Charge Pipe [What Is It and Why Use It?]

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Heat is the primary enemy of a turbocharged engine. Factory-installed intercooler piping restricts the engine’s ability to achieve maximum efficiency. To combat this, you can use a charge pipe.

A charge pipe is a mandrel-bent aluminum, stainless steel, or rubber tube that replaces the factory-installed intercooler piping of an internal combustion engine. It is connected to the intercooler piping and intake manifold.

The pipe is connected to either the diverter valve (DV) or the blow-off valve (BOV). Aftermarket charge pipes are better than factory-installed charged pipes because they are made of stronger materials.

A charge pipe improves engine performance. It is engineered to minimize turbo-charged air pressure loss. It also considerably increases the airflow from the turbo to the intercooler.

Should you upgrade your stock OEM (original equipment manufacturer) charge pipe? It’s common for plastic, stock charge pipes to break or blow out over time. Some car owners replace these stock charge pipes with higher-quality aftermarket charge pipes that are less likely to break or crack.

Some wait for it to blow out before upgrading, while some prefer to upgrade to prevent the blowing out. You can still drive if your charge pipe blows out; you won’t be able to boost.

Read on to learn more about the charge pipe, what it is, its function and importance, and the different types of charge pipes.

Also, for a good-value BMW charge pipe kit (for BMW BMW N54, E88, E90, E91, E92, E93, 135i, and 335i), take a look at the BETTERCLOUD Intake Turbo Charge Pipe Cooling Kit on Amazon to see its price and reviews:

Click here to see it on Amazon.

What Is a Charge Pipe?

charge pipe

Charge pipes provide increased engine performance. It also minimizes the pressure loss of turbocharged air. They considerably increase the airflow from the turbo to the intercooler as well.

Charge pipes are usually mandrel-bent aluminum, stainless, or rubber tubes used to replace stock or factory-installed intercooler piping of automotive engines.

A charge pipe has a connection to the intercooler piping and the intake manifold. It is the pipe where either the blow-off valve or the diverter valve is connected to. The stock charge pipes are usually plastic and don’t last long. They also restrict the flow of turbo-charged air.

Aftermarket charge pipes are stronger and more durable because they have sturdier materials like stainless steel and aluminum. Again, stock charge pipes are plastic, and some are rubber. They are more flexible and can squeeze and bend with greater boosts.

Aftermarket charge pipes are easy also relatively easy to install. They don’t add any noise and do not require tuning. Charge pipes improve throttle response a little bit. The increase is not very noticeable unless you drive in sports mode most of the time.

What Does a Charge Pipe Do?

While you are driving your car, your car generates a tremendous amount of heat inside the engine. Heat is the greatest enemy of a turbocharged engine. As the first line of defense, the engine uses an intercooler. This engine component cools the hot turbo gasses before it recirculates in the engine intake.

The charge pipe is connected to the intercooler. Air usually flows from the turbo to the intercooler, then to the charge pipe, and finally to the engine through its intake valve. So, the charge pipe basically carries or channels the turbo-charged air to the engine.

Sad to say, the stock or factory-installed intercooler and charge pipe are barely adequate. So, the stock N54 charge pipe, N55 charge pipe, VRSF charge pipe, and 335i are inadequate in reducing the heat and air pressure loss. In short, they are not able to boost up the engine’s efficiency.

That is why most people who own cars with turbocharged engines are modding their equipment. Most of them have changed their plastic stock charge pipes to metals. This helped them avoid constantly running to the dealer to purchase replacement pipes whenever the installed pipe breaks down.

With stock charge pipes, it is not a question of whether it will fail or not. The question is WHEN it will fail. It is not wise to wait until it fails. What if it fails when you are in the middle of nowhere? If you could change it now with a tougher unit, it will save you a lot of trouble, stress, and of course, money.

Stock Charge Pipe Is Not Enough

Factory-installed charge pipes are not enough. Apart from restricting the flow of turbocharged air, they are also prone to damage because of their weak material construction. Most stock charge pipes are just made of plastic. Considering that they are channeling hot air, they will break down in just a short time.

