describe below.
Ranger FMIC Dimensions
The size of the intercooler is the most crucial factor to consider when selecting one for your 2.3L Ranger EcoBoost. Sizing is made up of two parts: core size and surface area. The core size of an intercooler refers to how much air it can retain. The surface area of the intercooler refers to its exterior. With increased surface area, the intercooler can catch more ambient air and so be more effective at cooling the internal air.
The core diameters and surface areas of most aftermarket intercoolers are 25%-50% larger than the standard intake. However, there are a few intercoolers on the market that have core volume gains of 100% or greater. While it may appear that bigger is always better, this is not always the case.
If you install an intercooler with a 100% larger core on an otherwise stock Ranger, you will notice significant pressure decreases and an increase in turbo lag. This is due to the fact that with a stock tune and turbo, you aren’t pushing as much air through the intercooler. And now since the intercooler is so much larger, the air must travel a considerably greater distance before entering the engine. Furthermore, because there isn’t enough air to cover all of the extra space, the air pressure, or psi, will decline.
We recommend using an intercooler that is approximately 50% larger than the stock intercooler. You won’t need or want anything bigger unless you’re upgrading your turbo; otherwise, you’ll cause a lot of lag and may even lose some power due to pressure drop inside the intercooler.
Tube and Fin vs. Bar and Plate
This is a minor point because the majority of aftermarket intercoolers are bar and plate types. However, for educational purposes, we will explore it briefly. These two types of intercoolers are distinguished by the designs of their fins/air galleries.
Rectangular air galleries in bar and plate intercoolers increase the volume of air that goes through and increase capacity. They also have less pressure drop and can withstand higher boost levels. They’re also more resilient and less vulnerable to harm from pebbles and other road debris. The sole disadvantage is that they are heavier, but not by enough to warrant purchasing a tube and fin.
The air passages in the tube and fin are more curved or oval in shape. As a result, it has slightly reduced air capacity. They are, nevertheless, more efficient and beneficial for weight loss. However, they have more pressure loss than bar and plate intercoolers and are unable of handling as much boost. They are also more fragile and easily damaged by rocks and debris.
Overall, despite being heavier and less efficient, we choose bar and plate designs because they offer less pressure drop and more cooling capacity.
Advantages of a Ford Ranger Intercooler Upgrade
- Gains of 10-20whp (tuned)
- Heat soak at a lower temperature
- Power loss is avoided, and performance is consistent.
- Engine knock is less likely.
- improved ignition timing
- Reduced EGTs and IATs
- improved towing
The power improvements from an intercooler are usually dependent on the other upgrades you have. On a stock Ranger, you won’t notice many power gains, but you will notice reduced EGTs and engine temps while towing. The more power and boost you apply, the greater power improvements you will perceive. The Ranger EcoBoost can produce gains of up to 20whp.
Intercoolers do more than just increase power; they also reduce power loss. The constant high boost levels can create heat soak when driving quickly or hauling. The increased IATs caused by heat soak can lead the Ranger to lose 10-20whp. As a result, an intercooler will not only deliver power gains but will also avoid power loss.
Because of the reliability improvements, we recommend an intercooler for anyone who is tuned or tows frequently. Misfires, knock, pull timing, pre-detonation, and other issues might result from an insufficient intercooler. Lowering intake air temperatures will lower engine temperatures, exhaust temperatures, give better timing, and reduce the possibility of knock or misfires. Cooler engines are healthier engines, which is why this is one of our favorite 2.3L Ranger modifications.
Upgrades for the 2.3L Ranger Intercooler
There are now only a few options on the market. However, the new Ranger is gaining popularity in the aftermarket, so more options should be available in the near future. That being said, the most significant consideration right now is intercooler sizing. Bigger doesn’t always mean better.
Given that the majority of readers here most likely do not have and do not want to upgrade their turbo, we recommend going 50% larger than stock.
1) Ranger 2.3L CVF Performance Intercooler
CVF is our favorite intercooler on the market because it offers one of the greatest price, quality, and performance combinations on the market. The CVF intercooler is exactly where we want it in terms of size, with a 46% larger core. It also incorporates high-flow end tanks to improve flow to and from the intercooler, which is vital for decreasing obstruction. In addition, the surface area is approximately 50% bigger for effective cooling. This is also a bar and plate design.
The CVF FMIC fits perfectly and is a direct bolt-on replacement. Most people can do this in their driveway in 2-5 hours. At $599, it is reasonably priced when compared to other options on the market that cost $750 or more. When you combine that with their quality and lifetime warranty, it’s difficult to find a better option.
2) Performance Ranger Intercooler Levels
Levels Performance, a Florida-based company that specializes in EcoBoost performance components, is our second best option on the market. Levels manufactures all of their intercoolers in-house and guarantees their quality.
IATs were reduced by 50 degrees when tested on their dyno in Florida. While no measurement information is provided, they appear to have a larger core than the CVF product but a somewhat smaller surface area. Their huge end tanks allow great flow to and from the intercooler, which is a unique design feature.
At $800, it’s an excellent choice for anyone wishing to support a small business that manufactures all of its items in-house for superior quality.
Summary of Ford Ranger Intercooler Upgrades
One of the best Ford Ranger performance modifications for both power and dependability is an improved intercooler. An intercooler, with up to 20whp increases, will not only offer significant power but will also lessen the likelihood of heat soak, resulting in more consistent performance. Lower IATs lessen the possibility of knock, misfires, and pre-detonation while also keeping the engine cool, which is beneficial for enhanced reliability when adjusted.
While replacing the intercooler on a stock Ranger isn’t required, it is a fantastic alteration. If you live in a hot region or frequently tow, you’ll quickly notice the benefits of the intercooler. We strongly recommend this upgrade if you are tuned and operating above stock boost settings.
The most significant aspect for intercoolers is size. In terms of core size and surface area, we recommend keeping with something that is roughly 50% larger than the stock intercooler. If you are upgrading your turbo, you should consider custom intercooler alternatives that are 100% larger or larger, depending on power improvements.