My 2002 F350 7.3L Powerstroke is what I like to call “full bolt-on” – meaning I have every basic modification. Tuner, intake, intercooler, exhaust system, up-pipes, and so on. My favorite upgrade so far is my intercooler. Now, not for the reasons you might think – an intercooler really isn’t a power adding upgrade. When it comes to power, the best upgrade is tuning the 7.3 Powerstroke.
While there are some performance benefits an intercooler is my favorite upgrade because of the decreases in EGTs and engine temps that I got from it, especially when towing. A larger intercooler will more effectively cool the charge air before it enters the combustion chamber, leading to a cooler engine and decreased exhaust temps. Ultimately, it is the best reliability modification for any 7.3 Powerstroke owner who is also tuned like my truck is.
I’m going to cover the benefits of 7.3 Powerstroke intercooler upgrades, up-pipes and intercooler piping, and provide some advice on the best setups based on what I’m running on my truck. Furthermore, the ’94-’97 OBS 7.3’s didn’t use an intercooler from the factory so I’ll talk about that and whether an intercooler addition is worth it.
7.3 Powerstroke Intercooler Upgrade Benefits
- Minor power gains / performance benefit
- OBS 7.3’s will see better power gains
- 100-200 degree reduction in EGTs
- Reduced engine temps
- More reliable towing
- Allows for higher horsepower builds – great supporting mod
An intercooler, especially on a completely stock 7.3L, won’t really do much in terms of power. An intercooler will reduce intake air temps (IATs) which you can argue will result in more power, but in reality very few people actually experience meaningful power gains from an intercooler, me included. For the OBS non-intercooler 7.3’s intercooler manufacturers like JeliBuilt claim 20hp and 40tq. I don’t think you’ll see power levels like that, but you will see some.
The biggest benefit is what it does to EGTs and engine temps. An intercooler will lower temps by up to 200 degrees. This creates a more reliable engine but also allows you to run a more aggressive tune, or add more advanced modifications like larger injectors without putting sending the engine into unsafe temperature ranges.
I tow an 8,000lb boat in the mountains at elevation, and in 90+ degree weather. My EGTs never get above 900 degrees, and this is predominantly because of the benefit that the intercooler has. Sure, my other modifications help a bit too but my intercooler is the primary reason I’m able to keep temps so low even while towing.
Overall, it’s a great supporting modification when you are tuned and adding power with other upgrades. And it’s the best reliability upgrade out there.
1994-1997 OBS 7.3 Intercoolers
Ford didn’t add an intercooler to the 7.3 Powerstroke until 1999. The ’94-’97 old-body-style (OBS) trucks got a larger turbine housing so Ford didn’t think the engine would need an intercooler. And that is generally true for a completely stock engine.
However, once you add some performance upgrades then the lack of an intercooler can lead to some heat problems with these first gen engines.
Although the engine didn’t come with an intercooler adding one is super easy. All you need is a mounting bracket and some hardware that comes in every kit for ’94-’97 OBS intercoolers.
My main point here: the first gen 7.3 didn’t get an intercooler and because of this it is even better of an upgrade for both performance and reliability. And adding one is as simple as purchasing the kit and bolting it in.
Intercooler Piping / Boost Tubes & Up-Pipes
There are a lot of pipes that connect to the turbocharger than can be upgraded, so I’m going to cover these briefly and discuss whether upgrading them is worth it or not.
Intercooler Piping: sometimes referred to as boost tubes, these are the pipes that connect from the intercooler to the turbocharger. Here we have hot-side and cold-side pipes.
- Hot-Side IC Pipe: the hot-side pipe carries the air from the turbo to the intercooler after the turbo has compressed the air. It is called hot-side because the air gets heated up from the turbo and is very hot before it gets to the intercooler.
- Cold-Side IC Pipe: the cold-side pipe carries the air after it has passed through the intercooler, therefore making the air colder. It passes air back to the intake manifold where it enters the engine.
Up-Pipes: the 7.3 Powerstroke has two up-pipes that connect from each of the exhaust manifolds up to the turbocharger. These send exhaust gases to the turbo to help it spool and compress the air, creating boost.
Are They Worth Upgrading?
I have both “upgraded” intercooler piping and up-pipes. I put “upgraded” into quotations because they really don’t provide anything in terms of additional performance or power.
I recommend sticking with the factory intercooler pipes unless you are upgrading your turbo and need a larger size pipe. I have the Banks Techni-Cooler but I purchased it without the intercooler pipes and just bought some cheap aftermarket ones to save a few hundred bucks. However, the pipes don’t really add much other than some engine bay appeal so it’s not worth it unless you need pipes for a larger turbo or want to powdercoat them or something.
