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Have you known someone that struggles with asthma? They will tell you that they have a rather hard time breathing, at times it seems like they struggle for a breath. Well, the truth of the matter is that at times your car can have that problem too.
Since your air filter is inside the engine compartment, it is pulling in the air that has been heated by the engine. However, the best cold air intake is like an amazing medicine that you can give your car to get a good breath.
In this article, Garage Chief editors have rounded up six contenders for the best air intake and we will go over their finer points in our cold air intake reviews.
After that,we will launch into a air intake system buyer’s guide that will help you track down the system that will work best for you. Don’t worry though, these systems can be very easy to install and end up giving you some excellent performance upgrades.
Best Cold Air Intake – Our Top Picks Compared
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|item-title||K&N Performance Air Intake Kit 63-1561 with lifetime red oiled filter||Spectre Performance Cold Air Intake 9900 Kit||aFe TR-3002P Takeda Cold Air Intake System||AEM 21-744C Cold Air Intake System||Volant 154536 Cool Air Intake Kit with PowerCore Filter||S&B Filters 75-5070 Cold Air Intake Kit|
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Cold Air Intake Systems & Kits Reviews – Which One is The Best?
We will start off by going in-depth into our picks for the best air intake performer. Any of these systems could do an outstanding job on your particular set up, so we’ll give you the ins and outs to let you pick the one that you feel will work best.
Now to note some of these listings will give you the options for a number of types and sizes, we’ll be focusing on the most popular of the ones there. In general though the alternate options, while not having everything we discuss, may still be a strong contender.
K&N Performance Intake Systems & Kits
For our choice for best product we went with the K&N Performance Intake Systems & Kits. In particular we looked at the K&N Performance Air Intake Kit 63-1561 with lifetime red oiled filter.
This system will set you back approx. $290 but they also offer an option with some cleaning supplies to keep your filter clean (link here).
The filter for this one is located at the end of the input pipe, surrounded by a shroud to keep debris and water off the filter. Since this filter is designed to last the lifetime of your vehicle you don’t need to worry about having to put in a new air filter every so many thousand miles of use.
The system is rather easy to install, with the company claiming that the entire process can be accomplished in 90 minutes or less. This means you don’t even need a weekend, you could easily get this in in the evening and enjoy the boost in power on your way to work the next day.
It is important to note that this system doesn’t meet the requirements of for the state of California, so if you live there or another state that is adopting their regulations you might not be able to pass inspection with this installed in your vehicle.
Get it here at Amazon or check all K&N Air Intake Systems
Spectre Cold Air Intake Kits & Systems
If you are wanting to track down a system that will boost your car’s performance while not breaking the bank, you’ll want to take a look at some of the Spectre Cold Air Intake Kits & Systems, our picks for the best value option.
In particular, we took a look at the Spectre Performance Cold Air Intake 9900 Kit. This one comes with a red air filter, though unlike some other models this one will need to be replaced regularly. However, this will only set you back about $165, so you will still have a good amount left in your account for whatever else you might enjoy while still cruising around enjoying the extra power.
This system sports a powder coated heat shield to ensure that the heat of the engine compartment won’t end up heating the air as it is entering the system. The tubing is all made from high quality polished aluminum. This gives your car that extra special look, so when you pop open your hood you might have to help your friends pick their jaws up from the floor.
This kit notes that it comes with all clamps and hardware needed to ensure that you get a fit that is as good as using factory parts.
Get it at Amazon or check full Spectre Air Intake offer
aFe Power Takeda Cold Air Intake Systems & Kits
Another set of outstanding options for you to consider are the offerings from Takeda, the Takeda Cold Air Intake Systems & Kits.
In particular, in this set, we looked at the aFe TR-3002P Takeda Cold Air Intake System. This one goes for approx. $240. The company claims that you can gain a boost of 9 horsepower and 11 lbs x ft of torque to the wheels, which is nothing to be looked down at.
The company also notes that this system can be installed in most situations in a mere 30 minutes that will end up needing no cutting or drilling, so you don’t need to worry about any more than just some screws and bolts.
One thing that you will notice is that this system is designed to work completely with your car’s engine but also the car’s computer system, so that swapping your vehicle’s original air intake system for this one shouldn’t set off any check engine lights.