Whether you have a factory-installed N54 charge pipe, N55 charge pipe, VSRF charge pipe, or 335i charge pipe, you will be better off if you change it with an appropriate aftermarket charge pipe. It is not so much for enhancing engine performance but for your peace of mind.

These stock charge pipes are made of plastic which cracks under heat and pressure. If you upgrade to aftermarket charge pipes, you can also upgrade to a blow-off valve instead of just the factory-installed diverter valve. This will boost the efficiency of your engine.

Why Upgrade to an Aftermarket Charge Pipe?

what is a charge pipe
BETTERCLOUD Intake Turbo Charge Pipe Cooling Kit

If you want to have a smooth and comfortable driving experience, you need an aftermarket charge pipe for the turbocharged engine of your car. The stock or factory-installed charge pipe in the engine is plastic. So, it is not durable, and most importantly, it restricts the flow of turbocharged air.

Aftermarket charge pipes reduce the pressure loss of turbo-charged air. Instead of restricting airflow, it maximizes it and thereby improves the turbocharged engine’s performance.

So, the charge pipe is an important component of your car. The factory-installed charge pipe cannot provide the benefits that aftermarket charge pipes can give. Stock pipes are weak and restrictive to airflow. Replace it with a stronger and more efficient charge pipe if you want a more powerful yet refined driving experience.

The OEM charge pipes might or might not blow out over time. Some wait for their stock charge pipes to blow out before upgrading, while some prefer to upgrade to prevent the blowing out. Your car will still drive with the charge pipes blown out, and it just won’t have a boost. So, it is up to you if you want to upgrade to higher-quality aftermarket charge pipes to prevent the OEM pipes from blowing out.

List of Reasons Why You Need an Upgrade

Suffice it to say, here are several reasons why you need to upgrade into an aftermarket charge pipe:

  1. It will enhance the efficiency of the turbocharged engine.
  2. You will have a more dependable engine.
  3. You will have peace of mind since the charge pipe won’t easily break down.
  4. If you also upgrade to a blow-off valve, the sound of the engine will improve. Some even said that the sound produced by the engine is intoxicating.
  5. Upgrading a plastic charge pipe to an aftermarket charge pipe is relatively easy to perform, and the benefits far outweigh the required effort.

Features to Look for in a Charge Pipe

There are several kinds of charge pipes available in the market. It will be easier to choose the appropriate unit for your car if you know the features that make a particular charge pipe the best choice. The charge pipe should have the following features:

  1. 3-inch mandrel-bent aluminum, stainless steel, or rubber tubing
  2. Increased flow
  3. 4-ply silicone couplers
  4. Wrinkle black powder coat finish or a comparable durable coating
  5. OEM (original equipment manufacturer) replacement

The best charge pipes should be able to resist heat, cracking, and warping. Some units have stainless steel clamps, black powder-coated finish, and NPT water methanol bung with plug. The three-inch mandrel-bent tubing is handy in achieving maximum airflow.

Optional Charge Pipe Upgrades

why use a charge pipe

The exact charge pipe upgrades depend on the brand of diverter valve or blow-off valve that is used. These charge pipes are equipped with different flanges, so you need to buy components that will fit each other.

Be sure to upgrade to a metal charge pipe with one or two 1/8 inch NPT bungs for fuel or methanol injection. That said, here are some suggested N54 metal charge pipe upgrades available in the market:

VSRF Charge Pipe Upgrade

One of the easiest to perform is a VSRF CP upgrade when it comes to BMW bolt-on modifications. The N54 to VSRF upgrades are offered at reasonable prices. This aftermarket charge pipe is made of aluminum with a powder-coated black finish.

N54, 335i, and 135i charge pipes are modified into VSRFs with high quality and accurate fitment. They also come with lifetime warranties. That means they are more durable than stock or factory-installed charge pipes.

