Cold Air Intakes vs. Short Ram Intakes
First, let’s make sure you know what you’re looking at. Pop the hood and you’ll see a large plastic tube running from the air filter to the engine. This is your engine’s air intake in factory-form, which works to supply horsepower-generating oxygen to the engine. Factory intakes also have built-in baffles to reduce noise created by this airflow. And while your original intake does an okay job, it can’t supply enough air to allow your engine to reach its full power potential.
That’s where a performance intake enters the picture. These intakes use your choice of large-diameter aluminum or nylon tubing that, unlike the original intake, lacks noise-cancelling baffles. Instead, they feature free-flowing performance filters so fresh air can pass through unimpeded. This allows your engine to draw in O2 more efficiently, which increases horsepower and MPG. You’ll often see both cold air intakes and short ram intakes offered for a given vehicle — they perform the same function, but there are advantages to installing one type of intake over the other.
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.
Shop for Cold Air Intakes
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.
Shop for Short Ram Intakes
Open Element vs. Enclosed Airbox Design
This is how your high-performance filter is mounted on the end of the intake tube and, depending on the style, affects airflow and sound.
- 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.
- 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.