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About Air Intakes

Most cars that come out of the factory are optimised for fuel efficiency and passenger comfort rather than performance. But if you want to pack more power into your ride, you can do it by turning the car engine and fitting a custom car air intake.

Car air intake does the job of supplying clean oxygen to burn the fuel inside the engine. Air intakes can increase or throttle the airflow. If your car air intake is clogged or broken, you might need a new set even if you are not a motorhead or an enthusiast of performance cars. There are only a few different types of air intake you can choose from. But being a vital part of the car, the importance of buying the right one cannot be stressed enough. This guide will give you a basic understanding of the different types of air intakes and their functioning.

A basic introduction to air intakes

You cannot run a car engine without a proper air intake system. Although all they do is supply enough air to the engine, there is more to it than meets the eye. There are simple and affordable air intakes to ones that are more complex and expensive. But all the basic parts they have are the same. An opening to draw air from outside the engine, a filter to clean the air, a sensor to measure the flow of air, and a throttle to control the flow. Here we have listed the most common types of car air intakes that you can choose from.

Why custom air intake

Custom air intakes come into play when you tune the car engine. A tuned engine produces a lot more power and, as a side effect, a lot more heat. Both of these necessitate increased airflow to the engine. More fuel is pumped into the engine after tuning to improve the performance. And to ensure the efficient burning of this extra fuel, the airflow has to be accurately managed. A stock car air intake system in the car cannot do this. Another purpose of a custom air intake is the better cooling of the system. A custom air filter focuses on maximising the performance rather than increasing the fuel efficiency of the car.

Cold air intake kits

In most cars, the stock air intake is positioned not far away from the engine. This means that the air that goes into the engine is already warm, and therefore the oxygen content is low. A cold air intake system has a longer tube. This allows you to position the intake in a more convenient place that is further away from the engine, preferably near the radiator. This way it can draw colder and denser air with more oxygen content. But the placement of the cold air intake makes it susceptible to rain and dust. To solve this issue, they have an extra layer of protection called a pre-filter.

Ram car air intake

This is similar to a cold air type car intake system. But instead of placing the air filter away from the engine, the Ram air intake has a long tube that sucks the air from a high-pressure area with colder air. The position of the filter won’t change from that of a stock air intake. This makes a ram air intake less expensive than a cold air intake. To filter out water and dust that gets inside the tube, it also has a pre-air intake. You can either use a normal rigid tube or a flexible tube with this. While a rigid tube reduces sharp corners, a flexible tube enables you to install the ram air intake in tighter spaces.

Short ram car air intake

Unlike the above two, a short ram air intake does not have a long tube. This, in fact, is a cheaper alternative to cold and ram air intakes. Like a traditional air intake, a short ram air intake sits close to the engine. Although not as efficient, a short ram air intake increases the flow of oxygen to the engine using some unique features. They have a shorter and straight tube that reduces the restriction to airflow. This can compensate for the disadvantage of being close to the engine and drawing warm air to some extent. The short ram air intake is preferable in the case of a car with no extra space inside the hood. This air intake works well in compact performance cars and also tuned passenger cars.

Tips on how to buy Car Air Intake

After the engine itself, air intake is the second most important factor that affects the performance of your car. If you don’t have the right air intake, tuning the engine alone won’t be of much avail. Following these guidelines when you shop for an aftermarket air intake will help you choose the right one depending on your budget and needs.

  • Consider the material of the intake – The air intake has to take the colder air from outside to burn the fuel. It is important to keep the air cool as it passes through the hose. When you are looking for air intakes, make sure they are made of good quality heat insulating material to ensure maximum performance.
  • Air filter location – The location of the air filter is probably the most important factor to consider in air intakes. The further the air filter is from the engine, the better. It is not necessary to keep the air filter location the same as that of the stock air filter. You can optimise it depending on the space availability and performance increase you want to achieve.
  • Water and dust protection – If the air intake is exposed to dust and splashes, make sure that it has a good pre-filter to avoid contaminants from getting inside the engine cylinder. A lack of proper protection is an easy way to pollute the engine cylinder with dirt and debris that damage the engine irreversibly.
  • Intake tube flow – There are a few factors that affect the airflow inside the tube. More bends in the tube or a rougher inside lining of the tube significantly impede the airflow. The general rule is to keep the tube as straight as you possibly can. But this is challenging when you keep the air filter away from the engine. So, the key to best performance is striking the right balance.

Here on our shopping search engine, you can explore more than 500+ shops and brands offering auto-tuning and car supplies. These include K&N, AEM Intakes, Spectre Performance, TRD USA, and S&B Filters. Upon making a purchase, remember that proper installation is also equally important. Any leaks or sharp corners will negatively impact the engine performance and the power output. Good thing that installing a custom air filter is not a complicated task. But if you are not familiar with the insides of the car hood, it is better to get professional help.

Question & Answer

What is a car’s air intake?

Air intakes help the engine to function because fuel cannot burn on itself. Be it petrol or diesel, oxygen is vital for combustion. The function of air intake is to ensure a continuous supply of fresh oxygen to the engine. Car intakes have an air filter to filter out dust and other impurities in the air. On top of that, a typical air intake has a mass flow sensor to measure how much air is flowing through it and a valve to control the airflow. That’s how air intakes ensure an adequate flow of oxygen for efficient combustion. Also, the airflow should not be too much as well. The airflow sensor and valve work together to achieve this.

Will a car be without an air filter?

Technically, a car engine will start without an air filter. But without a filter, you run the risk of ruining the engine and permanently damaging it. Without the filter, dust, moisture and debris can get inside the engine. Because the engine parts are precision manufactured, even a small amount of dust can mess with its working. Dust can damage the seal of the valves and pistons and cause abrasion to the cylinder walls. On the other hand, a blocked filter can also damage the engine by making it harder to draw enough air.

How to replace a car air intake hose?

Running the car with a damaged air intake hose is risky. In the best-case scenario, it will severely decrease the fuel efficiency of the car. And if the damage is too much, it can damage the engine itself. Replacing an air intake hose is not that difficult. Mostly, the hose uses worm hose clamps to connect to the air filter and the engine. You will be able to remove and replace it with only a screwdriver. When you buy a replacement air intake hose, make sure to buy exactly the same one as the former. These hoses are vehicle specific, and you have to buy a hose that is specifically made for your car.

Which is better: a short ram air intake or cold air intake?

This depends on how much performance you want out of your car and how much you are ready to pay for it. Without any doubt, cold air intake improves the performance far more than a short ram air intake. But they are expensive and also harder to install. This means that if you are getting professional help to install the air intake, the cold air intake will cost you more on labour charges as well. A short ram, even though it will improve the performance, you won’t see a huge spike. They are also louder than a cold air intake. But much cheaper and easier to install.