Are metal intercooler pipes better than factory?

Date Posted:5 February 2024 

Legendex Big Boy Hot Pipes Explained

The Pros and Cons of Metal Piping vs. Standard Factory Rubber and Plastic Pipes in Intercooler Systems

In the realm of performance upgrades for vehicles, particularly those used for towing, off-roading, or just enthusiasts looking for that extra edge in power, the debate between using metal piping versus the standard factory-issued rubber and plastic for intercooler systems is a hot topic. This discussion takes on added weight when considering the advancements in intercooler technology, such as the Legendex Big Boy intercooler range designed for robust off-road performance and efficiency.

Pros of Metal Piping:

  1. Durability: Metal piping offers superior durability compared to rubber and plastic. It withstands higher temperatures and pressures, crucial for vehicles running on high boost. Rubber hoses are prone to perishing, while metal remains steadfast, ensuring the integrity of the intercooler system over time.

  2. Performance Stability: Metal pipes maintain their shape under pressure, providing a consistent and unrestricted airflow. This stability is vital for minimizing lag and maximizing the efficiency of the turbo system, as any deformation in the piping can lead to performance inconsistencies.

  3. Leak Resistance: The risk of leaks is significantly reduced with metal piping. Rubber and plastic can degrade, crack, or split over time, especially under the stress of high boost levels, leading to slow power loss or even total failure. Metal's robustness provides a secure, leak-proof system that ensures optimal performance and reliability.

  4. Aesthetics and Customization: Beyond functionality, metal piping offers an aesthetic upgrade to the engine bay. It allows for more customization in routing and can be a visually appealing aspect of the vehicle's performance modifications.

Legendex Big Boy intercooler upgrade kit

Cons of Metal Piping:

  1. Heat Conductivity: One potential drawback of metal piping is its heat-soak properties. Metal can absorb and retain heat from the engine bay, potentially warming the air passing through the intercooler system. However, this effect can be minimised with attention to flow restrictions and the use of heat-resistant materials or coatings. The Big Boy intercooler range also uses alloy piping where possible due to its natural ability to dissipate heat quickly.

  2. Installation Complexity: Metal piping may require more precise fitting and customisation, especially in vehicles with cramped engine bays or unique configurations. This can lead to higher installation costs and the need for specialised labour. The Big Boy Intercooler range has taken this challenge away by supplying all the required hardware fittings and elbows for an easier DIY fit of your intercooler.

Comparing Factory Rubber and Plastic Pipes:

Factory-installed rubber and plastic intercooler pipes are designed for standard operation rather than for the heightened demands of performance driving. Under normal conditions, these materials perform adequately. However, when pushing the vehicle to its limits, the deficiencies become apparent:

  1. Performance Lag and Power Loss: Rubber and plastic pipes can expand under boost, leading to increased lag and a reduction in the immediate response of the engine. Over time, as these materials degrade, they can develop leaks, leading to a gradual loss of power or, in worst-case scenarios, complete system failure.

  2. Increase in fuel consumption: As the turbo lags more and intake pressures drop, you may notice a climb in fuel consumption due the engine running less efficiently. This is more noticeable over time.

  3. Cost vs. Quality: While the initial cost of maintaining factory pipes is lower, the potential for performance degradation and the need for replacements can make metal piping a more cost-effective solution in the long run for those committed to maintaining peak performance.

  4. Cracking and engine dusting: Factory piping is susceptible to cracks that can put your engine at risk of taking in water or being "dusted" (allowing fine dust particles into your engine" The damage may already be done before you start to feel the symptoms of turbo lag and increased fuel consumption. If you do not have a metal intercooler pipe set, we recommend you pay close attention to your factory pipe, looking for signs of cracking.

While factory rubber and plastic pipes may suffice for standard applications, upgrading to metal piping in the intercooler system presents a compelling case for those seeking enhanced durability, performance stability, and overall vehicle reliability. The Legendex Big Boy intercooler range exemplifies this approach, offering a solution that addresses common issues with standard piping while elevating the vehicle's performance capabilities.


Check out the BIG BOY INTERCOOLER Range here

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