Air Intakes Buying Guide

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Modding your vehicle with a cold air intake will give you additional horsepower as well as bonus miles from your fuel tank.

But with so many choices, figuring out what the right intake for you is could be a daunting task.

Air intakes are available in a variety of types, materials, and colours. And to help you choose the best, we’ve put together this quick guide on how to buy a cold air intake.


Intake Type: Cold Air vs. Short Ram

If you look under your hood, you’ll see a big plastic tube which connects your air filter to your engine. This tube is what your stock air intake look likes.

Its main job is to supply your engine with much needed oxygen. Its secondary job is to keep down any noise generated by the whooshing fresh air (achieved through its built-in baffles).

And your factory intake is doing an acceptable job at both.

But that’s not good enough for you, is it?

A stock intake just can’t manage to supply the airflow needed by your engine to unleash its power potential.

This is why you want a performance intake. It has a larger diameter tube for supplying more fresh air. And it comes without those noise-cancelling baffles that actually impede the free flow of air. In their place, an aftermarket intake fits special free-flowing performance filters which let in fresh air without obstruction.

The end result is more horsepower and improved fuel economy for your engine.

Your choice is between a cold air intake and a short ram intake. Both perform the same job, but there are unique advantages to each type.

Cold Air Intakes

This full-length intake places the air filter close to a source of cold air, like your inner fender well or behind your front bumper. This means it’s able to draw in air which is cooler and denser.

And the cooler the air, the more horsepower you’re getting.

The disadvantage in this type of intake is that the filter location also means it could draw in water. So you should consider installing a pre-filter or wrap to keep water out.

AEM Injen BBK Performance
Cold Air Intakes PowerFlow Series Intakes Power-Plus Series Intakes
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Short Ram Intakes

This type of intake has a shorter tube. And the air filter is located closer to the engine. This means the air it takes in won’t be as cool or as dense.

But your short ram intake is your go-to option if your vehicle’s engine compartment is too small to fit a cold air intake, or if the installation is too difficult.

The good news is that if you go with this type of intake, the installation process and maintenance is much easier than with a cold air intake.

AEM Injen K&N
Short Ram Intakes IS Short Ram Intakes 69 Series Typhoon Intakes
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Filter Mounting: Open Element vs. Enclosed Airbox

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Your performance filter can be mounted to the end of the intake tube in one of two ways. And this will have a big effect on the airflow and sound.

Open Element

An “open element” refers to an air filter clamped to the intake tube, without being surrounded by an air box.

This allows for more exposed surface area for your air filter. More surface area means more airflow.

And when you want to check how dirty your open element filter is, just open your hood and… take a look. It’s that simple.

aFe Power Spectre Performance Edelbrock
MagnumForce Stage II Dual Plenum Intakes E-Force Intakes
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Enclosed Airbox Design

Most stock intakes and cold air intakes place the air filter inside an enclosed box. This way, the engine is forced to take in air from a very specific cooler area.

This setup is quieter compared to running an open element filter, and will spare you from seeing a dirty, bug-infused filter every time you pop open the hood.

If you want a cleaner engine compartment, you want an enclosed airbox.

Volant K&N Injen
PowerCore Polyethylene Intakes 57S Series Intakes Evolution Series Intakes
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Filter Materials & Styles

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Intake air filters are made from a variety of materials and styles. And each offers its unique advantages.

Oiled Filters

Oiled air filters are made from a cotton gauze media encased between a stainless steel mesh. The filters are covered in a thin coat of oil to trap dirt and contaminants (as opposed to relying on a larger number of filter layers to get the job done).

This makes them less restrictive than dry air filters, and will supply your engine with more airflow.

This type of filter is reusable. They can last as long as 80,000 km before it’s time to clean them. And all they’ll ever need is warm, soapy water, and a fresh coating of oil.

K&N Ford Racing Moroso
Premium Wrench-Off Filters High Performance Filters Oil Filters
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Dry Filters

Dry filters are made from a cotton gauze or synthetic media. Their design relies on up to 7 filter layers, which get continually finer to hold in dirt and contaminants.

Dry filters do just as fine a job as oiled filters, however they need to be cleaned more frequently, and reinstalled every 50,000 km. At the same time, you can save yourself the headache of having to oil them during maintenance.

The tradeoff you’ll have to make is for a more restricted airflow and fewer power gains.

Airaid Injen aFe Power
SynthaMax Filters Super Nano-Web Filters MagnumFLOW Filters
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Donaldson PowerCore Filters

The Donaldson PowerCore filter is unique to Volant air intakes. It’s made of an innovative high-flow media which is canister shaped.

The airflow they can supply is similar to that supplied by dry filters. But they do this by trapping much more dirt and particles. This means they can last much longer – upwards of 160,000 km –  before they need to be replaced.


Still can’t decide which air intake is best for you?
Drop us a line in the comments below and we’ll figure it out together!

3 Responses to Air Intakes Buying Guide

  1. Dominic says:

    Hi , what are the most popular air intake for f350 crewcab 4×4 2015 ford

    Btw very happy with the ready lift kit i got from you guys !!!!

    • TDot Performance says:

      Hi Dominic,
      Intakes depend on the size of motor in your F150. Intake applications also depend on whether you want to build for power or looks.

      Now if you have an Ecoboost in that F150, the Injen, Airaid, and K&N’s are the best bang for the buck. If you want a more robust intake that you can build power on, our more popular items are the AFE momentum stage 2 intakes with dryflow filters. The Banks Power intake system is equally popular. Reason being is that these intakes have velocity stack intake tubes and custom snorkels. This just means they are more successful at reaching cold air and pushing it through the manifold.
      If you have the 5.0L or 6.2L engines than you will want to look at the AEM dryflow, K&N and AFE intakes for value for money. If you are looking to build on power then look to the Banks Power again or the Airaid MXP series with a dryflow filter.

  2. Eric says:

    Hi,
    I can’t seem to find a suitable performance cold air intake for my Acura CSX 2009 non type S. I re-install my stock filter back because of the engine light that was cause by the new air intake. The code was P0171 which is too lean.
    Thank you.

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