Your car’s handling will undoubtedly be improved with new tires and suspension components. These days, though, it isn’t sufficient, so you start to wonder what a cold air intake accomplishes.
People have developed some of the best aftermarket systems as a result of the never-ending effort to make your car “powerful.” The list of modifications you can make to a car’s engine is exhilaratingly long, ranging from installing new exhaust systems to installing turbo and superchargers.
Even though there are many parts available to turn your automobile into a beast on the road, doing so is expensive and time-consuming. If your objective is pure, straight-line speed, the engine must first be optimized.
Installation of a cold-air inlet is a typical initial step in this direction. A cold air inlet is much simpler to install and very inexpensive in contrast to its rivals.
It’s crucial to understand that a cold air intake won’t provide the engine as much power as other changes, but it will unquestionably raise the engine’s quality before moving on to a more in-depth discussion.
The engine can now take in more cool air for combustion thanks to this change that moves the air filter outside the engine chamber.
Here is an illustration from real life to help you better comprehend. A cold causes your nose to get congested, which makes breathing difficult. You shouldn’t anticipate feeling better after going for a jog. A cold air intake is a life-saving medication that will allow your engine to breathe if a factory air intake system is that chilly and clogs up your brain.
An Air Intake: What Is It?
An internal combustion engine needs a few components to provide the combustible energy needed to turn a car’s wheels. The engine runs on a combination of gasoline, oxygen, and spark.
A cold air intake system by Karamitchen / CC BY-SA 4.0. Cold air intake systems are only more complex variations of the basic system. By supplying the combustion chamber and engine with cool air, these devices seek to boost engine power and efficiency.
All we need to do is start a chain reaction because our environment already has plenty of nitrogen and oxygen. Magic happens when fuel and air combine and are exposed to a spark.
Car air intake systems provide this air and transport it to the engine. When the engine receives constant airflow from the intake system, the car performs better, gets reliable mileage, and has more power.
What are the Design Elements of an Air Intake?
Manufacturers are no longer free to place the air intake anywhere they like. Although it would function, it would not be in any way ideal. An engine’s premature demise may be caused by a poorly built intake.
The intake must be placed as high as possible within the available engine dimensions, which is one of the most important design choices. To prevent possible water intrusion Additionally, it must be far from gravel and dirt.
Even so, the engine will undoubtedly get up dirt. The first line of defense against microscopic particles entering the engine is an air filter.
Away from the oppressive engine heat would be good for the intake, other than that. The intake air temperature will gradually increase as the engine bay eventually becomes heat saturated.
There are two main reasons why it is undesirable. It will, for starters, reduce engine performance. Since colder air is denser, more room is required to fit the same volume of air into the combustion chamber.
That is unimportant to automakers. For them, an engine’s emissions must be worse when it is working at a lower volumetric efficiency. More waste is produced since it requires more energy to generate the same amount of power.
In a perfect world, the manufacturer would have enough space to completely separate the air intake from the engine compartment. However, most of the time this isn’t feasible due to space restrictions and financial constraints.
An Air Intake: What Does It Do?
The engine’s intake manifold receives air from outside the vehicle via air intake systems. It is then further incorporated here with fuel from the gas tank.
To begin the explosive activity required for an automobile, the fuel/air mixture is ignited and sent to the engine cylinders of the vehicle. After the transmission has regulated the power, it is then converted into mechanical energy, which eventually enables the car’s wheels to turn.
Automobiles couldn’t run on continuous internal combustion reactions if it weren’t for air intake systems. The irregularly generated motion would be useless.
Which are the Main Parts of an Air Intake for an Engine?
Three key parts make up an operable air intake system. To make it simpler for you to understand how these crucial components operate together to activate the accelerator and rotate the wheels of your car, we’ll break them down one at a time.
A cold air intake system by Hiàn. Car owners are frequently recommended to install a cold air intake system in their vehicles by experts and mechanics. If your car is a more modern model, this modification will surely benefit it. The advantages of installing a cold air intake in your car are numerous.