This system comes with a filter that needs no oil and can simply be washed off with soap and water in order to increase its lifespan. The tubes are made of polished, clear coated aluminum, to give your engine compartment that upscale look that many are after.
Check it out at Amazon or see full aFe Power offer here
Here you can see Takeda Air Intake System by aFe Power installed in 07-09 Nissan Altima 2.5L.
Results: +9HP increase, +11 ft. x lbs. TQ
AEM Cold Air Intake Systems & Kits
Next on our list are the fantastic AEM Cold Air Intake Systems & Kits. For this round we were looking in particular at the AEM 21-744C Cold Air Intake System.
This particular model will set you back approx. $240. For that price, you get a solid system that has been tuned and even dyno-tested to not only improve your vehicle’s acceleration but should also produce a rather pleasant engine sound to boot. The company states that it will increase horsepower, but doesn’t offer any particular numbers to let you know how much of a boost you are looking at.
The system was designed to be installed with standard mechanics tools, so you won’t have to worry about having that one specialty tool to make sure that the intake system is properly mounted. While it sports aluminum tubes, these are black to blend in with the rest of the engine compartment versus the polished shiny tubes offered by some companies.
The air filter included in this set up can make it up to 100,000 miles before you’ll need to look at washing it, but that will, of course, depend on your particular driving conditions.
Get it at Amazon here or check full AEM offer
Volant Cold Air Intake Systems & Kits
In your quest for the best aftermarket air intake system, you’ll want to consider the Volant Cold Air Intake Systems & Kits. In particular for this batch, we looked at the Volant 154536 Cool Air Intake Kit with PowerCore Filter.
One thing that you might notice right off the bat is that while most every model is called a cold air intake this one just claims to be a cool air intake. There isn’t much difference at a performance level, but the naming is interesting.
This set up goes for about $285. The company claims that this offers increased performance and efficiency but doesn’t offer any numbers to give you an idea on how much.
This model, like all the Volant offerings, comes with a cotton reusable filter but if you want they also a pre-filter that goes on the end of the input tube to help keep some other dirt and debris out.
This one has a 150,000 hour maintenance free dry element, meaning that you won’t have to worry about keeping your system tuned up just so for the best performance.
Go and check it out at Amazon or see full Volant air intake systems offer
S&B Cold Air Intake Systems & Kits
The final set that we will look at in this article are the S&B Cold Air Intake Systems & Kits. For this set, we will be looking at the S&B Filters 75-5070 Cold Air Intake Kit.
This model is going to set you back about $300, but it is one of the few that is designed to be used in conjunction with a turbo on your car. The tubes included are made to not just reach to the engine intake but all the way up to a turbo intake.
Unlike most other cold air intake system this one has its filter built in line instead of at the intake end of the tube. They claim that their snorkel is oversized to allow the greatest volume of air to be brought through the system and eventually make it to your engine.
In addition to the function, this model has been designed to look cool. The company states that one of their goals is to make you want to pop open your hood and show off your air intake system whenever possible. That design also allows for easy access to the filter which makes cleaning it easy when needed.
All you need to do is pop open the compartment and then rinse off the filter and return it and you are up and running again.
Check it at Amazon (full S&B offer here)
Buyer’s Guide to the Best Air Intake System
What is a Cold Air Intake System?
As you probably know an internal combustion engine requires air, or the oxygen therein, to burn fuel and provide power to your car. In most stock situations the air intake system will be located somewhere inside the engine compartment.
This has a number of good points, as it is close to the engine, covered from weather and debris and easy to find. However, as air heats up it becomes less dense. Your car will end up pulling in a set volume of air at any given time. When the air becomes less dense, there is less oxygen in that volume of air and the engine is less efficient burning fuel.
A solution to this problem is to go with a cold air intake system. As the name suggests this style of system pulls cold air to your engine, this air is generally as or more dense than the air in your engine compartment, so you won’t get a drop off in performance while using one. In fact, many people notice some boots in performance that we will discuss below.
K&N Cold Air Intake System Elements
- Weather Stripping: keep cooler air around the filter
- Reusable K&N high-flow air filter: providing up to 50% more airflow
- MAF Sensor Mount: for existing electronic sensor
- Aerodynamic Intake Tube: smooths airflow to improve performance
- Factory Mounting Points: easy installation
- Heat Shield: block hot engine air
Considerations When Picking Best Air Intake Kit
There are a few considerations that you should keep in mind when picking your option for the best cold air intake.
