What is a Cold Air Intake?

What is a Cold Air Intake:


If you have ever thought about modifying your car then I’m sure a cold air intake was one of the first things you heard about. Intake modifications are some of the easiest and most popular upgrades to a vehicle, but few actually know what is best and why. So I wanted to take a minute to explain the basic operations of the intake system and how modifications can affect it.


The air intake system is there to deliver fresh air from outside of the vehicle into the intake valley of the engine, upon which it is delivered to each cylinder and used in the combustion process.


So what is the purpose of modifications and how do they affect the engine?


Most intakes sit with the filter and intake piping all running very close to the engine and pulls in the heated air in the engine compartment, so the purpose of the cold air intake is to locate it in a lower location that will deliver cooled air to the engine. The cooled air burns easier and more efficiently, therefore making it easier for the engine to produce power. They are built with wider tubing and different filters to allow for more air volume as well. Some vehicles cannot handle the added air volume and instead of gaining power they actually run worse because the engine starts to run lean and cannot keep up.




Along with cold air intakes there are also short ram intakes. These are built and setup with a short distance between the air intake and the throttle body.



Short ram intakes are best suited for higher torque engines, often supercharged. Cold air intakes are usually better suited for naturally aspirated and turbocharged vehicles. Remember that it always comes down to driver preferences as well.


Not all cars will see very big gains by adding just an intake upgrade, but it is a very great start if you plan to open up your engine and maximize the power output. Whenever I plan to replace the intake on a new vehicle I like to do the exhaust and tuning at the same time, but it does not always work that way, so just do what you have the most fun with, that’s what the car game is really all about 🙂

Feel free to reach out if you ever want any suggestions or advice on any upcoming projects!



  • Turtle Dove says:

    Very good post. I learned a lot. I have heard of the air intake but never knew exactly what it did and how it works. That will help us if we ever need it fixed. Plus to make sure unscrupulous car shops will not cheat us .

    I am going to keep reading your blog for more good information on cars. You communicate well.

  • Good article, informative. I put a short ram intake on and it made a noticeable difference in a Mopar 5.9L. Question? How often do you clean filter or replace it.

    • GGrey says:

      Hey Steve, glad to hear you have some good results from your intake upgrade. I usually try to clean my filter every couple of months, depending on the driving conditions and environment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *