Will Cold Air Intake Damage Engine? 13 Watchouts Before Buying

Cold air intake is an engine modification if that comes with its downside. The modification can cause serious damage to your engine system if not done right. Your engine piston and cylinder could fail due to water contamination from the intake, and your engine may also run lean, leading to overheating. 

Personally, I have used cold air intake. The modification was performed initially and increased my engine’s performance significantly. After some time using the intake, I released a power drop and overheated. 

In this article I will talk about the downsides of cold air intake and how it could potentially damage your engine. I am not saying cold air intake is bad, actually, I think it’s great and can make your engine sound great.

However, there are not many resources online that talk about the negative sides of cold air intake. Which is why I am writing this article. So read on, especially if you are considering installing a cold air intake – these are the things you should know! 

How Does Cold Air Intake Work?

The cold air intake is an important part of the engine that provides cooler air to the engine. It is strategically placed, ensuring it can suck cool air into the engine system. Some people leave the intake system outside the engine compartment close to the wheel, where cooler air is found.

The cold air intake is mainly installed to improve the air intake going to the engine. By doing this, the engine performance will increase significantly. The cold air intake can be used with most engines, but people prefer to use it with a modified engine.  

Also Read: Cold Air Intake Vs Air Filter: Usage, Power, Sound & Cost

rerourted cold air intake

Cold air intake re-routes your intake to get more cooler air.


Can a Cold Air Intake Cause Engine Problems?

The cold air intake has the potential to cause engine problems – most commonly when water gets into the engine through the cold air intake or when too much air enters the engine – causing your engine to run lean.

Depending on where the intake is placed, some people like to place it above the hood, which allows the intake to suck in cold air. However, people prefer to place the intake under the front bumper close to the rear wheel. The problem with this position is that water can easily get into the intake. 

Once water gets into the intake, it escapes into the engine, which could cause the piston and cylinder to rust and eventually break over time.

Also, the cold air intake offsets the air-fuel ratio and causes the engine to run lean. When too much air is sucked into the engine combustion system, it could affect the engine’s performance and cause overheating.  

Turbo Cold Air Intake Setup

Cold air intake that’s placed too low could allow water to get in and cause engine damage.

13 Watchouts Before Buying Cold Air Intake (The Cons)

A cold air intake is a good and effective way to modify your vehicle and increase the engine’s power output. People must learn to consider some factors before installing the modification. Doing this could save your engine from potential failure and other problems. 

Below are some factors you need to consider before installing a cold air intake. 

1.Tuning May Be Required

Car Tuning

Car Tuning may be required for cold air intake (although rare)

You may require a tune for cold air intake (although rare) depending on the type of intake you are installing and your vehicle. For instance, the diameter of the piping is changed drastically, or when the MAF sensor might be affected. 

There is this belief that you do not need to tune your vehicle with a cold air intake, which is only sometimes the case. There have been a lot of complaints. Some vehicles need a custom tune after a modification to their intake system.

It’s best to get an expert opinion around your area for your exact intake and car model. It could be the case that your stock setup is quite restrictive, and installing cold air intake introduces enough change in air flow that you need to tune. 

Also Read: Do I Need A Tune After Installing Cold Air Intake?

2.Get The Right Intake Design 

The cold air intake comes in different types of designs; choosing the one that is best for your vehicle could be tricky. There are two designs that the cold air intake comes in. They include the following

1. Short ram design

Short ram intake

The short ram design requires shorter pipe tubing. The cold air provides better access to the intake without having to pass through longer pipes and get heated. One disadvantage of the short ram intake is that there is a high probability of getting heat soak due to the position of the intake. 

2. True cold air intake design 

K&N Cold Air Intake

The true cold design tries to take the intake filter far away from the engine’s position. It reduces the possibility of the intake getting heat-soaked, like the short ram design. 

The intake could be difficult to install as many thoughts would be put into how it would be placed. Also, the intake system is very expensive. 

When installing the cold air intake, it is important to consider the design before installing it. Put in a lot of thought into what design best fits under your hood and which will be more efficient.

3. Consider The Brand

You must consider the type of brand you will be getting for your vehicle. Many brands come with specific features that could be good for your vehicle. It would be best if you considered reading brand reviews, as they help give you an idea of what to expect from a specific brand. Better still, you can get a person who uses the brand around you for specific information. 

Another thing you could do is visit a professional. Professional mechanics with years of experience have an idea of specific brands and can guide you in the right direction in choosing the right one for your cold air intake. 

Also Read: Best Cold Air Intake

4. Consider The Shape Of Intake Tube

image of spectre cold air intake

Straight tube is always best but requires more space and harder to work with.

Another factor to consider is the type of intake tube. The best type of tube that you can use is a straight pipe with a cold air intake. It helps move the cold air faster into the intake system. Bent pipes, however, require more time for the air to move to the intake system. 