In addition, VSRF upgrades also offer a wide selection of DV and BOV options. You only need to choose the correct flange for your BOV, and that’s it. The most sought BOV with a VSRF charge pipe in the market today costs less than $390. This charge pipe upgrade already comes with two 1/8 inch NPT bungs.

BMS N54 Charge Pipe Upgrade

Another company that offers N54 charge pipe upgrades is Burger Motorsports. Compared to VSRF, their product options are a bit limited. But they also offer upgrades of N54 charge pipes with stock DV flanges.

They have a Turbosmart DV kit that fits the stock flanges. However, they don’t sell the Turbosmart kit itself. You have to buy it from a supplier who has it in stock. The same goes with the TiAL BOV flange. It will also work well with the Turbosmart BOV, but you need to buy the BOV itself from another supplier.

The BMS N54 upgrade is made of aluminum and includes two 1/8 inch NPT bungs. This charge pipe mod comes with a lifetime warranty. Some users claim that you will never be disappointed when you buy either the VRSF or BMS charge pipe upgrade.

N54 charge pipes and BOVs are the most common basic mods. You can avoid the failures of OEM charge pipes, DVs or BOVs if you perform this upgrade. Upgrades on charge pipes for the N54 typically include the 1/8 inch NPT bungs for WMI or fuel injection.

The cost of these upgrades is relatively inexpensive, yet they can provide certain benefits, but they really don’t directly improve the engine’s performance by a considerable margin. Between VSRF and BMS, the former offers more upfront upgrade options. Otherwise, the products of these two brands are nearly identical to each other.

BMW Charge Pipe Kits

Here are two BMW charge pipe kits on Amazon that you can consider if you are thinking of upgrading the stock charge pipe in your turbocharged engine:

HPS Performance Polish Intercooler Intake Charge Pipe Turbo Boost

The HPS Performance Polish Intercooler Intake Charge Pipe Turbo Boost is a high-performance upgrade designed for specific BMW models, including the 2011-2013 BMW 335i, 335ix, 135i, and the 2013-2015 X1 xDrive35i with the N55 3.0L turbo engine.

This aftermarket charge pipe replaces the factory plastic counterpart, addressing concerns of weakness and restrictions in the stock design. Importantly, this upgrade does not necessitate re-tuning or modification, providing a straightforward enhancement to the vehicle’s performance.

This charge pipe kit includes essential components to ensure optimal functionality. It features a new throttle body connector O-ring, an HPS high-temperature 4-ply reinforced silicone coupler, and 100% stainless steel T-bolt clamps.

These components contribute to the durability and reliability of the charge pipe system, ensuring that it can withstand the rigors of increased performance and under-the-hood conditions.

Click here to see it on Amazon.

MAPerformance Aluminum Charge Pipe Kit

Click here to see it on Amazon.

The MAPerformance Aluminum Charge Pipe Kit is a robust and high-quality upgrade designed to enhance the performance of various vehicles.

Constructed from strong black powder-coated aluminum, this factory charge pipe replacement is engineered to withstand high boost pressure without flexing.

The use of durable materials ensures that the charge pipe maintains its structural integrity even under the increased stress associated with high-performance applications.

As an OEM replacement, the MAPerformance charge pipe is designed for easy installation without the need for permanent modification of any joining parts.

This user-friendly design allows for a hassle-free upgrade, making it accessible for both automotive enthusiasts and those new to aftermarket modifications.

The straightforward installation process ensures that users can enjoy the benefits of this charge pipe without extensive downtime or complex modifications.

Conclusion: Charge Pipes

A typical charge pipe is a mandrel-bent stainless steel or aluminum tube used to replace factory-installed intercooler piping of automotive engines. Stock or factory-installed charge pipes are usually made only of plastic that doesn’t last long.

The aftermarket charge pipes are stronger and more durable. They are engineered to minimize the pressure losses of turbocharged air. These pipes also significantly increase the airflow from the turbo to the intercooler. They are considered CP upgrades since they can improve the engine reliability of turbo-charged engines.

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