A cold air intake system is one of the aftermarket products that can make your vehicle more powerful, or help it run more efficiently. It is one of the most popular because it is more affordable and it is easy to install. Some manufacturers also give their customers an option to get cold air intake systems. But though installation is easy, it should be entrusted to a professional.
As the name suggests, a cold air intake system is designed to feed cool air into the car’s engine. Because it has shorter and smoother piping and has strategic filter placement it can bring cooler air into the car’s engine than what a non-cold air intake system can provide. Cold air is more ideal for engine induction since it is denser than hot air. The icy cold air flowing into the engine combusts much quicker and easier than hot air from the usual stock airbox. This increases the power of the engine and makes it more efficient.
Since cold air intake systems directly bring air into the engine, any issues that may come up with it over time can also cause other issues, particularly with the drivability of your car. When an issue with your cold air intake arises, it also comes with other symptoms that may alert you of a potential problem that should be checked. Just like any other parts of a vehicle, there comes a time that you should have your cold air intake system replaced. To make sure you get all the benefits of a cold intake system it should be working at its optimum level and should be replaced with a new one when it’s time. A new cold intake system allows you to reap all the benefits of having a cold air intake system such as:
- Improved gas mileage. It’s common knowledge that internal combustion engines power through burning fuel, and an adequate amount of oxygen pumped by your car’s engine is necessary for this process. When there is not enough oxygen, more fuel is consumed. Cold air intake systems are designed in such a way that you get the right amount of air to fuel ratio that boosts horsepower and improves fuel economy. The cold air intake kit allows the air to flow more freely through the car’s engine. Cold air intake and mpg are interrelated. Upgrading your cold air intake system will give you better mileage. Ultimately, you will save on your gas expenses.
- Better horsepower. The amount of air during combustion affects the engine’s output. Since cold air is more conductive it helps in burning the fuel more efficiently compared to hot air. Installing a cold air intake system can boost the horsepower of your engine. The amount of horsepower that can be added depends on a specific vehicle configuration.
- Cold Air Intake System’s Reusable filter does a better job and more affordable in the long run. Standard air intake systems are disposable and have to be replaced frequently. They are designed to keep debris out of the engine. Filters of cold air intake kits do not need to be replaced as often since they can be cleaned and reused. On top of that, you only have to clean them every 25,000 miles. The cold air intake system is more easy on the budget as you do not have to always buy new filters. It also helps protect the engine from damaging debris which will lower your expenses to repair wear and tear.
- Improved Engine Sound. Are you one of those people who loves the sound of a roaring engine? Then a cold air intake system will excite you. The standard air intakes are made to run quietly, on the other hand, a cold air intake system is designed to improve performance. The more air the cold intake takes in, the more intense air flow is produced causing a throaty growl that many car owners love. Cold air intake coupled with a performance exhaust system can enhance the sound of your vehicle completely.
- Better Acceleration. Cold air intakes also improve the vehicle’s responsiveness. When there is more cold air that gets to the engine, the car reaches your desired speed quicker. So if you want a cheaper way to increase your acceleration then a cold air intake is the way to go.
- Uninterrupted air flow in the engine – Cold air intakes remove the necessity of having a box to encompass the air filter. Smoother intake tubes are used instead. This makes uninterrupted air flow in the engine possible.
Signs of Failing Cold Air Intake
Now that you know the benefits of having your cold air intake replaced, the question now is when do you know that it is time to replace it. You do not want to spend unnecessarily when your cold air intake is still working efficiently. So read on to find out the tell-tale signs of a failing cold air intake.
- Decreased engine performance – This is one of the most common indications that you have a bad cold air intake. The cold air intake also utilizes an engine air filter and when it gets dirty or clogged it decreases the engine’s acceleration, fuel efficiency and power. In more serious cases, a dirty air filter can also lead to issues in starting your vehicle.
- Check Engine Light comes on – Another sign you have an issue with your cold air intake is when your Check Engine Light turns on. If any of the installed sensors in the intake finds any problems they may set off the Check Engine Light to tell you that there’s an issue. There are several reasons a Check Engine Light can be set off but the most typical reasons are vacuum leaks and faulty sensors. The cold air intake is the induction system responsible for bringing air into your car’s engine, and thus, plays a significant role in its operation.
- Surging idle. An excessively high idle is another indication that your cold air intake system has a potential issue. It may be a sign of a possible vacuum leak. Several cold air intake kits have vacuum ports to accommodate the original manufacturer’s vacuum routing. When any of the hoses on the vacuum ports break or come loose or if these ports break, it can cause vacuum leak and that leads to an excessively high idle.
