Cold Air Intake Pros and Cons

Benefits of a cold air intake

So you want to upgrade the intake on your vehicle.  You know the “Difference Between Cold Air Intake vs Short Ram Intake” and you’ve decided you want the cold air intake.  With that decision, it’s important to know the cold air intake pros and cons.

But, before discussing the pros and cons, let’s cover what the intake does and how it does it.

As you might have guessed, the intake is responsible for taking air into the engine.  It starts with the air filter and goes through the intake.  It will then go through the throttle body on a naturally aspirated car or into the turbo inlet hose on a turbocharged car (see How to Get More Out of Your Air Intake System on Turbo Cars: Upgraded Turbo Inlet Hoses).  In either case, if the car’s engine is running, this intake side is under vacuum which pulls air into the system for combustion.

Cold Air Intake

Air.  It’s a significant part of the recipe that gives us the right pedal induced joy.  But, not all air is created equally.  When it comes to air, the amount of oxygen it contains is critical in terms of combustion.  Air that has higher oxygen content (can be had through a nitrous system) allows more fuel to be burned.  But, you are able to increase the amount of oxygen in the air entering the intake without nitrous.  How?  Temperature!

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Pros and Cons


The main cold air intake benefit is that it achieves more power by relocating the engine air filter outside of the engine compartment in an effort to take in cooler air.  Not only is it out of the engine compartment but it is typically placed at a point low to the ground.  The Pro here is two-fold.  Firstly, since heat rises, it avoids the hot air rising from the engine bay, brakes, or any other heated component.  Additionally, since colder air is more dense, and denser air is lower, this filter placement attempts to attract the densest air possible.  The denser the air, the more fuel that can be burned and the more power can be made for better engine performance.


The cold air intake does typically get denser air than the stock intake.  However, since it is longer and more requires more complex routing, it is often more expensive.

This increased complexity also leads to a more difficult and time-consuming installation.

The greatest benefit to the cold air intake system can also be its greatest weakness.  More specifically, it’s due to the location of the filter.

Having a low-placed filter outside of the engine bay is great for taking in cooler, denser air.  But, that location is also where the most debris and moisture are also present.  If your intake ingests a significant amount of water, it doesn’t matter how beneficial it has the potential to be.  If your intake ingests a significant amount of water, your car’s engine can hydrolock causing catastrophic damage.

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COBB SF Intake and Airbox

Benefits of a cold air intake

The COBB SF intake and integrated airbox looks great and has the combined benefits of a cold air intake without any of the negatives. This system utilizes several unique features in an effort to maintain optimal flow for performance while minimizing turbulence that can cause engine management problems.

SF Intake Features

It uses a custom conical cloth air-filter element (cleanable and reusable) and a CFD-designed velocity stack leading to a unique airflow straightener grid.  This straightener grid is specifically designed to smooth the incoming airflow.  As air passes the Mass Air Flow sensor, the grid provides more precise readings. This eliminates the “dead spots” experienced by other aftermarket intakes due to turbulence.    Most other aftermarket intakes do not utilize these critical design elements.

In order to provide a system that looks as good on the outside as the technical advancements happening on the inside, we utilize a one-piece design constructed from a high-temperature plastic composite. Not only does this save weight compared to the previous metal design, but the plastic composite material also offers much better heat rejection properties that help keep intake air temperatures cooler.  In contrast, intake systems constructed using metal castings or piping can actually retain underhood heat and in turn heat the incoming air.

SF Air Box

The SF Air Box adds the benefits of a cold air intake to the outstanding performance of the SF Intake. The factory inlet directs cold air from the front grill to the SF Air, which encloses the SF intake. Hot engine bay air that robs horsepower is prevented from entering the intake system. This unique design also separates rainwater from the intake air, eliminating the water ingestion issues that plague in-fender cold air intakes.  Calibrations by way of off the shelf maps on the Accessport have you covered for any necessary tuning changes.

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About the Author: Tung Chi