- The first is if the system has a thermal barrier. Even if you pull cold air in from outside, if the air gets heated before it gets into your engine you won’t get much difference in performance.
- You’ll also want to know if water ingestion is a concern. Since you are no longer drawing air from the covered engine compartment you’ll want to make sure there is something to stop rain and other water from entering the system. Some systems are designed to draw air from near the fender, so a puddle could result in air being splashed into your intake. This one needs special consideration as getting water into your system can cause some extensive damage.
- Depending on where you live you will want to look into a system that is CARB (California Air Resource Board) approved. For some this is a requirement, for others, it means that someone has at least considered the environment while making the system.
- Another thing that you’ll want to keep on your mind while picking out your perfect air intake set up is what you will need and what is included in the kit that you are looking at. Of course, you will need the actual intake and some amount of tubing to get the air back to your engine, but you’ll want to look into what else might be required for your particular make and model. You’ll want to do a double check of mounting locations and if the stock mounting hardware included is going to work in your situation.
Does Cold Air Intake System Really Work?
Some people out there may doubt that just by changing where your engine pulls air from you’d get any difference in performance. And the first thing to look into is just what claims are being made. Some users will claim things like a boost in fuel economy or speed.
There are some numbers to back up claims that installing a cold air intake system will provide you with better fuel economy, but the thing is that the improvement isn’t huge, depending on your particular driving style it could be accounted for.
However, there are a number of performance boosts that are much more noticeable. And it makes sense. Since you are constantly pulling in cooler, denser air your engine doesn’t have to work as hard in order to burn fuel.
Anything that can take some strain off your engine is a pretty good option, and this case is no different. We’ll go into some of the benefits of adding this system to your car below, but yes, it is more than wow I’ve convinced myself that I feel more power while I’m driving.
There have been some studies that have put solid numbers behind these performance boosts. While we won’t go into them here, they are fairly easy to track down.
What Are the Benefits of a Cold Air Intake System?
Now that we can agree that these systems do work and provide a boost to your car’s performance, just what kind of things should you expect after you put one in.
The first thing is that your engine’s lifespan will increase. This is a hard one for most users to judge, but when you think through what is happening it does make sense. Since you are pulling in cooler air, your engine can stay cooler while providing power.
Not getting as hot means that there will be less stress on your engine and that drop in stress means that pieces won’t wear out as quickly, giving you a longer life of engine than you would otherwise have enjoyed.
The next is a boost in horsepower. In most cases your car will have more horsepower as you start it up, but as your engine gets working and the engine compartment warms up, you’ll experience a drop off in that level of power.
However, with the right cold air intake system hooked up to your car, you won’t worry about that drop-off and keep on cruising at that higher level of power.
And since you have more horsepower as you drive around you will probably notice that your car is able to accelerate a bit quicker. This again is thanks to running cooler air through your system.
How do You Install an Air Intake Kit?
Now that you have picked the right option for your particular needs, you’ll want to install it. Don’t worry, overall the process is rather simple and you probably have most of the tools that you will need for it. We will give you an overview of what you’ll need to do, but as always, particular steps will vary based on your own particular make and model of vehicle but also which system you selected.
You will want to go over the instructions that come with the kit you selected and make sure that you understand them before you begin.
Now that you are familiar with the process, you’ll want to park your car on a fairly level area that gives you a good amount of access all the way around, you never know when you might get a better angle coming at the situation from the other side of the car.
Also, take into account that you will probably need to get below your car, so if it is low to the ground you make want to make sure you have a good set of jack stands to hold it up, some mechanics creeper may be useful too.
Then you will need to turn off your car and let the engine cool off. You’ll be handling pieces in the engine compartment and don’t want to burn yourself. Before going any further you’ll want to disconnect your battery, this will stop anything from starting your car up while you are part way through the process.
Now that the setup is complete, it is time to move onto getting the old air intake system out. The first set is to locate it. When you find it, which shouldn’t be hard, you’ll want to remove it, the filter box, the filter, the hose, all of it. You might need a socket wrench and screw driver.
