One of the essential pieces of a turbo system is the front mount intercooler. When you’re looking for a front mount intercooler kit, you have two choices, a direct fit fmic or a universal intercooler kit.
A universal kit is a great way to save some money, but it does come with its issues. When you buy a direct-fit intercooler kit for your car or truck, it’s a bolt-on system. That means the pipe routing, the piping size, the mounting brackets, and the intercooler core are designed to fit your vehicle. Making life much easier during installation. But you pay a premium for the time, and R&D that went into designing the kit.
A universal intercooler kit will save you money, but it does require more time and effort.
There are a ton of fmic kits on the market. So we put together this handy guide to help you find the perfect kit for your car.
What To Look For In A Quality Universal Intercooler Kit
- Intercooler suitably sized for your turbo
- An Intercooler that will fit your vehicle
- The correct bends
- Multi-ply silicone couplers
- 16 gauge piping
- High quality t-clamps
Universal FMIC Kit
The first thing you need to do is know is what bends you will need. Before you start searching for an intercooler kit to buy, head out to your car and pop the hood. Try to visualize the route that your piping will take. Many people skip over this step before ordering a pipe kit. They order a kit that has random bends in it that doesn’t match what their vehicle requires.
Once you figure out the route that the intercooler piping will take, you can start looking for a kit that includes those bends. These bends don’t need to be in the tubing. Many times a coupler can do the job better. They allow for more adjustment than hard walled tubing.
Generally speaking, the piping will be 2.5″. This can vary depending on your setup, the turbo size, room in the engine bay, and intercooler size.
The piping itself is similar no matter where you buy it. I have seen a few companies use super thin-walled pipe, but for the most part, 16 gauge is typical wall thickness.
The quality of the couplers in the universal kits vary quite a bit. We’ve seen some that are super thin and nondurable. This is one part of a pipe kit that you want high quality. There is nothing worse than blowing out a coupler under big boost. Or worse yet, tearing one during installation.
A multiply 4mm silicone coupler is ideal.
The clamps that come with the kits also vary in quality. Cheap clamps are the worst. They strip as you try to tighten them or don’t stay tight, allowing a coupler to blow off. Standing on the side of the road, attempting to get your pipe into the coupler, is no fun.
One of the most critical pieces of the kit is the intercooler core itself. Core quality is one of the biggest issues we see with universal kits. The piping couplers and clamps that come in that kits are typically good quality, but the cores themselves are often junk.
Many of the universal kits on the market use cheap imported cores. Some are decent quality, but you have to research to find the good ones. What we recommend is buying the core from a reputable manufacturer and buying a universal pipe kit separate.
Complete Universal FMIC Kits
Most of the top intercooler core manufacturers don’t offer a complete intercooler kit. The one company that does sell a complete kit that is good quality would be CXRacing.
We’ve dealt with this company for many years and worked with them in designing our DSM fmic kit. We’ve sold thousands of kits using their intercooler cores and have been happy with the quality performance. They stand behind the quality of their products.