Oil in The Intercooler Pipe: Causes and Fixes

Turbocharger problems could cause performance and power issues in your car. This can usually happen if there is oil in your intercooler. The turbocharger’s hot air is cooled by the intercooler. 

This article will discuss possible causes of oil entering the intercooler pipe.  

Causes of Oil in the Intercooler Pipe

There are two types intercoolers. Front-Mounted Intercoolers & Top-Mounted Intercoolers. Front-mounted intercoolers will be located in the grill opening next to the front bumper. Top-mounted intercoolers will be directly above the engine. 

These intercoolers link to the turbocharger by pipes. Turbochargers are more likely to overheat, so they need oil lubrication. Oil can leak from the intercooler if a seal or component is broken. The intercooler leaks are different from normal leaks because the intercooler lies between the turbocharger engine and the engine. This video demonstrates the intercooler in action.


It can happen for many reasons. 

Worn-out Turbo Seals 

The seals on turbochargers play an important role in preventing oil leaking from the engine. Insufficient oil pressure and incorrect installation can cause seals to wear over time. This causes engine oil to leak into the intercooler. 

Oil deposits in the intercooler can cause the cooling capacity to decrease. Make sure that you have your turbo seals serviced by a professional. It will cost approximately $100 to replace the turbo seal or $1,000-$2,000 to repair it. 

Wrong gasket 

If the gasket has become worn or isn’t installed correctly, oil can leak into your engine. The gasket creates a seal between the oil pan (or engine block) and the oil pan.

Overheating and dirt buildup in the engine can cause the gasket to fail. The seal may have become loose or cracked over time, leading to an oil leak. Spot the problem and get help. water in the oil panIt could also be caused due to a defective gasket.

To prevent oil leaking into the intercooler, ensure that the gasket has been replaced. 

Clogged Air filter/Air filter intake 

The engine’s air filter prevents any outside pollutant from getting in. An clogged filter can cause carbon buildup in the crankcase and sludge. This will cause higher vacuum levels when oil flow is blocked. 

Oil will leak from the valve due to increased pressure. The air filter should be cleaned by soaking it in soapy warm water. Your mechanic should replace your air filter as soon as possible if the filter is not repairable. 

Pipes for damaged oil return 

Oil flows through the turbocharger and is then returned to the oil pan via an oil return line. This line contains a hose. If the oil return line becomes blocked, cracks or twists, oil could leak from it. 

The compressor or turbine can allow this oil to reach the engine’s cooling system. A mechanic can repair the oil return pipe to prevent further oil leakage. 

Inadequate installation of the Turbocharger 

Oil can leak from the turbocharger if it is not correctly placed. If you use the wrong size O-ring and gasket, this can cause oil to leak into your engine. The turbocharger can also be damaged by any leftover plastic or foam. 

Oil can seep into your car’s intercooler directly from the compressor housings and turbine housings. Hire an expert to help you install the turbocharger. 

The intercooler is located deep within the engine so it is not easy to find any leaks. Let’s look at some signs that oil may be entering your engine’s cooling systems. 

What happens if oil enters the Intercooler system? 

The turbocharger won’t work optimally if oil gets into your engine’s intercooler. Because the turbocharger doesn’t cool the intake, oxygen levels are low. This can cause inefficient fuel usage. Oil can also enter the cylinder through the intercooler pipe. 

Oily Intercooler Symptoms 

These are signs that oil may be present in the intercooler. 

  • Reduced acceleration and power output 
  • Lower fuel efficiency
  • The engine light has come on 
  • Exhaust is a source of black smoke 

How to Clean the Oil from the Intercooler


It is difficult to clean the intercooler because it is so deep in the engine. Because the intercooler is located deep within the engine, it can be difficult to clean. 

Tools required: 

  1. Screwdriver  
  2. Extra oil can be stored in a container. 
  3. Degreaser 
  4. Acetone, kerosene 
  5. Gloves 

These are the steps that will clean the intercooler oil. 

  1. The turbocharger and engine are connected by pipes to the intercooler. Use a flathead screwdriver to loosen the hoses and piping that connect the intercooler to the turbocharger. 
  2. Drain oil from the intercooler if it is clogged. 
  3. Spray any detergent on the interior and exterior of the intercooler. 
  4. Rinse the intercooler in water with acetone and kerosene for about 15 minutes to remove any oil accumulation. Continue this process until the bucket is clear. 
  5. Allow the intercooler time to dry before you reinstall it. 

FAQs about Oil in the Intercooler Pipe 

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You should fix the problem immediately if oil is leaking into the intercooler. This happens because oil buildup in the intercooler blocks it from cooling hot air from your turbocharger. It can result in reduced power and fuel economy. 

Oil leaks can be caused by a loose or defective turbocharger, a faulty gasket, or an oil return line hose. To determine the source of oil leakage, inspect your engine. 

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