1. The Air Filter
A plastic or aluminum box with a specific filtering screen serves as the air filter, the first major component of a standard air intake system. It is located in front of the throttle valve assembly’s intake manifold.
Open the hood of the automobile and look for the boxy compartment next to the throttle valve assembly to find it. The design and construction are quite similar to those of professional vacuum cleaner filters.
As implied by the name, air filters remove dust and other impurities from the air. It prevents impurities from contaminating the engine’s air intake system. In addition, because the final combustion process is more strong with “pure” oxygen, the engine performs better.
2. The Mass Flow Sensor
The mass flow sensor measures how much air is entering the system while the air filter permits air to enter the engine. Only a balanced internal combustion reaction can produce the precise quantity of energy needed to operate an automobile. Hot wires and vane meters are the two types of mass airflow sensors used in contemporary vehicle engines.
The air entering from the filter tube pushes flaps on vane meters. The flap is pulled back further the more air that flows through the system. The amount of air flowing into the car’s engine at any particular time is determined by the flap movement and measured in units called meters.
Hot wire sensors use a network of wires, much like vane meters do. The electrical resistance of the wires increases with each degree of temperature rise, triggering a current reaction. It can currently measure approximate airspeed and mass.
3. The Throttle Body
The throttle body of an air intake system, last but not least, controls the airflow that was previously described. These parts have hollow or drilled housings that house a throttle plate that rotates on a shaft.
The throttle plate opens as you step on the gas, letting air into the engine. On the other hand, the airflow is stopped as the throttle plate closes when the accelerator is released.
The chain reaction is therefore interrupted as a result of the absence of air entering the combustion chamber. This is how the throttle body controls both the rate of combustion and the vehicle’s speed.
The Cold Air Intake: What Is It?
Cold air intake systems are only more sophisticated versions of the standard system previously discussed. These devices aim to increase engine power and efficiency by introducing cool air into the combustion chamber and engine. Now, you might be wondering what the mechanism is for this procedure in light of this.
The oxygen density is higher in colder air. More oxygen is present in a given amount of cold air than in a comparable volume of warm air. As a result, the final combustion reaction is more productive, resulting in improved engine power and greater mileage.
A cool air intake not only lowers air temperature but also boosts airflow. The air filter box can be removed to accommodate large-diameter intake tubes when using an aftermarket intake.
A typical car engine by Yones / CC BY-SA 3.0. Air intake systems bring outside air into the vehicle and the engine’s intake manifold. After then, fuel from the gas tank is added here to further integrate it. The fuel/air combination is ignited and then delivered to the engine cylinders of the vehicle to start the explosive activity needed for an automobile.
They are wider, smoother, and have fewer curves. Uninterrupted airflow to the engine is achieved by eliminating the airbox and adopting smoother tubing. In essence, a cold air intake keeps the outside air temperature lower than the engine environment, which is necessary for improved combustion reactions.
What are the Benefits of a Cold Air Intake?
Professionals and auto mechanics frequently advise owners to install a cold air intake system in their vehicles. Your vehicle will undoubtedly profit from this upgrade if it is a more recent model. Getting a cold air intake for your car has several benefits, some of which are listed below:
1. Horsepower Growth
The amount of air used in the combustion process, which we previously mentioned, is the only factor that affects an engine’s output power. Since fuel burns more effectively in cold air than in warm air, the oxygen combustion rate naturally increases. As a result, installing a cold air intake can enhance your car’s horsepower.
The amount of horsepower produced depends on the specific vehicle setup, since installing a cold air intake system could result in an additional 5 to 20 HP.
The composition of the air used in an engine’s combustion process is one of the most crucial elements in determining an engine’s power. Compared to warmer or hotter air, fuel can burn significantly more effectively and efficiently in colder air.
Consequently, adding a cold air intake might increase an engine’s combustion rate. As a result, adding it to your car will undoubtedly increase at least some horsepower.