How Long Does It Take Before You Need to Replace Your Cold Air Intake
Cold air intake kits can come in rubber, plastic, metal or composite materials. If you want the most efficient type, choose the one that uses an airbox which is the engine’s size and extends the powerband of the engine. The air opening of the intake must be big enough to make sure that sufficient air gets to the engine whether your car is at full throttle, idle or anything in between.
As air flows through the cold air intake, it gets denser as it turns colder. Thus, there’ll be more oxygen in a smaller air volume. When it comes to cars, the more the oxygen, the more the power. Because the cold air intake affects the engine, a dirty, clogged or failing cold air intake will decrease the performance of the vehicle as well as its fuel economy.
Through years of usage, the filter in the cold air intake will eventually get clogged since it continuously sucks air in. When the filter gets dirty enough, the engine’s horsepower will be reduced. If this continues, the filter will get clogged and the vehicle’s fuel efficiency will decrease. Also, the dirty filter can decrease the engine’s power as there will be less air available for combustion in the engine as the vacuum pressure will no longer be capable of sucking in enough clean air. So in summary, it takes years of usage before you need to have your cold air intake replaced but you should still pay attention to the common signs your cold air intake is telling you that it’s in fact time to do so including: poor fuel economy, loss of vehicle performance when driving and decreased engine horsepower.
Generally, aftermarket cold air intakes (their filters) have to be cleaned every 30,000 to 40,000 mile and not necessarily replaced thanks to its reusable air filters which is unlike factory air intake systems that come with paper air filters that need replacement every 15,000 miles.
Cold Air Intake System Maintenance Tips
To make sure you get all the benefits of a cold air intake system you need to make sure they are in good condition. Here are things you should do to keep your cold intake system perform in its optimum level:
- Know the proper cleaning intervals of your cold air intake and know the amount of oil you should use. Some manufacturers will tell you exact intervals but generally you would need to have it cleaned every 30,000 miles or so. You might want to have it cleaned earlier if you spend a lot of time driving on dusty places. If this is the case, then you would need more regular inspections.
- Check your cold air intake filter by holding it up to a light source. You should not be able to look through it or expose any apparent holes when you view from the inside-out. When you find an air gap then it is time to get a new filter. You can also check if you can make an adjustment to the filter media to have the original surface area restored.
- Take note of the good cleaning technique which includes oiling, drying, carefully using compressed air from the inside-out, and by bending pleats so as to remove debris from the filter. If there are a lot of contaminants you might have to redo the steps. You can use a nylon brush but never use a metal brush as this could tear the filter media and pleats.
- To make sure there is proper routing and prevent rubbing, look over the clamps and tubing since things can shift over time. Make sure the clamps are loose enough so minor adjustments can be made when necessary, then can be systematically tightened each one after the proper orientation and fitment/clearance is attained.
- Use hydro shields and pre-filters to lengthen the service interval and to lessen the need for maintenance and potential hydro-locking if water gets into the motor and causes damage to the engine.
Other Things You Should Know About Cold Air Intakes
Does a cold air intake really work?
In theory, cold air and getting more air sound really good but it does not really make a difference unless it is put into application. While the actual increase in horsepower and fuel economy may differ from one vehicle to another, one thing is certain–it can definitely improve the performance of your car.
With the cold intake system alone you will notice a boost in power when the throttle is completely open. According to some manufacturers a cold air intake can add as much as 5 to 20 horsepower. But if you want to have more increase in power you can add a new exhaust. This will make your system more efficient. It is best to think of a cold air intake as one of the things you can add on to your car to improve the performance of your engine.
However, installing a cold air intake system also has its own set of drawbacks. For instance, when the air filter is too exposed and sucks up water, it will go directly to your engine. To prevent this occurrence you can add a bypass valve. Another drawback is that installation of a cold air intake system on some newer vehicles may void the manufacturer’s warranty on the engine. You should take this into consideration when deciding to install a cold air intake.
But other than what is mentioned above, the cold air intake allows you to enjoy driving your vehicle more. You would enjoy hearing the magnificent roaring sound of free-flowing cool air to your engine plus the few extra horsepower it gives.
How much does a cold air intake system cost?
Upgrading your vehicle’s standard intake system to a cold air intake system usually costs around $150 to $500. It depends on the system you would choose. They come in different types as well.