Cold Air Intake
A cold air intake (CAI) is an assembly of parts with ducting used to capture cool air so as to maximize performance of an internal combustion engine. Early automobile intake systems consisted of an air cleaner assembly with air inlets connected directly to a carburetor. Air intake systems on late model cars were inefficient since air inlet openings were situated within close proximity of the vehicle’s hot engine. Hot air has a lesser concentration of oxygen molecules compared to low temperatures, causing an engine to lose horsepower and fuel efficiency.
Most modern vehicles come with a cold air intake preinstalled from the factory. Factory-made cold air intake systems are also referred to as a stock cold air intake or OEM cold air intake system. Stock cold air intake systems have ducting that leads from the edge of a vehicle’s hood, or behind the front grille, to the air box. The air filter is enclosed inside a specially designed heat shield that uses an inlet to draw in chilly air from outside of the engine compartment. Stock cold air intake systems consist of an air filter, aluminum or plastic piping, mass air flow sensor and the whole unit attaches to the vehicle’s throttle body.
Aftermarket cold air intake systems are designed similar to stock cold air intake systems but are made to be less restrictive so as to maximize airflow, reduce turbulence and draw cold into the engine combustion chamber. Cold air is better for combustion because low air temperatures contain more oxygen and allows more fuel to burn more efficiently. Cool dense air being sucked into an engine means more power and fuel efficiency.
Aftermarket cold air intake systems are built to deliver better engine performance. Aftermarket cold air intakes usually consist of a steel mesh, extra large high-flow air filter, plastic or metal intake tube, rubber coupler, hose clamp, vent tube, heat shield and a housing for the MAF sensor. Depending on the cold air intake brand, the high-flow air filter is either located outside of the engine bay or at the edge of it, such as behind the front headlight or grille.
Bottom line, cars and trucks run better in cold or near freezing weather, so it makes sense to funnel as much cold air into the intake as possible. The air is more dense allowing your vehicle’s engine to run with more air molecules in the combustion chamber. The introduction of cool air into the intake system adds measurable horsepower and increased fuel efficiency.