Cold air intakes are a very favored aftermarket modification for many car enthusiasts. They are often marketed as a way to add horsepower and torque to your vehicle without the need for a tune. However, is this really the case?
In this article, we’ll discuss the benefits and downsides of cold air intakes and how much horsepower a cold air intake will add to your vehicle.
What Is a Cold Air Intake?
A cold air intake, also known as a CAI, is an aftermarket device attached to a vehicle’s air intake system. Its main purpose is to increase the cold airflow to the engine.
The cold air intake filter increases cold airflow and thus more oxygen, which a car needs for combustion; ultimately, this leads to increased power output from the engine.
How Much Horsepower Does a Cold Air Intake Add?
Some cold air intake manufacturers claim that their product can add up to 30 horsepower to a car. But by how much do cold air intakes increase horsepower?
According to reports from users and manufacturers, a cold air intake may increase the horsepower by 5 to 20, depending on the make and model of your vehicle. However, this depends on various factors, such as the cold air intakes manufacturer and the vehicle’s make, model, and engine.
A cold air intake is not a magic bullet that instantly transforms your car into a high-powered racing machine.
However, it is a cheap investment if you are looking for ways to increase your vehicle’s performance.
See also: How Much HP Does a Turbo Add?
What Are Benefits of a Cold Air Intake
The cold air intake’s primary purpose is to increase the cold airflow to the engine.
Installing a cold air intake can provide various benefits for your car, including increased horsepower, better fuel economy, and a better sound coming from the engine.
1. Enhanced Performance
The cold air intake filter replaces the factory air filter and draws in cold outside air before entering the engine.
This type of filter lets more oxygen pass into the engine for combustion and ultimately leads to increased power output from the engine.
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2. Deeper Engine Sound
A cold air intake filter will change the engine’s sound, while the stock intake makes as little noise as possible.
This type of setup creates a deeper, more throaty engine sound as the cold air passes through the intake system and into the engine.
Additionally, most cold air intakes are designed to be louder than the factory air intake system, so you will likely hear a difference in the sound of your car after installing a cold air intake filter.
3. Improved Gas Mileage
While a cold air intake will not magically improve your car’s fuel economy, it can help to increase gas mileage slightly.
When an engine has more oxygen to work with, it doesn’t have to run as hard or burn as much fuel to produce the same power output.
This can lead to a noticeable difference in fuel economy, especially if you do a lot of highway driving.
If you are interested to learn more about how a cold air intake affects fuel efficiency, then make sure to read our article Does a Cold Air Intake Increase MPG?
4. Reduced Emissions
A cold air intake can also help reduce emissions from your vehicle. By increasing the amount of cold air that enters the engine, a CAI allows the engine to run more efficiently, producing less pollution.
5. Less Maintenance
A cold air intake is made out of mostly long-lasting materials such as metal, rubber, and plastic, meaning cold air intake filters do not need much maintenance.
To clean a cold air intake filter, you need to remove it from the car and use either a vacuum cleaner, or compressed air if possible, to remove any dirt and debris.
Emotional Benefits of a Cold Air Intake
There are, of course, not only physical benefits to installing a cold air intake but also emotional ones.
Many cold air intake users report feeling a sense of satisfaction and pride after installing one of these devices on their car.
There is something about the deep growl of the engine and the knowledge that you have increased the performance of your car that can make any car enthusiast feel good.
1. Feel the Power of Your Car Like Never Before
With increased power, there’s increased happiness – it’s as simple as that.
By installing a cold air intake on your car, you will be able to appreciate the power and performance of your vehicle fully.
2. Enjoy the Throaty Engine Sound
Enjoy the new, improved engine sound with a cold air intake system.
This deep, throaty sound is music to the ears of many car enthusiasts and can make driving your car even more enjoyable.
3. Save Money on Gas
Spend less money on gas without sacrificing power or performance by installing a cold air intake.
There are so many better things to spend money on rather than spending it on gas.
