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What to Know About Cold Air Intake Systems Before You Upgrade

Finding the right aftermarket upgrades for your ride can be confusing. Here’s everything you need to know about cold air intake systems, one of the most popular upgrades with car buffs everywhere.
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felixR via gettyimages.com

With so many aftermarket options for your ride, it’s often difficult to decide what’s right for you. A popular upgrade for diehard car enthusiasts that beginners often overlook is the air intake system. While all vehicles contain an air intake, there are many ways to customize and enhance what’s under your hood.

Below, we’ll take a deep dive into aftermarket air intake upgrades. From what they are to why you need one, you’ll be ready to take the leap and make an investment in engine performance. Here’s everything you need to know about air intake valves.

What’s an Air Intake Valve?

Aftermarket intake systems, commonly known as cold air intakes, are installed outside the engine, allowing colder air to be brought in. This colder air contains more oxygen than warm air, increasing the combustion, which leads to more power.

Standard air intakes are also usually boxed in, restricting airflow into them. A cold air intake doesn’t have this limitation, allowing for the free flow of air. This might not sound like a big deal, but this uninterrupted flow actually allows the engine to perform much better.

While some cold air intakes can be expensive, these aftermarket options remain a relatively inexpensive upgrade to add to your vehicle, with decent options costing around $200-300. Deciding if a cold air intake is right for your vehicle can be a more challenging decision. Here are some things to consider before taking the plunge.

A Noticeable Difference

While many cold air intake claims are exaggerated or entirely made up, there will be a noticeable difference when you’re laying on the gas. The horsepower increase varies by manufacturer, but some boast numbers as high as 20 hp.

Where you won’t necessarily see a difference is in gas mileage or efficiency. Some cold air intakes claim to increase driving range, but little testing has been done, and reviews vary. The main benefit to installing an intake is a boost in horsepower and reduced wear on your engine due to increased airflow.

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Firstsignal via gettyimages.com

Considerations Before You Get One

Traditional intakes are built inside of a box for a pretty good reason—protection. By opening up your intake valve, you could be setting yourself up for major problems. One common issue is exposure to water. If your valve is too exposed and you find yourself in wet conditions, you could bring large amounts of water into your engine and cause significant damage to its components.

You’ll also be exposing your engine to larger amounts of dust and road debris. Be sure to clean your vehicle frequently, and don’t be shy about washing under the hood. Anything you can do to keep foreign particles from entering your motor will help keep it running healthy.

There are also warranty considerations when installing a cold air intake. Be sure to review your purchase agreement carefully, and make sure that installing an aftermarket intake won’t void any warranties you may still have active on the vehicle. This $300 upgrade could cost you thousands if it voids your agreement, so take the time to read the fine print, and consider delaying any upgrades until after expiration.

Air intake systems are vital to proper vehicle operation, but other systems have taken priority, leading to many factory versions being less than ideal. Luckily, car enthusiasts and manufacturers teamed up to offer aftermarket intakes that check all of the boxes. While you should remain skeptical of some claims, cold air intakes will increase your vehicle’s performance and also boost your horsepower. Research your specific model and find the right cold air intake for your ride.

CPC-logoThis story was made possible by our Community Partners Program. Thank you Davis Chevrolet for helping to expand local news coverage in Alberta. Learn more.