The horsepower gain varies depending on the car in question and how the engine is configured. However, it should increase horsepower by an additional 5 to 12 on average, or up to 20 in the best case.
A cold air intake indeed helps increase horsepower. Its efficacy does, however, differ from vehicle to vehicle. After all, you’re replacing the occasionally constrictive standard air filters with one that permits the engine to get colder air.
In actuality, colder air makes it possible for fuel to burning more effectively, increasing the rate of combustion. So, you’ll undoubtedly notice a slight increase in horsepower.
One might provide up to 20 horsepower to a normal 4-cylinder engine if you install one. A livelier and faster engine, though, might experience greater improvements. As a result, the rise is minimal but acceptable given its low price.
2. Much Better Acceleration
Every time your feet hit the accelerator pedal, you’ll feel the advantages of having a cold air intake. The vehicle’s reactivity may improve as a result of this adjustment.
The intensity with which the car reaches the desired speed is the cause of this response; it does so significantly more quickly when a larger volume of cold air is introduced into the combustion chamber. Installing a cold air inlet could be beneficial if you enjoy strong, snappy acceleration.
3. A Better MPG
We discussed how a vehicle’s gas mileage is increased by the cold air intake. The internal combustion engine generates greater “power” when the right amount of oxygen is fed through it.
An auto engine air filter by Ahanix1989. The air filter, the first significant part of a typical air intake system, is a plastic or aluminum box with a particular filtering screen. It is situated in front of the intake manifold for the throttle valve assembly. Dust and other contaminants are removed from the air via air filters. It stops pollutants from polluting the air intake system of the engine.
A cold air intake could be useful in this situation since an oxygen shortage increases fuel usage. This technology ensures that the ideal air-to-fuel ratio is maintained, improving fuel efficiency along with some horsepower benefits.
Cold air intake and MPG efficiency are related. Decreased gas costs are another advantage of a cold air intake.
In most cases, altering the air intake won’t significantly improve fuel economy. Cold air intakes can, to some extent, use the same theory.
However, depending on the engine it’s attached to, you might get some very substantial MPG improvements. You could only be able to observe improvements of 3 to 5 MPG at most.
The explanation is that colder air is denser and contains more oxygen than warm air. As a result, compared to most stock intakes, it will assure a far more ideal air-to-fuel ratio and help fuel burn more effectively. Increasing your MPG as a result, even a little bit.
4. Better Engine Roar
It will do much more for you if you enjoy the booming sound of an engine.
A factory air intake system operates quietly by design. A cold air intake, on the other hand, is made to provide better performance. The system’s powerful airflow causes the growl to become increasingly harsh as more air is drawn in via it. This sound is adored by many auto lovers.
5. Lower Filters-Related Costs
Paper air filters are typically included with factory intake systems. They must be replaced every 15,000 miles. Although easy-to-clean air filters are included with aftermarket cold intakes, they must be replaced after 30,000 to 40,000 miles.
It is not only quicker and easier, but it is also more cost-effective. All you need to do is wash it in soapy water and then thoroughly rinse it in cold water. No specialized knowledge or equipment is needed!
Is a Cold Air Intake Harmful to a Car?
Now that you are aware of all the advantages a cold air intake offers, you must also understand when it is time to replace one. You must be aware of the symptoms of normal operation because you shouldn’t waste money on a system that isn’t functioning properly. These are the obvious symptoms of a broken cold air intake.
1. Less Efficient Engine Performance
Possibly the most typical sign of poor cold air intake. The engine naturally performs worse when the engine air filter is clogged or unclean because the cold air intake uses one.
In the end, this reduces power, acceleration, and fuel efficiency. In more extreme situations, a blocked air filter has caused ignition problems, which result in the car not starting at all.
2. An Activated Check Engine Light
After a routine checkup, if the Check Engine Light remains illuminated but you’re unsure of the cause, it may be related to the cold air intake. Any fault with one of the fitted sensors could trigger the CEL, alerting you to the problem.