Some setups will have a small bolt holding it in place and there may be hose clamps keeping the hose from moving around while you drive.
Your vehicle might have oxygen sensors connected to the hose, you’ll want to be careful as you remove these. It is a good idea to hold on to the original air intake system, if the one you are putting in doesn’t quite fit or is damaged, you know you’ll have a good option to go back to.
Now you are ready to install your new air intake system. You will probably need the same tools used to take out the old system. You’ll want to follow your system’s instructions as to what order to attach things, but it is a good idea to make sure you get everything in place prior tightening things down too much.
When everything is in place make sure that all the fittings are nice and snug. This is a great time to make sure that you’ve added a new air filter into the system. Once everything is ready the last thing to reconnect is the battery.
Once you reset your dash clock you are ready to test out your new system and new the performance boost.
Here is an installation guide for a K&N Air Intake on a Toyota Tacoma
Top Brands – Who Makes the Best Air Intake Systems?
K&N Cold Air Intakes
K&N is probably known to most people who even do the bare minimum maintenance themselves. This company is known for its range of filters, going from air to oil and just about any other filter on your vehicle.
It is no wonder that they have also made some high-quality cold air intake systems. Beyond that, most would say that they made the original cold air intakes. These tend to work well in nearly any car.
See all K&N Cold Air Intakes at Amazon
Volant Cold Air Intakes
Volant is another company that makes an outstanding product that just about anyone can easily use as they have models that work for just about any vehicle on the road today. They tend to include a reusable cotton filter that is easily accessible, making sure that you can quickly get it out, clean it off and get it back in again without a lot of hassle.
Check all Volant products at Amazon
AEM Cold Air Intakes
Starting back in 1987 AEM has made it their mission to innovate. They keep pushing to make everything that they offer better and better and in the long run, the customer wins for it. They offer a good deal of intakes but seem to focus more on foreign and more exotic cars, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give them a look for domestic setups.
Check all AEM Cold Air Intakes at Amazon
How Much Does it Cost to Put In a Cold Air Intake?
No matter what you are looking at, at some point you will have to look at the cold hard numbers and figure out how much of a hit your wallet is going to take in order to add this particular item to your vehicle.
In the case of one of these air intake systems, there is a little bit of a range, from $150 or so on the budget end of the spectrum up to about $500 or beyond. At the end of the day, even the higher end isn’t that much considering it can lead to a longer life for your engine and replacing that would most certainly run a touch higher.
The next thing to consider is where on earth do you get one of these from? You aren’t going to find them on the shelf at your local big box store and most likely since they are rather dependent on your make, model and year for your car even the automotive stores would likely have to order them.
Which brings up a good question, why should you pay for someone else to order a piece to have it shipped to their location where you can pick it up when it could come right to your door?
If you go to a trusted online retailer you can order the right piece for your car and in some cases get it shipped to your front door for free. While some might be concerned by not having someone help ensure they get just the right model, a site like Amazon can help. Their garage tool will help you quickly see which of the options you are looking at will work with the car you have selected.
Cold air intake systems have a lot going in their favor, however, you need to be aware that there are some risks in adding on to your vehicle. Whoever designed your car thought through most everything that the car might be expected to handle and crafted a system to take on those challenges. If you swap out for an aftermarket system you might add in some other issues. We mentioned above that these systems, if not properly set up could introduce water into your engine, which could cause extensive (and expensive) damage. Additionally, other foreign debris could find its way into your intake system and either clog up the hose, effectively strangling your engine, or worst case the debris could make it into the engine and cause more damage.
Best Cold Air Intake Systems – The Bottom Line
Now you should have all the important information that you need to know when it comes to finding the best cold air intake for your particular needs.
We started off by highlighting six of the top models on the market and going over their strong points as well as a few areas where they didn’t shine so well. Our pick for the best product was the K&N Performance Cold Air Intake Systems, as these in our eyes stood head and shoulders above the others available currently on the market. You’ll want to make sure that you track down the right set up for your particular vehicle.
Also, we covered the important details in our buyer’s guide. Not only did we go over what the cold air intake system is and why you should consider adding one to your car, but we also covered the benefits that you could look for and a basic overview of how to get one installed in your car.
Now it is your turn, did we miss anything? If so, why not let us know with a comment in the section below?
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Last update on 2019-11-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API