Heat management during fast car use is crucial to maintaining peak performance from your car. Even the most efficient engines radiate a significant amount of heat around the engine bay through the block, heads and cooling system. Plus there are other areas where heat management is important such as the brakes.
What is Heat Management?
Heat management is what it says on the tin, it’s improving how the various areas of the car stay within key temperature ranges to get optimum performance without risking the longevity of the engine. It’s the reason that many car enthusiasts tell you to let the engine warm-up before starting a journey or allowing the engine to cool by driving gently after thrashing your car around a track.
Why is Heat Management Important?
Heat management is critical because significant damage can be sustained if the engine is not within the temperature thresholds when operating. When a vehicle overheats there can be a loss of power which if you’re experiencing that then pull over immediately.
Different parts of your car have different optimal operating temperatures. Overheating can increase the wear and tear of these components or cause serious and permanent damage to the vehicle. In extreme cases, an overheated engine even for a short distance can destroy the engine block, cylinder head, and other internal parts. The full extent of the damage may not be seen immediately straight away but it may take weeks, months, or even longer for the damage to be seen or impact the rest of the car.
One of the first side effects of an overheating engine is a loss of power, should that happen to you then you need to pull over at the earliest and safest opportunity as you don’t want to risk long term significant damage to the car.
The side effects of overheating can be horrendously expensive if you consider the cost of a replacement turbo, having to get new brakes or blowing the head gasket.
Heat management is even more important for car reliability and performance when it comes to tuned cars where the engines are being pushed even harder.
How to manage heat in cars
To manage the heat of your car the first step is to identify the areas that are most susceptible to it and then modify your car to help it to manage those temperatures.
Common Areas Where Heat Management is Critical to Car Performance
The main areas that are affected by heat are; the engine, braking system and turbo. Often, the most problematic areas are the engine transmission and the turbo system because they both need regular maintenance, are complex, delicate, and are interconnected.
The engine is the most vulnerable part of a vehicle to overheating. When overheating occurs, pistons will bind against the cylinder walls, destroying the walls, seizing the piston, and breaking the connecting rod. The heat also wrecks the oil gaskets leading to water spillage into the oil. This will degrade the lubricating factor of the oil which can rapidly wear the moving parts.
The excess heat also thins the oil dramatically, losing lubricity. As a result, moving parts throughout the engine may lose enough lubrication leading to wear.
Turbochargers are likely to blow if they overheat. A turbocharger uses exhaust air (and occasionally engine oil) to operate and therefore can run as hot as the engine. Overheated engine oil in an overheated engine can destroy the turbo’s bearings.
Products to Improve Heat Management in the Engine
Most cars by default have some level of heat management such as the air intake, manufacturer-made heat insulation and even the exhaust. These measures can work for a stock car. They may however not be sufficient for motorsport, track sports, and fast road use. Even a normal car intensifies heat emission as it ages, and the intake gets clogged and the insulation starts to wear. Additional heat management measures can be put in place to manage the excess heat and to improve the overall car performance. Heat management can utilize products such as intercoolers and gold tapes to help protect core components from being affected by heat.
Intercoolers are a vital component for heat management on turbocharged vehicles. What are they? In simple terms, they are devices used to cool gases or liquids from various parts of the vehicle using the airflow from the air intake. The device takes warm air entering the engine and cools it through heat exchange.
There are two main types of intercoolers. These are the air-to-air intercoolers and air-to-water intercoolers. Air-to-air intercoolers use a colder airflow to cool a warmer flow of air before it is directed into the engine. An air-to-water intercooler cools the warmer air using water. The water is cooled by a radiator.
Many times aftermarket intercoolers are larger than their stock counterparts allowing them to cool even more efficiently by having a greater surface area.
Benefits of Intercoolers
- Intercoolers cool the air entering the engine and this increases the density of the air. This, in turn, increases the engine power output since the engine has more air to combust.
- Intercoolers cause a significant reduction in air pressure. This improves the longevity of the turbo as it causes the turbo to work less to meet the intended boost target.
To help reduce heat soak within an engine bay on a performance car it is common to see a turbocharger wrapped in a strange material which can be made from things like heat resistant fabric, malleable/flexible metal or even in some cases on the high-end blankets volcanic lava rock! This is essentially a turbo blanket. The blanket keeps the hot side of the turbocharger hot and the other side will be cooler. A turbo blanket can potentially save an engine and the turbocharger from severe damage by controlling that heat and preventing the heat from spreading and damaging the surrounding vulnerable components.
Benefits of Turbo Blankets
- The blanket shields vital components, which are made of plastic and rubber, from extreme heat which would make them dry up and perish.
- The blanket keeps the heat contained, increasing the air pressure derived from the heat, and increasing the rate of flow of the air. This increases the efficiency of the turbocharger which relies on the air pressure for spooling.
- The cooler air entering the engine is denser increasing the engine performance.
If you are pushing your car’s engine or turbo further then it is a good idea to insulate the interior of an engine bay to protect other parts in it from hot temperatures. Using gold tape creates a barrier that reflects heat.
The Gold Tape is a heat reflective tape whose top layer is composed of shining gold colour. The gold colour provides better heat reflective properties than other reflective surfaces and can reflect up to 80% of the heat.
A useful feature of the Gold Tape is that it is easy to cut and install within the engine bay, even if there is only limited room to do so. Just like normal tape, the gold tape is also self-adhesive so sticks easily and provides additional heat protection as the adhesive layer also contains carbon fibre to deliver additional heat protection.
Gold tape is available up to lengths of 150 inches and has a variety of length and width options. It will endure very high temperatures making it very ideal for turbochargers and intercooler pipes. It can also be used to shield fuel lines, brake lines, and electric wires.
Benefits of the Gold Tape
- The Gold Tape can withstand continuous heat and 450 degrees Celsius of ambient heat
- The Gold Tape comes in different lengths and widths that can be cut to the component size.
- The tape is easy to apply and reasonably long-lasting.
- It’s a very cost-effective mod.
With an engine churning out high temperatures under the bonnet, something has to be done with the excess heat. The heat needs to be kept away from vital components. Anything that can be done to deflect excess heat from the engine transmission and other critical parts and components will be a big help. Heat management using components such as intercoolers and Gold Tape is, therefore, critical.