A MAF sensor in a diesel engine by Antonín Ryska / CC BY-SA 4.0. When installing the cold air intake, the air intake tubes’ MAF sensor can be removed. Finally, remove all of the bolts keeping the stock air box in place. Now work may start on installing the new cold air intake. The air filter should first be connected to the air box and intake tube. The MAF sensor should then be reattached and connected to the throttle body as required.
There are several causes for a check engine light to appear, but the two that are most usually observed are either defective sensors or vacuum leaks. The cold air intake plays a crucial role in functionality since, put simply, it is an induction system designed to convey cold air to the car’s engine.
3. Soaring Idle
A malfunctioning cold air intake system could be the cause of an absurdly high idle. Additionally, it can indicate a vacuum leak. Many cold air intake systems have vacuum openings to accommodate the vacuum program from the manufacturer.
A vacuum leak may occur if a hose on the vacuum ports becomes loose or breaks, or if the ports completely break. In the end, the idle is just too high.
Tips for Maintenance of a Cold Air Intake
Despite being strong improvements, cold air intake kits are surprisingly little maintenance. Even though the system is of such high caliber, maintaining it doesn’t take much in the way of resources (money, time, or labor).
- Amass sufficient understanding regarding cold air intake cleaning. This covers the frequency of cleaning that is required, the quantity of oil to be used, the cleaning procedure, the objects to avoid, and more. Although some manufacturers are cautious about offering exact criteria, 30,000 miles should be sufficient as a general guideline. That is only true if you don’t drive frequently over arid or difficult terrain. Such a lifestyle necessitates more frequent vehicle inspections.
- Examine the filter by holding it up to a source of light. It shouldn’t be translucent, and there shouldn’t be any noticeable holes either. You should change your filter if you see an air gap. A different option is to see if you can fix the filter media to restore the original surface area.
- Oiling the filter, letting it dry, blowing it dry with compressed air, and bending the pleats are all effective ways to clean it. If there is too much debris, you might need to repeat the procedure. Use a nylon bristle brush; avoid using a metal brush as it could rip the pleats and filter media. A YouTube video might be beneficial at this juncture to guide you through the entire process.
- To ensure proper routing and to stop rubbing, examine the tubing and clamps. If ever necessary, you might make minor changes to the clamps before gradually tightening each one.
- In addition to extending the service interval and lowering the risk of hydro-locking, you can also use pre-filters and hydro-shields.
A Cold Air Intake: Is It Worth It?
Increasing the amount of cold air going into the engine makes sense in theory, but it won’t work until you put it to the test. A cold air intake will unquestionably enhance your vehicle’s performance, albeit the precise boost in fuel economy and horsepower may vary from one automobile to the next.
A cold air intake system makes a noticeable effect right away after installation. Once the throttle is fully opened, power will naturally increase.
A throttle body and throttle position sensor by M100~commonswiki. An air intake system’s throttle body regulates airflow. A throttle plate that revolves on a shaft is housed in the hollow or drilled housings of these components. As you press the gas pedal, the throttle plate opens, allowing air into the engine. On the other hand, when the accelerator is removed, the airflow is cut off as the throttle plate closes.
As we previously mentioned, some manufacturers assert that a cold air intake can produce an additional 20 HP. Your engine will run laps like never before when you combine this with a new exhaust. Additionally, it improves system performance.
A cold air intake is ultimately one of many modifications you may make to your car to improve engine performance, so it will live up to its promise. However, installing a cold air intake system has several disadvantages of its own.
What are the Cons and Pros of Cold Air Intake?
What might a cold air intake do that is completely at odds with what you intended this alteration to achieve? There are a few scenarios, but not many.
For instance, if the air filter is so exposed that it begins to absorb water, the water will go directly to the engine. This problem can be avoided by including a bypass valve.
It can void the manufacturer’s engine warranty on some modern vehicles, which is another drawback. Before installing this system, be sure to carefully review your owner’s handbook and warranty card. Aside from these two, the old air intake just makes driving more comfortable and enjoyable.
