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> Performance Air Intake Systems Guide

Performance Air Intake Systems Guide

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In the search for more horsepower and torque, one of the easiest modifications to make to your vehicle is the addition of an aftermarket air intake system. The stock intake system on your vehicle is designed to be functional and easy to mass produce. This means that optimal airflow and air density are often sacrificed. A performance air intake system replaces your stock intake with aftermarket components that deliver a higher volume of air to the intake manifold. When your engine can take in more air, it can burn its fuel charge more efficiently and create more power.  While many people desire an air intake for performance gains, there is often confusion over what type of intake to get. Let’s take a detailed look at the three main aftermarket intake types.

Image of a Cold Air Intake
A cold air intake. Note the enclosure to keep out hot engine bay air

Cold Air Intakes (CAI)

Stock intake systems are engineered to be functional and affordable. An aftermarket cold air intake kit is made with one goal in mind: performance. These intakes replace your vehicle’s airbox and intake duct with a new open element filter and intake tube positioned further away from the engine in order to provide a colder charge of incoming air. Colder air is denser and contains more oxygen which leads to a more complete combustion cycle. This in turn leads to increased horsepower and torque, as well as a more aggressive sound under throttle. A cold air intake will often be the most effective intake system for your vehicle.


Short Ram Intakes

Image of Short Ram Intake
An AEM short ram intake
Usually more affordable than a comparable cold air intake, short ram intakes replace your airbox and intake tubing with a larger open-element air filter and precision engineered intake tubing. The biggest distinction between a short ram and a cold air intake is that while a CAI replaces and relocates your intake filter and tubing, a short ram replaces items in their stock location. This makes the short ram intake easier to install, but less effective at increasing power since it only draws in a greater volume of air than a stock intake, rather than bringing in cooler air like a CAI. With that being said, short ram intakes are popular replacements for vehicle owners who want to improve air flow, while retaining a close-to-stock underhood appearance. For a more detailed comparison of cold air intakes and short ram intakes, take a look at our Cold Air vs Short Ram Intake article.


Ram Air Intakes

Image of a Ram Air Intake
Ram air intakes draw air from outside of the vehicle

This system features an intake duct which is added to the front of the vehicle and exposed directly to air outside of the engine compartment. A ram air intake system uses the vehicle’s forward motion to force air through an outer duct opening, creating a small forced-induction effect. Usually reserved for vehicles equipped with turbo or superchargers, forced induction creates a denser fuel charge by compressing incoming air to create a denser intake charge. If you’re looking for the biggest power gain available from an intake system, ram air is the way to go. With that said, available applications are limited. For this reason, often times the best available option will be a CAI.

No matter which intake you choose, you’ll increase airflow to your vehicle’s engine, improve fuel efficiency, and enjoy increased power. If you have any questions about air intake systems for your vehicle, you can contact our product experts today.