(Updated on October 24, 2019)
Cold air intakes are an affordable modification that installs easily on most vehicles. Although it won’t offer as much of a power boost than other mods you could make, there are some engine benefits to consider with this technology.
Think of a cold air intake for an engine like a Breathe Right strip for your nose. You’d put one on for sinus or nasal congestion because it opens the air intake for your internal passageways. This technology delivers the same results for your engine.
It often moves the air filter outside of the engine compartment. Cooler air is then brought into the engine to create combustion. Colder air has more density, which means you receive more power through the combustion process.
You should notice an immediate increase in the performance of your vehicle with a cold air intake installed. Some products make claims that up to 50 HP increases can happen on some systems. Even if that does not occur, you’ll discover that greater efficiencies with your engine create a better user experience.
Before installing one of the best cold air intakes for your car, be sure to review your warranty information as it may void it.
Top 10 Best Cold Air Intakes
This unit is the best cold air intake for your car if you want a product which offers a custom fit. The performance of this model is supplemented by the oil-free Blackhawk filter, making it much easier to obtain the airflow you require for superior engine performance.
The highlight of this intake is its lightweight aluminum tubing. This design reduces the delivery restrictions to the engine, which means you’re guaranteed to receive a consistent flow of the denser air. It is washable and reusable, backed by the manufacturer’s million-mile limited warranty.
Most vehicles require zero drilling or cutting to take advantage of this technology.
You’ll notice an improvement in the sound of your engine when you reach the higher RPMs once the installation of this unit is complete. The increase in power is definitely felt.
It offers an estimated horsepower gain of over 12 HP at 5,300 RPM. The average installation time for this CAI is just 90 minutes – and often less. Basic hand tools are all that is required to get the job done. That’s because K&N engineers their intake kit to use the existing factory mounting points and holes on your engine.
You’ll also love the way that it looks once installed. If you show off the engine compartment, you will absolutely receive compliments about the product. Open up the engine, and you’ll earn even more positive comments.
We found the installation instructions to be useful, though somewhat difficult to follow at times. Consider purchasing the filter sleeve with this cold air intake to remove the risk of smaller debris too. Double-check the components in the box before beginning to ensure you’ve got the bolts and washers necessary to complete the work.
Make sure that the product works with your vehicle before finalizing your purchase. The system does work with most cars, but it may not work with some.
If you want to install a high-quality product, this option is clearly one you’ll want to consider using today if you’re ready to let your engine start breathing again.
This product is the best cold air intake for those moments when your vehicle requires top-end power. You’ll position this unit near your front bumper for best results, taking in the most frigid air possible as you open things up. You’ll feel the pulse of your engine quicken as the RPMs begin building toward full power.
The manufacturer uses Mega Ram Technology, which gives you the correct shape and size for the intake tube to work with your engine. It’s built using aerospace-grade aluminum, giving you a lightweight unit that makes your vehicle sound like a heavyweight fighter when you’re pushing it to the limit.
Even with the optimal gains achieved with this cold air intake, you’ll still receive a safe A/F ratio.
The brackets are TIG-welded for superior strength once installed. You’ll discover that they are positioned perfectly to provide a balanced fit for the exact make and model of your vehicle. Each component on the CAI goes through meticulous testing to ensure that you receive the performance you expect.
We appreciated the rubber vibra-mounts which come standard with this unit, along with the stainless-steel clamps, which offer a simple installation if you’re familiar with your vehicle.
The installation is simple, with clear instructions to follow, although the horsepower gains do appear to be somewhat average on several vehicles. There are more pieces with this kit compared to some others.
You will notice the vehicle becomes more responsive after installation, even if HP gains are minimal.
Cost is another factor to think about if you’re looking for the best cold air intakes for your car. This option comes at half the price of similar options from the other manufacturers on this list while the performance it offers is virtually identical.
If you notice your air filter begins to foul up your MAF sensor, then just vacuum it out. It doesn’t need spraying or oiling to maintain its performance.
The manufacturer also backs this product with a lifetime warranty. You will need to purchase a heat shield if required for your setup because it doesn’t come with one.
The equation for the best cold air intakes is relatively simple: delivering more flow creates more power for your engine. This manufacturer took that basic equation seriously to give you a superior performance outcome while still offering several customization options.
You can choose to use an oiled filter or an easy-to-clean dry filter when choosing this CAI option. There are two different performance stages from which to choose as well.
