Does Cold Air Intake Make A Car Louder?

By August 2, 2020January 23rd, 2021Common Questions

Quick answer – Yes. The sound of your car will be louder and more aggressive with a cold air intake. Instead of loudness though, a cold air intake changes the sound of your car engine. You will clearly hear the sound of air flowing into the intake – especially when you rev up the car and then release the throttle. This is a very satisfying sound that makes your car sound more aggressive and even faster. 

Here’s a before and after to understand what I am talking about.

Now that’s out of the way – let’s see  🙂

What’s The Role Of Air In A Car?

Before we can understand cold air intake or the sound change it makes, we must first understand – what business does air have to do with cars? The answer is … *Drumrolls* power! To deliver power to the wheels, a car engine ignites fuel and creates combustion. To exist, this combustion absorbs oxygen in the air – this is why firefighters need oxygen tanks for their work. 

Image of firefighters with oxygen tank
Firefighter with oxygen tank because combustion absorbs oxygen!

A car engine gets its oxygen by sucking in air from the environment –  this is why we need air intake in a car! To generate more power, you need bigger combustion and more oxygen. So far so good? Now let’s talk about cold air intake.

How Does Cold Air Intake Work?

Using our science knowledge from high school, we know that cold air is more dense and can contain more oxygen. This same reason is why we place an air conditioner at the top – cold air is more dense, so they sink to the bottom, whereas hot air is less dense, so they float to the top. Placing an air conditioner at the top of the room will cool the hot air down. 

Now back to cold air intake. A stock intake that comes with your car is prone to sucking a lot of hot air – because they are placed beside engine compartments that are hot. This is obviously not good – because hot air has less oxygen. And less oxygen means lower performance for your car. 

This is where a cold air intake saves the day! A cold air intake aims to reroute how your car sucks in air. Instead of sucking hot air from the engine compartment, a cold air intake will suck colder air from outside the engine compartment – usually an area near the front wheel. 

A good cold air intake like K&N has a heat shield installed on it. This prevents hot air from entering the engine. And lastly, a cold air intake allows more air flow. So even if the air is not cold enough, more air always means more oxygen! 

Pretty cool stuff huh? Now that your car has cold air and more oxygen, bigger combustion could be generated in the combustion chamber – providing more power to the wheels! Next, let’s talk about the sound changes it brings. Personally, this is the most exciting part for me 🙂

Cold Air Intake Image
Cold air intake

Sound Changes By Cold Air Intake And How?

Aside from the performance – cold air intake also improves the sound of your car. It makes your car sound louder and more aggressive. What’s even better is that you will begin to hear a new unique sound from your engine – the sound of cold air rushing into the engine. This is much clearer when you have a gear shift. Take a listen to this video from 3:59 onward to hear exactly what I am talking about.

So how exactly does this sound change happen? There are several reasons for it and here are the most prominent ones.

More Air Flow

A cold air intake is designed to allow more airflow. This is done by having a wider surface area for the air to enter. With more air – it doesn’t matter whether the air is cold or hot. More air almost always means more oxygen. And more air flow also means more noise! Have you ever swung a badminton racket with force? Do you hear that noise it makes? That’s the sound from the air flow my friend! Same applies to your cold air intake.

More Exposed

If you pop open the trunk of your car and try to find the stock air intake – chances are you wouldn’t know which one it is. That’s because the stock intake is enclosed! No wonder you don’t see it. This is done to reduce the noise made by the intake. On the other hand, cold air intake is exposed/ This is done to allow more air flow – and as a wonderful side effect, also a louder noise 😉

image of stock air intake
Stock air intake is enclosed.

Regulations

There are a lot of regulations to follow when manufacturers produce cars: sound, emission, safety – you name it. To ensure they meet the regulations and also appeal to as many people as possible, car manufacturers often silence the noise from a car. This includes the intake system. With a cold air intake, none of that matters – only performance is in mind. This gives cold air intake manufacturers plenty of room to play with. And again, as a great side effect (or intended, I don’t really know) – cold air intake improves the sound of your car!

Can Cold Air Intake Damage Your Engine?

