What Does A Cold Air Intake Do (And Is It Worth Getting One)?

Car enthusiasts are always on the hunt for something new that will improve the ride in their vehicle. From the track to local city streets, a car that's reliable and equally fun to drive is a major asset to its owner. Many drivers focus on body kits that will augment the visual effect of their car, and others make adjustments to the suspension, brakes, or even the engine. These provide a raft of unique tweaks that can make major or minor alterations to the performance and personality of the vehicle.

One change that's often crucial for drivers is the addition of a cold air intake. Some cars may arrive at the dealership pre-fitted with a cold air intake, while others require an aftermarket addition to bring this function under the hood. Either way, the use of cold air to drive power to the engine is a tried and true method to improve virtually any car's capabilities on the road and track alike. Making this change might be a quick and easy modification that brings a whole new driving experience to your vehicle.

A cold air intake improves athletic performance under the hood

Racing enthusiasts are perhaps already familiar with this enhancement under the hood. The introduction of a cold air intake changes the way your engine sucks oxygen into the unit to power combustion. Oxygen is mixed into the system alongside gasoline in order to provide the engine with the ingredients it needs to power the car. In a typical air intake system, air from within the engine compartment is filtered into the engine to mix in this critical component. A cold air intake feeds the engine with cooler air that's found outside this part of the car. Colder air is more dense and therefore contains a greater volume of oxygen. The result of a cold air intake is an uptick in fuel-burning efficiency, leading to improved performance metrics from the engine.

A standard cold air intake is likely to improve your engine's power output by about 5%. This can translate into a boost of just a few horsepower in cars with small engines, or as much as 20 or 30 horsepower in existing performance vehicles that are already seething with quick throttling energy. The throttle is another area that sees improvement with this addition. Drivers should expect a boost in acceleration and throttle response in the same way that a runner or lifter gains a surge of strength after a deep breath. Similarly, for drivers looking to augment their experience behind the wheel, a cold air intake amplifies the athletic sound that naturally emanates from your engine.

This modification isn't just for racing enthusiasts

A cold air intake is a great option for anyone seeking to squeeze out additional horsepower and zip from their engine, but this isn't the only reason to install the modification. Drivers who make the change to a cold air intake will notice an improvement in gas mileage, allowing for less frequent fill-ups and long-term savings at the pump. This is a massive benefit that all drivers will be excited to take advantage of. Because the cold air intake provides a more efficient oxygenation process within the engine, a car that is equipped with one will naturally use less gasoline to get from A to B. This translates into daily savings.

A cold air intake also allows a car owner to reuse air filters rather than replace them on a regular basis. Drivers typically need to change filters roughly once per year (sometimes less frequently, depending on personal driving habits and typical annual distances). But with a cold air intake, washing out the filter and refitting it allows you to save time and money by doing it yourself and reusing a part that's still viable. Depending on the filter, you can expect to enjoy at least roughly double the lifespan of a typical filter. Some are rated for up to 100,000 miles, meaning you may never have to replace them!

Should you add a cold air intake?

A cold air intake is a great option for anyone seeking to improve the performance standard of their vehicle. This can be done for a wide range of reasons and isn't limited to the subsection of drivers seeking to eke out a little extra acceleration and speed in their vehicle. The ability to reduce dependency on gas stations is great for drivers seeking to stop less often and spend less money, making the appeal of this upgrade wide-ranging. Cold air intakes cost between $70 and $500 on average, making them a relatively inexpensive part to bring into the makeup of your vehicle. Additionally, many car owners may consider tackling this enhancement on their own since the part can be bolted on with ease and doesn't require specialized tools or knowledge.

Car forum participants and part manufacturers alike suggest that the installation is a job that won't take more than an hour to complete, even for an inexperienced car owner looking to tweak their own vehicle. This means that the cost of a professional mechanic won't add much to the price tag for those looking to gain the benefit of a cold air intake without having to perform the installation themselves.