With respect to up-pipes, these don’t really have anything to do with the intercooler but I’m covering them anyways. These also provide very minimal performance benefits. But the up-pipes are prone to cracking or leaking and mine did so I upgraded them.
Ultimately, you don’t need to upgrade any of these alongside the intercooler, at least for performance reasons as they won’t provide any worthwhile benefits.
Best 7.3 Powerstroke Intercooler Upgrades
There are quite a few options on the market. I run the Banks Intercooler kit, called the Techni-Cooler. But I was able to purchase it without the intercooler piping which I think is now only sold with it making it a bit more expensive than other intercooler options, especially since you don’t need to upgrade the piping.
I’m going to cover a few different options here: a top of the line choice, an intercooler only option that is more budget friendly, and an OEM+ option that has less performance benefits but comes in at a way more favorable price.
Top of the Line: Banks 7.3L Techni-Cooler Intercooler
Banks intercooler is the best option on the market if you can stomach the price. The kit comes with all the intercooler piping, hoses, and clamps you need to. This is the exact intercooler I run (minus the piping kit which unfortunately you have to purchase it with).
The Techni-Cooler has an 18% increase in flow over the factory intercooler and has heavy duty end tanks to prevent them bursting (which is a problem on the stock ones under high boost).
The OBS 94-97 kit is a little bit more expensive as it requires some additional brackets to mount up.
Best Intercooler Only: CSF Heavy Duty (7107)
Intercoolers are expensive – CSF’s Heavy Duty intercooler is my favorite budget-friendly option that doesn’t sacrifice performance. The kit only includes the intercooler and necessary hardware, it does not include the piping which is why it comes in at a more favorable price than the Banks option. The CSF intercooler is 100% TIG welded and rated for more than 120psi of boost.
Overall, if you’re looking for a good heavy duty intercooler at a more reasonable price this is what I would get. If you’re balling on more of a budget, I’ve got a few more ideas for you.
Budget/Bonus: 6.0 Powerstroke Intercooler in a 7.3 Powerstroke
Perhaps the best budget option, and honestly one of the most popular routes to go, is getting an intercooler from the 6.0 Powerstroke. I wouldn’t say it is a direct drop in on the 7.3L, but there are plenty of people that have done it and it’s pretty close to it for 1999-2003 models. This is a great budget saver option but it also doesn’t have the best performance benefit.
There are a few options here so let’s discuss them:
- OEM 6.0 Intercooler (~$100-200): option 1 is to buy a used factory or OEM intercooler from the 6.0 Powerstroke. You can pick them up for like $200 on the forums or from a used parts place
- CSF 6013 (~$425): this intercooler is the OEM+ replacement for the 6.0 from CSF. It is more durable than the factory unit and provide a little additional flow. It just requires a longer 3″ silicon boot. This also will fit the 94-97 OBS trucks with a proper bracket.
The OEM option is going to be the least preferrable – EGT reduction will be far less than the CSF or Banks Power options, but if you can pick one up super cheap or free it’s worth it. If you want to do a 6.0 drop-in I’d suggest the CSF 6013.
CSF 6013 7.3 Intercooler Upgrade
Best bang-for-your buck intercooler upgrade for the 7.3 Powerstroke if you are on the stock turbo and don’t need maximum cooling power.
Summary & My F350 Intercooler Setup
An intercooler is one of the best reliability modifications. It will lower EGTs by 100-200 degrees which improves reliability, durability, and towing performance. They are expensive but they are worth it.
I run the Banks Power Techni-Cooler minus the intercooler piping. This is going to be the best top of the line option, but it’s pricey. You really don’t need the intercooler piping so the CSF upgrade is a great option at only $899. If you really want to keep the budget down I’d suggest getting the CSF 6013 which is the 6.0 Powerstroke OEM+ replacement. The 6.0 intercooler is a good 30% or so larger than the factory 7.3 intercooler so it tends to work great. I’d avoid an OEM 6.0 intercooler since they are plastic and only result in about a 50 degree EGT drop compared to 150+ from Banks or the CSF 7.3 option.
If you can afford the Banks or CSF 7107 then go for those. If not, get the CSF 6013. CSF does also sell an OEM+ replacement for the 7.3 Powerstroke but it isn’t any larger, it just has aluminum end tanks for more durability so if you go the OEM+ route get the 6.0 Powerstroke one (the CSF 6013).