Cold Air Intake: Pros and Cons for your Car

One of the many ways to improve engine performance in our cars is by installing aftermarket components. Among them is the cold air intake. This is an additional item that is added together with a plethora of other upgrades that creates more power and provides better fuel performance.

Cold Air Intake: What Is It?

Cold Air Intake.
A Cold Air Intake provides a number of features to the performance of the engine.

A Cold air intake is an inexpensive component in a full range of aftermarket upgrades, the general cost of cold intakes are within a few hundred dollars. Cold Air Intakes provide a number of features to the performance of the engine and do increase the power slightly when compared to the other components such as turbochargers.

Cold air intakes hit the engine with cool air constantly, providing them with a clear flow of air much like a clear sinus as opposed to a clogged one. The process by which a cold air intake work is by restructuring the air intake process, moving the air filter from inside the engine compartment to an exterior location that sucks up cold air located as close to the wheel well or fender areas as possible and flows this cold through the filter into the engine.

This process uses specific mechanical, structural designs to increase the airflow as well as reduce the incoming air temperature, thereby supporting two functions; increased airflow with cooler air. The designs used integrate large diameter intake tubes with the filter built inside, removing them from a box, and providing an optimally designed air induction system that provides constant air flow.

With all this science and engineering behind a simple object, the question remains, how good are cool air intakes and are they worth the cost?

To answer this, let’s look at the pros and cons of cool air intake systems.

The Pros and Cons of Cold Air Intakes

Cold Air Intake
One of the many ways to improve engine performance in our cars is to install a cold air intake.

Pros of Cold Air Intakes

  • Longer Engine Life

Engine life is increased when cooler air is provided and other engine components such as the radiator and oil cooling components

  • Faster Throttle Response

A cold air cooled engine responds faster when the colder air provides a much quicker response that surpasses a stock intake system.

  • Horsepower Improvement

Cold air intake increases the fuel burning process and provides an additional 5 to 20 horsepower to your engine, which is a lot of HP for most engines. When considering competition performance, every HP is critical for success.

  • Increased Mileage

The air to fuel ratio is also adjusted with a cold air intake unit, and in most cases, this produces an improved air to fuel ratio that leads to economic fuel combustion.

  • Filter Saving

Cold air filters are easier to remove and wash and will last in some instances up to 100,000 miles with frequent cleaning. Cold air intake filters are not paper, and as such also provide a better filtration along with improved life.

Cons of Cold Air Intakes

  • Filter Types

There are many options to choose from for different models. However the variety of materials is greater, and you can choose any type of filter that suits your performance requirements.

  • Hydro-locking

Hydro-locking is when moisture from the air invades your engine and causes a mechanical failure that can lead to engine loss in the form of bent connection rods when pistons are stuck.

  • Idle

Due to the shape and mechanical aspects of the cold air intake, where a 90-degree toll sucks in the air all the time, your idle could become compromised by the constant injection of cold air.

  • Reading Accuracy

According to mechanicfaq.com article, when you add a cold air unit, you have to upgrade your meter. Otherwise, the new intake will provide inaccurate readings leading to miscalculated air to fuel ratios. In other words, you need to tune your engine with the new unit.

  • Sound

For many, this is a pro, but for some, it’s a con. A cold air intake unit will increase the sound of your engine, so if you are into stealth, this will impact that factor. Cold air intake systems change the engines sound, and with an aftermarket exhaust system, these two components combined will change your cars sound completely.

Conclusions

Cold air works, it does provide improved performance and power, however, as with any upgrade, and you will need to re-tune your engine to account for the new performance product. The bottom line is that cold air intake is a great way to increase efficiency and enjoy a slightly improved ride even when not adding other upgrades to accompany.

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Tim MillerFounderOBD Advisor

I’m Tim Miller from Denver, Colorado. I’m the founder of obdadvisor.com, an automotive blog about "Diagnostic Tools and Auto Repair". My fan page is facebook.com/autozikcom. I've been working as an automotive mechanic and blogger for over 10 years writing articles to share my experiences and expertise.

Web: https://www.obdadvisor.comEmail: [email protected]
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1 thought on “Cold Air Intake: Pros and Cons for your Car”

  1. Very useful article!! There are some aspects which I did not realize would be required, such as engine tuning and idle problems (potential). I just had an issue with my WRX b/c the K&M Filter oil disrupted the O2 sensor – it was covered in oil and I never even had a chance to clean and re-oil it myself (only about 10k miles on it). Anyways, the dealer said that the car does its best to manage the air flow issue without damaging the motor. If I had a specially tuned car, they said, I may have had air/fuel mixture issues which could have damaged pistons, etc.

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