That said, one disadvantage of the straight pipe is that it will take up more space, especially when using the true cold intake design. 

5. Ensure Your Intake Fits

People must realise that some cold air intakes are designed specifically for some vehicles and may only be suitable for some. It is why people get cold air intake; it does not fit into their vehicles. 

How do you know the cold air intake is perfect for your vehicle? You need to check the vehicle specification of the brand you are buying. All aftermarket products come with vehicle specifications. 

You can also look at the reviews, and you can get an understanding of what type of vehicle people bought the intake product for.  

6. Consider The Material

One of the most important considerations is the material the intake is made from. The material it is made from will determine how long it will last and how well it can handle extreme conditions. 

Ensure that the intake is made from heat-resistant materials. The purpose of the intake is to transport cold air into the engine for use. If the cold air cannot resist heat, the air will easily warm up due to heat from the engine, defeating the essence of a cold air intake. 

7.Consider Water Protection 

Image of Hydro Shield

You could further protect your intake by installing an external hydroshield

Not all cold air intake may have water protection, but you must get one that provides enough protection from water. Due to the position of the intake, the intake system could easily take in water, especially during the rainy season. If there is no provision to protect the engine from water, it could damage parts of the engine and eventually lead to engine failure. 

If your intake doesn’t have water protection, you can still install an external hydroprotection like the image I attached above.

8. Cold Air Intake Filter Could Be Clogged

A cold air filter is that it can easily get clogged by dirt. Due to the position where the air is taken from, a lot of dirt is collected in the process, which can easily clog the filter. 

When you use a cold air filter, you will have to check the filter regularly and have them changed after a period of use. Pay attention to your engine’s performance to identify clogged filters quickly. Check the intake filter if you experience a drop in the power output in your vehicle, increased fuel consumption, engine noise, and more. 

9. Cold Air Intake Could Cause Rough Idle

Rough Idle

Rough Idle

Rough idle on cold air intake happens more oftenwhen the pipe is bent up to 90 degrees. When air is sucked into the engine, there is a lot of turbulence due to the bent tube. When the turbulent air enters the engine, it could cause a rough idle. The rough idling could get worse when the bent intake tube combines with other engine modifications. 

10. Cold Air Intake Could Cause Hydrolock

When the engine absorbs moisture, this is called hydro-locking. When this happens, your engine will lose its warranty. Many cold air intake systems allow water into the engine, which is bad. Just a few cold air intakes protect against water; if the right amount of water enters the engine, it will fail. 

Water is transferred to the engine when it finds its way into the intake system. At this point, there is no place for the water to go; this leads to parts of the engine breaking or cracking. 

11. Cold Air Intake Could Disrupt Air-fuel Ratio

The rolling effect of the intake air can cause a wrong reading by sensors. When this happens, the wrong information is sent to the engine’s computer system, which may cause more fuel to be released by the fuel injector, causing a complete disruption in the air-to-fuel ratio. 

12. Cold Air Intake Could Get Expensive 

Another disadvantage of the cold air intake is that it is quite expensive to get. Compared to the regular intake used by cars, the cold air intake can be quite expensive, and if you have another professional, the modification fixed for it will even cost more. 

Buying a cold air intake would cost as much as $400, which does not have the labor cost. If you are employing the help of a professional mechanic, then it will cost an extra $100 or more. 

13. Cold Air Intake Could Be Hard To Install

Installing a cold air intake can take time and effort. It is a result of the fact that many factors need to be considered. How the intake and the tube will be placed, and if the vehicle has enough spec under the hood for the intake. 

If you do not have in-depth mechanical knowledge, do not attempt to fix the cold air intake. If the intake is not fixed properly, it could damage your engine. You should employ the services of a professional to be on the safe side. By considering the cons of using a cold intake, you will be able to decide whether the intake is worth having. 


Is It Worth Putting a Cold Air Intake?

If you are looking for an improved sound and slight increase in horsepower, then cold air intake is worth it. The intake will boost the quality and flow of air to the engine system. 

You will immediately notice the change in the engine sound after the installation. It is due to the rushing air flow going to the engine.

Even with all these advantages, cold air intake comes with some disadvantages of its own. Depending on what type of cold air intake you will be buying, the modification could be expensive, and the position of the intake tubes could allow water into the engine causing serious damage. 

Other disadvantages come with the cold air intake. However, if it is installed properly and the right intake is gotten, then you should be good to go.

Also Read:

What Happens If an Engine Gets Too Much Air?

When too much air gets into the engine system, it offsets the air-fuel mixture causing the engine to run lean. Too much air in the engine is harmful; this is why an air-fuel ratio is made to guide the amount of air and fuel. 

When the engine runs lean, the engine may experience overheating and knocking. The excess air entering the engine combustion system will absorb heat and send it to other parts of the engine. After some time of the engine running, the high temperature would have built up, causing overheating. 

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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