Cold air intakes are one of the most popular modifications for car enthusiasts. But how effective are cold air intake really? I personally prefer regular or short ram air intakes over cold air intakes.
I recently put of few thousand miles on my car driving across the country. So I went over to the local Jiffy Lube to get my oil changed. The mechanic tried sell me a new air filter, but I chose to hold off. They weren’t giving me a great deal, so I figured I would at least check out a few performance air filters if I was going to be spending the money anyway. I started doing some research and discovered that there are two types of aftermarket intakes that people like: either short rams or cold air intakes. The two names pretty much are self explanatory. The short ram intake has a shorter pipe. The cold air intake has a longer pipe that allows the intake to breathe in cooler air because it is further from the engine. Sounds logical enough, but then I my inquisitive mind got the best of me. I’m a little unclear about the abilities of cold air intakes. If you have ever popped your hood after a long drive, you know that everything under the hood is scorching hot. Would it really matter if the intake head was a foot further from the engine? Moving the intake is like putting a pan in the oven; it is going to be hot no matter where it is because it is in a confined area with limited air flow. Secondly, cold air intakes have longer pipes, which mean that air has to travel a longer distance to reach the engine. I’m not a car expert, but I do know the general principle behind turbo engines and increasing horsepower. Horsepower is derived from an equation where the major factors are the amount of air flow to the engine and the density of that air. If a cold air intake is longer and is bent in order to reach a different part of the engine bay, then it will take air longer to reach the engine. Also, the bends in the cold air’s pipe prohibits maximum air flow; a short straight pipe would be ideal. Now even though the short ram intake is breathing warmer air because of its location, it will simply start sucking in cooler air as your car accelerates. Sure, it may not give you as much horsepower when you are at a stop sign, but then again, who cares? The weather should also be taken into account. If you live in Florida and it’s 94 degrees out, it doesn’t matter where your intake is; you’re not going to be getting cold air. And even if you are in premium driving conditions, how much cooler would the air be that is a foot away? Would you really miss or even be able to feel if you had 1 Hp less? I could see if you are Vin Diesel in the Fast and the Furious, racing for pink slips, then you might want to get the most out of your car. But until that day, I think regular air filters and short ram air filters are the better choice because they are cheaper.
Also, upgrading to an aftermarket AEM Cold Air Intake or a short ram Air Intake can add a throaty growl to your car’s sound. Both types of intakes have their pros and cons, so you should evaluate your priorities when shopping for one.