Can Water Get Inside Air Intake? The Consequence & Prevention

When you have a cold air intake installed then driving in rain will make you worry about the water entering inside the air take, which is normal for most people who love their cars. Personally, I was paranoid when I get my first cold air intake installed, I was worried every time I drove under the rain (or any wet surface). The question is – are we over worrying?

In general, driving under the rain will not cause water to get into your air intake (or cold air intake). However, water can indeed get to your engine through your air intake – especially if you drive under a deep puddle of water. When this happens, you are bound to have a broken engine. AKA hydrolocked.

In this article, I am going to discuss more details about water getting into your engine and how can you prevent it! So that you can worry less (like me today).

Can Water Get Into Air Intake?

Wet air intake

Water can definitely get into your air intake when driving over a deep puddle of water or if your intake is modified and positioned to be much closer to the ground – which is very common for cold air intake.

If you have a stock air intake, then you shouldn’t worry about water getting in. Regular cars will have no problem driving under the rain or even driving through puddle of water. Only if your intake is repositioned to be lower, will you need to worry.

Also Read: Driving Without Car Air Filter (Everything You Need To Know)

What Happens if Water Enters Air Intake?

When water enters the air intake it can be sucked into the engine. Once the water gets inside an engine, it could lead to serious damage to your engine. Usually, water from rain or any other kind of source wouldn’t find its way to the engine through the air intake. These are the consequences we generally see with flooded engines because then the possibility of water getting inside the air intake is much higher.

Consequences of water inside the air intake

  1. Pistons inside the chambers will try to expel water from the exhaust
  2. Your car will run into rich fuel and air ratio problem
  3. Your throttle will become less responsive
  4. Your engine might stop running due to hydrolock
  5. Water can damage internal components (bent rods, implodes pistons)

Symptoms Of Water Getting Into Your Engine

  1. Check engine light
  2. Your car will run into compression issues
  3. Power loss
  4. Bad throttle response and low compression
  5. Your engine will make a cranking noise due to bent pistons and rods
  6. The engine will be diluted by water and it will contain an excessive amount of engine cylinder shavings.

How To Protect  Cold Air Intake From Water?

Image of Hydro Shield

Hydro shield protects your cold air intake from water.

To prevent water getting into cold air intake, avoid driving through 8 inches of deep water and potholes if your car has no splash shields installed. The splash shield and fender lines will protect your cold air intake from water splashing under the car.

Closed cold air intake is also a good solution for those who are trying to protect their air intake from water. Closed air intake will provide extra coverage under the hood. For open-air filters aka Pod filters, you can install an aftermarket hydro shield on a filter to prevent water from entering the air intake.

Prevention water getting into cold air intake:

  1. Avoid 8 inches of deep water
  2. Avoid driving through water without splash shields
  3. Don’t drive through deep water with open cold air intake
  4. If you have an open-air intake then don’t forget to install a hydro shield


Can I Drive My Car With a Cold Air Intake in the Rain?

You can drive your car in the rain with the cold air intake on. During normal rain, water can not get inside the cold air intake, especially if you are driving on a clean road. However, during heavy rain, the chances of water getting inside the cold air intake are slightly increased.

Cold air intakes usually work fine during the rain. If you get the CAI carefully then there should be no problem at all. Some people get paranoid that their car might be sucking water but it’s not the case. Cars are designed to be run during the rain and the air intake will remain covered and safe by the hood.

Cold air intakes are reliable even during rain, however in some situations where you are having a heavy downpour the chances of water getting inside the cold air intake are slightly increased. Avoid driving in deep water, and let the air intake dry before running the car.

Can Water Pass Through an Air Filter?

Water can pass through if the air filter is under deep water. The car engine is continuously sucking air from the air filter. A few water droplets can get inside the engine if the air filter is under deep water or heavily wet with water.

The type of air filter also plays a major role in this scenario, there are 2 types of air filters are available

  • Closed Air Filters
  • Open Air Filter (Pod Filters)

Closed Air Filters

Image of Performance Air Filter

As you can guess by its name, closed air filters are covered in a housing that provides extra protection against water and mist. Closed air filters are less exposed to the water during the rain or during driving in deep water.

Open Air Filters – POD Filters

Cone Air Filter

Generally, the Pod air filters are not covered with any housing, they are exposed to the engine bay from where they can capture some water and mist. Although the Open air filters are not fully covered still it’s very uncommon for them to cause any problem, even during the rain.

The only difference you’ll see between these 2 filters is that one is designed for more performance while the other is more focused on the durability side. Closed air filters are generally a better choice if you are driving through deep water.

Also Read: Open Vs Closed Box Air Intake: Performance, Sound & Price

What Happens if My Cold Air Intake Gets Wet?

When the cold air intake gets wet it results in the engine running on a rich mixture of fuel and air. If your cold air intake is slightly wet from water splash then it won’t cause any problem.

If the water is more than enough to travel through the intake pipe to the engine then it will mix with engine oil causing a lot of mess. Either way, it’s always good to dry your cold air intake before running a car. You can wait until the air intake gets dry or you can fast this process by using an air blower.

Ifandi L.

Ifandi L.

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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