It is an innovative design which works with the engine in your vehicle. The media is a low-restriction layered three-dimensional dry synthetic which supports your driving habits. You’ll receive the same performance enhancements no matter which filter option you choose.
The oiled air filters work best when you’re driving in conditions which are dry and dusty frequently. Choose the dry filter when using your vehicle for everyday street driving. The filtration offers superior results once installed correctly.
This system replaces the factory air box with a cold air dam, separating the filter from the hotter engine compartment to supply fresh air from the outside. Most systems are smog-legal once installed, using your factory mounting points to create a simple installation process. The lifetime warranty offered by AIRAID is one of the most comprehensive guarantees in the industry today too.
The classic system uses a powder-coated inlet tube to move your air inlet to a better location for your car. This design optimizes your air flow whenever you drop the throttle. A splash shield is an available option for off-road drivers to prevent unintentional fouling of the system.
If the standard system is too much for your car, then look at one of the junior kits offered by the manufacturer instead. You’ll still receive a horsepower boost, strengthening the flow to the engine for better torque and improved throttle response.
You won’t believe how easy this cold air intake is to install on most vehicles. Although you may not see as much of a boost in this product compared to other options, you’ll be paying a better price for it too. If you want your engine to have a little extra pep in its step, then give this CAI unit a closer look.
The primary advantage of choosing this cold air intake over the other options available on this list is the various configuration options available for each vehicle. Although some minor modifications are sometimes necessary when choosing this CAI, a successful installation does bring better torque, horsepower, and a small boost in fuel efficiency.
This manufacturer utilizes a molded polyethylene duct design to deliver the denser cold air to your engine. Then you’re given a choice between their Donaldson PowerCore filtration tech or their Pro 5 filter with your selected option.
Each filter choice comes with pros and cons to evaluate based on how you typically use your vehicle.
The PowerCore filter can improve filtration rates by over 99% for some vehicles. They’re rated to be maintenance-free for up to 150,000 miles of off-road or high-dust driving conditions.
If you opt for the Pro 5 filter, then you’ll receive a product which uses layers of oiled cotton gauze that offer up to 15,000 miles of driving before maintenance becomes necessary.
Depending on your vehicle’s needs, Volant offers an enclosed air box to help block heat from impacting the air funneled into your engine during the delivery process. This design enhancement offers better filtration and superior power without radically altering the installation profile of the product.
The clamps used with this CAI are marine-grade stainless-steel which withstands the heat profile of your engine compartment well. Most will install in 60 minutes or less if you have experience and tools to support your work.
If you’re looking for some extra noise when you punch the throttle, this CAI might not deliver as expected. This product is more about the response received, along with the enhanced performance, than it is about the aesthetics of a roaring acceleration profile.
Some vehicles may experience gains of up to 18 HP after installation. Up to an additional 40 ft/lbs of torque are possible with this Volant unit too. That’s why it is one of the best cold air intakes for your car today.
Choose this cold air intake if you push your vehicle to its off-roading limits each day. It doesn’t matter if your car was built to go on the trail not taken or you go there anyway. You’ll find that the largest loads and the most challenging trails can all be conquered when you install this CAI.
The manufacturer uses a high-flow cotton-gauze filter with this design, which optimizes the kit for all vehicle types. They also use a crosslink nylon tube to keep costs down for you, though that also means it comes with a basic black look, to deliver consistent airflow to your engine.
This design removes the weak point in some factory designs which restrict airflow between the filter and the engine. It requires about an hour to install on most vehicles. Once you open up the throttle, you’ll hear a satisfying roar come from the acceleration profile.
Some vehicles might experience a lull in the lower RPMs which won’t speak to added performance. If your primary driving habits involve stop-and-start street driving, your noticeable improvement will come from the cleaner, consistent delivery of air from the CAI to your engine.
Dirty air not only stops your engine from performing as it should, but it also may contribute to premature wear-and-tear concerns in some vehicles.
It’s one of the few CAI kits which come with a price below a hundred dollars for some makes and models. When you consider the improvements in torque, horsepower, and gas mileage, most owners will save enough to have this option pay for itself and then some over the lifetime of the unit.
This model is also one of the few which is 50-state legal in the United States. It is CARB-exempt and meets all current emissions standards.
We found this K&N option to be a quality product. Although it would be helpful to have descriptions of the bolt and washer sizes, anyone familiar with vehicles will figure to what needs to happen.