The amazing booming sound of the cold air intake system fills your ears as you speed across the road. The small boost in horsepower has a huge impact on the engine.
Cold Air Intake Filter Replacement
There are numerous construction materials for cold air intake kits, including plastic, metal, rubber, and composite. Choose a pick that widens its powerband and uses an airbox the same size as the engine for maximum efficiency. Regardless of whether your vehicle is at idle or full power, the air intake’s air opening should be large enough to allow an acceptable volume of air.
As it passes through the cold intake, the air becomes denser and thus colder. A clogged, filthy, or malfunctioning intake system will reduce engine performance and fuel efficiency since the cold air intake directly affects an engine’s power.
The filter in these intakes will become clogged over time and with repeated use because of the constant airflow. The horsepower of the engine is reduced when a filter is overly unclean.
At first, it just reduces, but if you leave the filter in that condition without cleaning it, the engine starts to slow down. The engine’s power decreases due to the lack of air for combustion in addition to diminishing fuel efficiency.
Thankfully, it takes years of use before anything even needs to be changed. You should still pay attention to the typical indications that the intake is malfunctioning, though. A few of the most prevalent signs of a poor intake of cold air were already discussed. While a replacement isn’t too far away, sometimes you may get by with just a wash.
Since they have reusable air filters, aftermarket filters typically do not necessary to be changed. On the other hand, factory air intake systems with paper air filters are unsatisfactory.
A check engine light by Wikiuser100000 / CC BY-SA 3.0. Although there are several reasons why a check engine light could come on, the two that are most frequently noticed are either faulty sensors or vacuum leaks. Since the cold air intake is simply an induction system created to deliver cold air to the car’s engine, it plays a significant part in functionality and its failure can trigger the check engine light.
How Much Do Cold Air Intakes Cost?
A cold air intake is quite inexpensive when compared to the majority of other changes you might make to your car. The most basic kits might be purchased for about $150.
While still being more suitable for high-performance cars, cool air intakes with higher specifications can cost up to $500. However, on average, most of the decent ones are sold for around $300.
Considering that it can provide up to 20 horsepower and an extra 3-5 mpg (not always relevant as it also depends on your vehicle), having one installed in your automobile can be useful.
Setup of a Cold Air Intake
After studying what a cold air intake performs if you’re considering adding this alteration, excellent decision! A wise investment.
Depending on the system, replacing the standard intake system in your automobile with a cold air intake system might cost anywhere from $150 to $500. It is not the biggest expense of car maintenance, though, because this includes the labor charges for having it replaced.
Installing a cold air inlet is a fairly simple task that you may complete at home. To begin with, you must unplug the battery. Not only for safety but also so the ECU has a chance to re-learn the new air-to-fuel ratios.
The hose clamps on the standard air tubes by the throttle body should now be loosened and separated. The MAF sensor can then be taken out of the air intake tubes as well. Last but not least, unscrew every bolt holding the factory air box.
The new cold air intake can now begin to be installed. Start by attaching the air filter to the air box and intake tube. After that, reattach the MAF sensor and attach it to the throttle body as necessary.
Over time, a cold air intake will save you money on filters and fuel, thus the cost is well worth it. These simple, low-cost upgrades can be fantastic investments for your car.
Jim Wicks is the founder of MotorVehicleHQ. With over two decades of experience in the automotive industry and a degree in Automotive Technology, Jim is a certified car expert who has worked in various roles ranging from a mechanic, car dealership manager, to a racing car driver. He has owned more than 20 cars over the past 15 years. Ask him about any vehicle you see on the road and he can tell you the make, model and year. He loves the aesthetics of all things cars, and keeps his vehicles in pristine condition.
In his free time, Jim enjoys getting his hands dirty under the hood of a classic car or taking long drives along the country roads. His favorite car? A 1967 Shelby GT500, a true classic that, according to Jim, “represents the pure essence of American muscle.”