What Is a Cold Air Intake? And What Benefits Does It Offer?

What Is a Cold Air Intake? And What Benefits Does It Offer?

5th Apr 2018

air intake on engine

Cold Air Intake

When searching for performance car modifications, you may come across cold air intake systems. As shown in the photo above, it consists of an external air filter that's positioned away from the engine. In contrast, factory air intake systems are closer to the engine. Although the difference is subtle, a cold air intake system is an inexpensive car mod that can offer real performance benefits.

How a Cold Air Intake Works

A cold air intake system, as the name suggests, works by drawing cool air into the engine's combustion chamber. Engines require three things to create combustion and power: fuel, air and spark. With stock air intake systems, air is drawn from directly outside the engine, where it's naturally hot due to the engine's heat. A cold air intake system, on the other hand, draws air from farther away, where it's cooler. So, how does this affect your car's engine and its performance?

Engine Power 

By drawing in cool air, your engine will generate more power. This is because cool air is denser than warm air. When air heats up, it expands. And when air cools down, it becomes denser. As a result, forcing cool air into an engine's combustion chamber will allow it to generate more horsepower. It's not a huge improvement, but research shows that a standard cold air intake system offers a performance boost of 5 to 10 horsepower.

Fuel Efficiency

In addition to increased horsepower, a cold air intake system can improve your car's fuel efficiency. This goes back to its affects on the engine's power and performance. With a cold air intake, your car's engine will produce more horsepower, all while consuming the same amount of fuel as before. Therefore, you can travel longer distances on a tank of gas. Again, it's a not a huge improvement in fuel efficiency, but it can still add up over the course of several months or years. And given the low cost of cold air intake systems, this makes it a smart financial investment that can save you money in the long run.

Engine Cooling

Finally, a cold air intake system can help control your engine's temperature and protect against overheating. It's no substitution for a healthy, functional cooling system, but it still provides supplemental cooling benefits nonetheless. Conventional wisdom should tell you that forcing warm air into the engine will raise its temperature. The opposite, however, occurs when cool air is forced into the engine -- it lowers its temperature.

Photo credit: Nick Ares

air intake graphic