If you’re on a budget, but you still want to let your vehicle breathe, then this is the best cold air intake to consider purchasing today.
This model is the best cold air intake to look at if you want to improve the performance of your truck or SUV. It’s the original precision-tuned system of its type on the market today, featuring an intake tube designed for your specific engine with its shape and diameter. The manufacturer tests each CAI before release to ensure you receive the maximum performance of your vehicle.
What we like about this cold air intake is the brushed-aluminum composite power box. It protects your air filter with its heat-resistant design, ensuring that the results you achieve with this unit remain consistent.
Once installed on your truck or SUV, the design of the air filter and intake make it possible to bring more oxygen to the engine, reduce turbulence with the airflow, and keep the air density at the idea level for your vehicle.
The design includes an integrated air inducer, velocity stack, and stabilizer to ensure the smoothest route for the cooler air reaches your engine to produce results. Instead of the unit forcing more cold air into the engine, then letting it do all the work, Injen designed this model to deliver air at precise moments.
The intake allows for calibration to control air speed through the system too, releasing it through the equipped mass airflow sensor at calculated times to further push the horsepower capabilities of your engine.
Like other Injen CAI products, this model features lightweight aerospace-grade T6 aluminum to reduce your corrosion profile.
The installation process is rather simple with this option too, with most vehicles requiring a simple bolt-on process that doesn’t require any drilling.
It’s available in three different color options to match the visual aesthetics under the hood for your current ride.
This option is undoubtedly one of the best cold air intakes available on the market today. If you want an improved throttle response, an increase in horsepower, and better responsiveness when you’re on the road, then grab this CAI before it’s gone.
Power and style should always go hand-in-hand. With its chrome tubes which twinkle like a mischievous child and its mandrel bent to improve airflow, you’ll see impressive gains when you choose this cold air intake system for your vehicle.
The chrome coating does provide a superior level of corrosion resistance without resorting to plastics or silicone, giving you a complementary look within the engine compartment. The package includes your mounting brackets, clamps, adapters, couplers, and the washable air filter. Installation should take between 60 to 90 minutes for most owners.
We found the only primary issue holding up the installation for this cold air intake was the included grommet. This rubber piece for the sensor is difficult to place in some makes and models, with the added issue of environmental exposure potentially limiting its lifespan when compared to the rest of the CAI kit.
We found that you could nudge in the grommet using a flathead screwdriver with some gentle pressure. Take care in the amount of pressure placed on the unit to prevent unintentional damage to it.
Most drivers won’t see a push in the miles per gallon potential of their vehicle once they install this CAI. You will notice most of the difference in the responsiveness of each action. The amount of torque you’ll get from your vehicle is impressive.
Expect horsepower gains in the 10-15 range for most vehicles. The sound you hear in response will usually be deeper than before, especially as you reach the higher RPMs with your car. You’ll definitely receive a boost which wasn’t there before.
There are a few concerns with the overall installation process because of the directions included with the kit. We recommend following the written instructions instead of relying on the images included for best results when working with this lightweight CAI.
A 90-day limited warranty guarantees the kit from defects in craftsmanship and the materials used.
It’s challenging to find first-class results when you’re paying coach prices. With Spectre, you really can’t beat the combination of price and overall quality here though. If you take your time, the throttle response offered by this manufacturer is comparable to any other on the market today. You’ll hear and feel the difference in your engine’s performance immediately.
This option is the K&N model you’ll want to use if you’re improving the performance profile of an SUV or truck. Featuring the Filtercharger design with cotton-gauze supports, you’ll find that this unit stands up to the toughest challenges you can bring it.
You’ll want to think about using this option first if your primary driving occurs in an off-road environment. It handles the dust and dirt well, while the washable filter allows you to reduce maintenance costs over the long haul. It gives your vehicle more power and better acceleration through its innovative design.
The intake tube is constructed from aluminum, in your choice of chrome or gunmetal, to improve the delivery of cold air while matching your aesthetic preferences at the same time. Some models come with a custom heat shield as well.
You’ll notice the upgrade in power immediately, no matter where you decide to open up the throttle. A massive volume of air surges through the engine, creating much more noise than one might expect. The lower RPMs sometimes need some tuning to benefit from the change in design. Other than that, most owners will see their expected gains in horsepower, fuel economy, and overall acceleration.
