Are Cold Air Intakes Worth It: A Buyer’s Dilemma

One of the most popular automotive upgrades is the addition of a cold air intake, however, you may find yourself wondering if they’re worth the added cost.

A cold air intake is one of the best automotive upgrades due to its cost-effective nature and improvements in vehicle performance, fuel efficiency, and acceleration. They typically cost just a few hundred dollars and are easier to install than other vehicle modifications.

Admittedly, that may sound too good to be true! So let’s take a look at how cold air intakes work as well as their full list of pros and cons.

What Is a Cold Air Intake?

If you want to understand if a cold air intake will benefit your vehicle, it’s important to learn what it does first. This part is usually purchased as an aftermarket assembly and used to send cool air into your vehicle’s engine. 

When installed, your air filter is moved to the outside of the engine compartment, allowing cooler air to be sucked into your engine for combustion. The cooler air provides more oxygen in the combustion chamber.

This translates to more power!

In most cases, the filter is installed in the upper wheel well or close to a fender where there is plenty of cool, flowing air. The further that it’s placed from the engine, the less chance it has of drawing in air that has been heated by the engine.

Why Aftermarket Cold Air Intakes Are Superior to Factory Air Intake Systems

The benefits offered by an aftermarket cold air intake are vast. The air intake system that comes into your vehicle can clog up the head and restrict the “breathing.” When this happens, your vehicle does not run well!

With a cold air intake, you have a way to ensure your engine is functioning at optimal efficiency levels. 

Also, the cold air intake can help reduce the air temperature while increasing airflow. Once installed, the cold air intake will eliminate the need to have a box around your air filter.

Instead, larger diameter intake tubes with fewer bends are smoother and wider than the factory versions are installed. This provides the engine with an uninterrupted source of flowing, cool air. 

Pros and Cons of Installing a Cold Air Intake 

Now that you know what it is and how it works, it’s time to dive into the pros and cons of the cold air intake. This information can help you decide if this is a modification you want to invest in for your vehicle. 

Benefits of a Cold Air Intake

1. Spend Less on Filters 

The factory intake systems use paper air filters that have to be replaced every 15,000 miles.

However, aftermarket cold air intakes use air filters that only need to be cleaned every 30,000 to 40,000 miles.

2. Improved Fuel Efficiency

If your engine combusts fuel more efficiently, then it burns less gas in the process. As a result, you are getting more “bang for your gas buck.”

While a cold air intake alone won’t result in massive gains in your fuel efficiency, it will likely pay for itself over the course of a couple years thanks to the fuel savings.

3. Increased Horsepower 

The amount of air used during your engine’s combustion cycle determines its total output power.

Cold air helps fuel burn more efficiently, which means a cold air intake may increase your vehicle’s horsepower. 

4. Engine Roar

Do you love the sound of an engine? If so, you will probably be happy to learn that a cold air intake can help with this.

Factory air intake systems work quietly in the background; however, the cold air intake is designed to increase performance and create a louder growl.

While this may not be a benefit for all, most gear heads appreciate the enhanced engine sound.

5. Improved Acceleration 

Cold air intakes can help improve your vehicle’s responsiveness. That’s because the car can reach the desired speed faster when more cold air is available. 

Potential Drawbacks of a Cold Air Intake

While the benefits make this aftermarket component seem appealing, there are some drawbacks to know about, as well.

Here’s a shortlist of the reasons that you’ll want to consider.

  • Filters that are too exposed can suck up water
  • Water may get into the engine causing serious damage
  • Bypass valve may be needed to prevent water in your engine
  • Installation of the cold air intake system can void your manufacturer’s warranty

Knowing the pros and cons of this installation will help you decide if this is an upgrade you want to make. 

Does the Cold Air Intake Make a Noticeable Difference?

While more air and cold air sound good, this doesn’t really matter if you attempt to pass someone on the interstate. 

While the claims related to increased fuel efficiency and horsepower may be debated, a cold air intake can increase your vehicle’s performance. Alone, you will likely notice increased power when the throttle is open.

Some cold air intake manufacturers claim their parts provide an increase of five to 20 horsepower. However, you’ll really need to incorporate other upgrades such as to your vehicle’s exhaust to maximize the power increases from a cold air intake.

Because of this, you should view the cold air intake as a single part of several that work together to help improve your engine’s performance. 

Should You Invest in an Aftermarket Cold Air Intake System for Your Vehicle?

It’s worth mentioning that even though a cold air intake provides many benefits (as described above), the system’s effectiveness will vary.

When it comes to parts and components for your vehicle, the saying “you get what you pay for” applies. If you aren’t willing to invest some money into this part, it may not be worth it at all. 

However, when it comes to answering the question “is a cold air intake system worth it,” the answer is a resounding “yes.” Even in situations where you don’t notice any real changes, they are there and helping your vehicle run more efficiently. 

Also, cold air intakes are one of the most affordable modifications you can install. If you want a way to improve performance and horsepower, this is one of the lowest-cost options you have access to.

Being informed is the best way to ensure this is an investment you want to make!

Are Cheap Cold Air Intakes Worth It?

While you may see some benefits with a cheap cold air intake, if you purchase this aftermarket component, it is best to choose a reputable manufacturer.

Also, ensure some tests prove the effectiveness of the component you are thinking about purchasing. 

Related Articles

Hi, I'm the founder of VehicleAnswers.com! Having owned a wide variety of vehicles in my life, I was astounded at how hard it can be to find answers to common automotive questions. Rather than sit idly, I decided to create this website to help others!