A factory air box is often a compromise between packaging, noise suppression and performance. The idea of a cold air intake is that you can relocate your air filter away from the engine bay heat.
It is a commonly held belief that this will make the car develop more power. Cooler air is denser, so contains more oxygen. When you add more fuel you get a bigger bang, which means more power.
With all that said, maybe it is also important to consider the cons of cold air intakes. Most people focus mainly on the positive aspects of fitting a cold air intake without really taking time out to consider the drawbacks of fitting aftermarket cold air intakes.
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Can You Just Bolt On?
Manufacturers of cold air intakes claim gains in horsepower once you fit one of these. Yes cold air intakes work on race cars. This is because race cars are dynamometer tuned. Everything is set for the way the race car is set up. They even reset for every race, so they can run perfectly.
Your regular car on the other hand is designed by engineers. The airflow that goes through the air box was all carefully designed to work with your factory mass air flow sensor. Engineers designed this to make your car run as efficiently as it possibly can.
When you bypass this system by taking out the air box and replacing it with a cold air intake. Often enough the engine management light comes on. The light comes on because modifying your airflow in this way makes the car pollute more than it is supposed to.
Fitting a cold air intake changes the way in which your car sucks in cold air. This confuses the computer, which thinks you have the factory air box in.
A really good professional mechanic can reprogram your computer to accept the new cold air intake. You cannot just bolt it on and expect it to work right. When you find a mechanic that can do all that work.
It is not going to be cheap. If it is a newer car, this upgrade is going to void all the warranties that you have on that car.
Effects On Performance
Many tests have been carried out to check horsepower after fitting a cold air intake system on a car. The results are mixed, sometimes you gain very little power. At times, you lose power. It really does not make that much of a difference on a stock vehicle.
In most cases people fit cold air intake systems because they look cool, they are often bright and colourful. Cold air intake systems are often less restrictive and more open. This results in more noise coming from the intake system compared to factory air box which silences most of the intake noises.
The idea of cold air intake is actually a correct idea, because engines run better on cold air. The problem is that a lot of the times when people fit cold air intakes, they are actually sucking in hotter air because they are fitted too close to the engine.
Factory Air Intake System
Something worth understanding is that the engineers at the manufacturers, they’re under intense pressure to get the efficient gas mileage, the least pollution, the most power that they can get out of the engine. They spend a lot of time designing the components of the factory intake.
When you take off all the made to measure components and just bolt on an after market cold air intake system. In the absence of other upgrades and modifications, it is no wonder that sometimes your car will even lose power and run less efficiently.
Signs Of Failing Cold Air Intake
- Decreased engine performance – This is one of the most common symptoms of a bad cold air intake. The engine air filter forms part of the cold air intake system. When the air filter gets clogged with dirt and debris, this decreases the engine’s acceleration, fuel efficiency and power. In more serious cases, a dirty air filter can also lead to issues in starting your vehicle.
- Check Engine Light comes on – When you look at your instrument cluster on the dash board. The Engine Management light might have turned on. If any of the installed sensors in the intake finds any problems they may set off the Check Engine Light to tell you that there’s an issue. There are several reasons a Check Engine Light can be set off but the most typical reasons are vacuum leaks and faulty sensors. The cold air intake is the induction system responsible for bringing air into your car’s engine, and thus, plays a significant role in its operation.
- Surging idle. A very high idle is another indication that your cold air intake system has a potential issue. This could indicate a possible vacuum leak. Several cold air intake kits have vacuum ports to cater for the original manufacturer’s vacuum routing. When any of the hoses on the vacuum ports break or come loose or if these ports break, it can cause a vacuum leak and that leads to an unusually high idle.
Many people these days carry out simple modifications and upgrades to their vehicles in the name of gaining power and performance. One of the most common modification that people do to their cars, is to remove the factory intake and replace it with an aftermarket cold air intake system.
I think the main reason this modification is very popular is because, it is relatively cheap and easy to carry out the work. Air intakes are great additions to a vehicle because the sound good and make the engine bay look cool.
When take time to consider, the cost of a brand new aftermarket cold air intake system, the very marginal gains in power and performance. Perhaps even consider the general cons of cold air intakes, before you take the decision to replace your factory intake system.
Unless you really, really just have to have it installed on your car for the noise and looks. My advice is to leave your factory air box on. You will be happier in the long run.