It replaces the plastic air channels that come from the factory in some trucks and SUVs, reducing stress on the engine as you feed its appetite for more air.
We found the installation to be simple and straightforward with this CAI kit. You’ll get the work finished in 45-60 minutes for most makes and models.
Noise can be an issue with this specific model from K&N. Once you begin to hit speeds that are higher than what you can legally drive in residential neighborhoods, the volume does increase exponentially. If your hearing is a little sensitive, or you prefer to hear the radio in your vehicle without interference, then a different CAI on this list might be a better option for you.
This option is the best cold air intake to help your SUV or truck come alive once again. It’s a simple installation, complemented by a compact design, helping you to achieve your performance goals consistently when driving anywhere.
Using a cotton-gauze filter, a wide variety of designs to support most vehicles, and different system options that range from a complete intake to a short ram, you’ll find that this option gives you the tuned boost of sound and power you want with this product.
We love that the manufacturer makes this option available in several different colors. You’ll find that it looks as good installed as the performance it delivers on when you push your RPMs. You’ll receive the hoses, brackets, clamps, and adapters required to complete the installation on your specific vehicle in the box.
You’ll experience up to 15 HP with this cold air intake system to improve your acceleration profile. The filter equipped to this unit is reusable too. Just wash it when the cotton gauze gets too filthy to screen your cold air effectively, and you’ll be ready to start driving once again.
The reinforced silicone hoses deliver consistent results to your vehicle. Although the clamps are sometimes a little too small for some installations, you’ll still benefit from the easy installation. Your fuel economy could improve up to 4 miles per gallon also, helping you to make back your investment over time.
Whether it’s an advantage or a disadvantage, some vehicles experience minimal sound gains once this CAI is added to the system. Some reports suggest that it may even quiet some engines.
Most drivers see the best results with this CAI when they open up their engine on the highway or during a pass. You may see some idling improvement once this installation is complete too. The profile is super smooth, and you’ll feel a better response whenever you make decisions behind the wheel.
The bottom line is this: you’ll feel like you’ve added value to your vehicle with this option because you’ve installed one of the best cold air intakes manufactured today. Give it a shot, and we’re confident that you’ll be satisfied with the purchase. It is one of the few products available today which lives up to its billing.
This cold air intake system offers an estimated 36 HP gain at 5,300 RPM. The synthetic air filter provides consistent results when funneling cool air to your vehicle. It comes with a guarantee that covers the life of your car.
That means there is a lot to love about this CAI kit, especially if you happen to be a Subaru owner.
The design of this model replaces your factory air filter and box, manufactured with aluminum intake tubes and powder-coated heat shields. The hardware works to reduce friction within the system, creating a consistent intake temperature which improves the performance of any engine.
The DRYFLOW filter complements the powder-coated heat shield and other design elements to deliver excellent results that lead to an improved acceleration profile.
We also appreciate the fact that the manufacturer uses dyno results, on-road testing, and racing experiences to validate the results of their cold air intake system. This process offers accurate information to help all of us decide if the power gains are reflective of the price offered.
Our one issue is the cleaning process for the filter. It works best when you use a synthetic cleaner to loosen or dissolve the grime that builds up, which adds a little to the long-term cost of the installation. All synthetic filters require this cleaning option, however, so there isn’t much you can do about it if you prefer this product type.
There are some installation concerns to look at for some vehicle owners too. Unlike most of the other CAI options on this list, AEM didn’t create a system which just drops into place on some vehicles.
Some cars may experience a lean air-fuel charge after installing this system, requiring a tune as part of the process. Skipping this step may lead to detonation.
If your car meets the vehicle stipulations of this cold air intake, then give it a closer look today. Although this option might not meet the needs of every vehicle owner, it could be the exact solution required for your overall acceleration problems.
How Does a Cold Air Intake Help Your Vehicle?
The best cold air intakes will help any vehicle get closer to reaching its maximum potential. Although the performance profile with this option isn’t the same as it would be with a turbocharger or a supercharger, you’ll find that the value offered with this technology is budget-friendly and economical.
For the price of a nice dinner with the family somewhere, you can install a CAI kit in an hour or less most of the time. These products deliver instant results that improve your horsepower , offer a better acceleration curve, increase fuel economy, and add some fun to your overall driving experience.
If you want to let your engine start to breathe again, then the best cold air intakes will make that happen. Select the best option for your vehicle today to begin enjoying the improved results.