So far, we have learned the beauty and benefits of cold air intake. But what are the cons? Would it damage your car engine? The answer is… it depends. A cold air intake will not directly damage your engine. As long as you don’t have accidents, or go to flood – then your engine will be fine. However, a cold air intake can make your car more vulnerable to standing water. 

Some cold air intake is positioned lower in the engine bay – closer to the ground and wheels. You can get access to more cold air this way. However, if your cold air intake is hanging low, running through standing water could be a nightmare. Water could seep into your engine internals through the cold air intake and cause major damages. To prevent this, I recommend you to get a hydroshield for your cold air intake. You could get it from Amazon or a mechanic shop for about $25. Not too expensive for the safety it provides. 

Some people are afraid water could get into the cold air intake on a rainy day. I wouldn’t worry too much about this. A cold air intake also has an air filter to prevent any dust or particles from entering. Small drips of water will be filtered by the air filter. Although if you are still worried, get yourself the hydroshield that I recommended. 

Image of Hydro Shield
Image of hyrdoshield. This is worn by the cold air intake

How Much Does A Cold Intake Cost?

Cold air intake is not so expensive and it’s easy to install. This is a popular choice for beginner enthusiasts as their first performance upgrade. It ranges from $50 to about $300 – depending on the brand. After purchasing, it takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to install – depending on your skills 🙂 I recommend you to go ahead with the install and experience the sound changes. It’s great!

Other Ways To Improve The Sound Of A Car

Depending on what kind of sound improvements you want, there are many other alternatives you could look for. From my personal opinion, a cold air intake is the best upgrade for sound. They are cheap, easy to install and I just love the sound it makes from the increased air flow. But you are not me, so here are other ways you could improve the sound of your car.

Muffler Delete

Muffler delete means uninstalling the muffler in your exhaust. A muffler as the name suggests – is used to muffle the sound coming from your car. This greatly silences the noise from your car – making it suitable for the mass market and also comply with government regulations. If you want the most sound, muffler delete is your way to go. However! The sound of your car could get too loud and even deafening. Not to mention it could be illegal in your states to remove the muffler. Please do more research and check with your local laws before doing this!

Straight Piping Exhaust

Muffler delete is just removing the muffler from the exhaust. Straight piping removes both the muffler and catalytic converter. This is done mainly to improve performance – without the catalytic converter and muffler on the way, the exhaust gases can escape from the combustion chamber quickly. Allowing for more fresh air to enter the combustion chamber and create more powerful combustion. Straight piping is definitely illegal in all states. But if you just want to drive around on the race track every Sunday, then I have an article covering straight piping here.

Straight Piping Exhaust

Muffler delete is just removing the muffler from the exhaust. Straight piping removes both the muffler and catalytic converter. This is done mainly to improve performance – without the catalytic converter and muffler on the way, the exhaust gases can escape from the combustion chamber quickly. Allowing for more fresh air to enter the combustion chamber and create more powerful combustion. Straight piping is definitely illegal in all states. But if you just want to drive around on the race track every Sunday, then I have an article covering straight piping here.

Resonator Exhaust Tip

Resonator exhaust tip  is a hollow chamber that will cause sound waves to vibrate in a certain way to produce more sound. It is easy to install –  just screw them on your exhaust tail pipe and you are done!. Resonator exhaust tips are legal in most states.

Image of resonator exhaust tip
Resonator exhaust tip

Drilling Holes On Exhaust 

Drilling holes surprisingly work well and are super easy to do – all you need is a drill and a ⅜ drill bit. You need to ensure the holes are drilled right before the muffler. This works because sound vibrations generated by the combustion could escape into the atmosphere before they are silenced by the muffler. Thus, improving the sound of the car. I cover this topic in this article If you’re interested.

illustration of a car exhaust system
Drill holes here. Before the muffler and after the catalytic converter
Ifandi S.

Ifandi S.

Passionate about everything mechanical. Ifandi has been involved with motorcycles and cars since the old days - in his family's auto parts shop. Want to keep in touch? Scream "STRAIGHT PIPEEEEE" at the top of your lungs and Ifandi will show up.

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