What are the Downsides of a Cold Air Intake System
While there are benefits of a cold air intake, there are also some potential downsides that you should consider before installing a cold air intake on your car.
1. Voids Warranty
Installing aftermarket parts or modifying a new car with a warranty will likely void the warranty.
If you are planning on installing a cold air intake system, check with the car manufacturer or your local dealership first to see if it will void the warranty.
2. Water Damage
A cold air intake filter can water damage the engine. However, this type of damage is usually very rare and only happens if water or liquid is present in the cold air intake system.
This is also called “Hydro locking”, a condition where water enters the engine and causes severe damage.
This usually happens when liquid is present in the cold air intake system, and it can cause serious damage and may even lead to engine failure.
It’s essential to ensure that the cold air intake filter is always clean and free of any water or liquid before running the vehicle.
A cold air intake hydro shield is available to help prevent water damage to the engine.
By installing a cold air intake hydro shield, you can help keep the cold air intake system dry and free of any liquid or water.
This will help reduce the risk of hydro locking and ensure that your engine stays healthy and running smoothly.
3. Inaccurate MAF Sensor Reading
The MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensor is a critical component in the air intake system.
This sensor measures the amount of cold air that enters the engine, and it sends this information to the car’s computer to calculate the optimal air-to-fuel ratio.
If the MAF sensor is not calibrated correctly, it can cause inaccurate readings, show an engine light, and affect the engine’s performance.
A cold air intake can sometimes cause inaccurate MAF sensor readings.
The cold air intake filter may not be the same diameter as the factory air filter, causing the MAF sensor to give inaccurate readings.
If you are experiencing inaccurate MAF sensor readings after installing a cold air intake, you may need to recalibrate the MAF sensor.
How to Choose a Cold Air Intake
There are many different cold air intakes on the market, so it’s essential to choose one compatible with your car that meets your needs.
When choosing a cold air intake, you should consider the following factors:
- The make and model of your car
- Your budget
- How much power you want to add
- The sound you want from your car
- If you wish to improve gas mileage or reduce emissions
If you are looking for a cold air intake that meets all of these criteria, we recommend the K&N cold air intake.
The K&N cold air intake is a high-quality product compatible with a wide range of car makes and models. It is quite cheap and comes with a money-back guarantee, so you can be sure you are getting a product that works.
How to Install a Cold Air Intake
Installing a cold air intake is generally a straightforward process that anyone with basic tools can complete in less than an hour.
However, it is always best to consult the instructions for the cold air intake or seek professional help if you are unsure about any part of the installation process.
There are generally three steps to installing a cold air intake:
- Open the hood of your vehicle.
- Disconnect the battery.
- Locate the stock intake.
- Unscrew the stock intake and remove it.
- Attach the cold air intake and fasten it using hose clamps.
- Connect the battery.
- Close the hood.
- Take your car for a test drive.
A cold air intake can be installed using basic hand tools in most cases. It is essential to ensure that all of the connections are tightened properly to avoid any potential leaks.
Once the cold air intake is installed, you may notice increased engine noise. This is perfectly normal and will not cause any damage to your vehicle.
In fact, many cold air intake users enjoy the increased engine noise as it adds to the overall performance of their car.
Does a Cold Air Intake Add Horsepower Without a Tune?
A cold air intake does add horsepower and torque without a tune. Although, to get the most out of your cold air intake, you will need to have your car tuned to optimize the air-to-fuel ratio.
Are Cold Air Intakes Worth It?
Cold air intake can offer some benefits, but they may not be worth it for everyone.
The main perk of a cold air intake is improving engine airflow. This, in turn, can lead to increased power and torque. However, the gains are usually modest – typically around 5-20 horsepower and 10-15 lb-ft of torque.
A cold air intake system can offer various benefits for your vehicle, such as improved gas mileage, reduced emissions, and less maintenance.
However, there are also some downsides to consider before installing a cold air intake on your car.
Make sure you consider all the pros and cons before making a decision.