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How to Shop for Cold Air Intakes

Shop Cold Air Intakes

Cold Air Intakes vs. Short Ram Intakes

Cold Air Intake

  • This is a full-length intake that places the air filter near a cool source of air, like an inner fender well, or behind the front bumper.
  • Cold air intakes draw in air that’s cooler and denser, so your ride will make the most power with this type of system.
  • Many cold air intakes are 50-state (CARB) emissions-certified. This means they’re legal for use in all 50 states. When shopping, look for a footnote that indicates whether or not the intake is legal in your state.
  • Due to cold air intake’s filter location, it can potentially pull in water. Consider a pre-filter or filter wrap to keep water out.

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Short Ram Intake

  • Just like the name implies, these intakes use a shorter intake tube, which draws air from the area around your engine.
  • Sometimes, a cold air intake simply won’t fit in your engine compartment or can be too difficult to install. When this is the case, a short ram intake is your easiest way to improve airflow into your engine and build more power over using a factory intake.
  • Because of where short ram intakes mount, installing and maintaining them is easier than cold air intakes.

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Open Element vs. Enclosed Airbox Design

Open Element

  • When an air filter is clamped to the intake tube, but is not surrounded by an airbox, it’s known as an “open element.”
  • Because an open element filter has a more exposed surface area than an enclosed airbox, open element filters can potentially outflow them.
  • When you want to see how dirty your open element filter is, simply pop the hood, take a look and you’re done.

Enclosed Airbox Design

  • Many OEM and cold air intakes place their filters in an enclosed box. This forces the engine to draw air from a specific, and usually cooler, area.
  • Enclosed airbox designs are typically a little quieter than an open element setup.
  • If you don’t want to see a filter full of bugs every time you lift the hood, or accidentally brush against a nasty air filter when you work on your car, choose an enclosed airbox design.

Filter Materials Used in Cold Air Intakes


  • This reusable filter style employs a cotton-gauze media that’s sandwiched by stainless steel mesh.
  • Oiled filters tend to have fewer layers than other filter types. Instead, they rely on a light coating of oil to attract and trap dirt.
  • Depending on how dusty the roads in your area are, some oiled filters can go as far as 50,000 miles between cleanings. Be sure to use warm, soapy water when cleaning them. Let them air-dry and apply a very light coating of oil to the filter before reinstalling.


  • Dry filters use a cotton-gauze or synthetic media in up to seven progressively finer layers to trap dirt.
  • These filters perform just as well as oiled filters, but need to be cleaned with soapy water and reinstalled every 30,000 miles.

Donaldson PowerCore

  • This filter is unique to Volant intakes and uses a high-flow proprietary filter media formed into a canister shape.
  • Available airflow through these filters in on-par with dry-style filters, but they can catch and trap far more dirt. As a matter of fact, a PowerCore filter used for over 140,000 miles was found to contain over a pound of dirt, and still provided better airflow than a factory paper air filter. For real, y’all.
  • PowerCore filters require no maintenance and are advertised to last up to five years — or 100,000 miles, depending on road conditions — before they need to be replaced. The previous example shows this is a conservative estimate.

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