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How to Install a Cold Air Intake and it’s Benefits – Everything you Need to Know!

Do you want to get an overview of how to install a cold air intake? Are you simply looking the benefits of a cold air intake?

Installing a cold air intake can seem like a daunting task. Furthermore, you’ll want to make certain that there are actual benefits to doing so.

Therefore, this article provides a broad overview of the steps and reveals the real benefits of installing a cold air intake.

If you own a Silverado or are looking for the best brands in the industry, read more about the Best Cold Air Intake for Chevy Silverado.

How to Install a Cold Air Intake?

Installing a new aftermarket cold air intake will be slightly different for each vehicle and brand of intake. However, the broad steps remain the same.

Below are the broad steps so that you can apply them to your exact vehicle and air intake.

1. Engine and Battery

The engine should be off and cool to the touch.

It is also a good idea to remove one or both of your battery terminals (starting with the negative) so that the engine and electronics are not getting any power.

2. Locate and Remove old Intake

It will look like a large plastic box with a pipe leading to your engine and specifically to your throttle body.

You will need to remove the box which contains the old air filter as well as the tubing that leads to your throttle body. You may also need to unplug your ‘mass airflow sensor‘ depending on its location. Also, you will need to retain the tube containing the sensor to complete the new installation.

You will likely need to remove some small bolts, plastic mounts, and hose clamps in order to remove all the parts of the old intake system.

Additionally, you may need to remove your engine cover to get access to your throttle body.

3. Read Specific Installation Instructions

This is just to emphasize that you should read the instructions that come with your intake so you do not miss any key details that cannot be covered in a broad guide like this.

4. Install the New Cold Air Intake

The order of each step for installing the new air intake will depend on your intake model but some of the steps that may be required are as follows:

  • Assemble the heat shield according to instructions
  • Mount the new heat shield to the inside of your fender – make sure to tighten all the hardware using bolts, etc. provided
  • Attach your mass airflow sensor – The location will depend on your vehicle and cold air intake but if you have a heat shield you can attach it the the out outside of that.
  • Install the intake pipe using hose clamps
  • Attach the air filter to the intake tube inside the heat shield
  • Bolt on the heat shield cover if one was included
  • Plug in your mass air sensor
  • Replace your engine cover if you had to remove it earlier

5. Reconnect Battery and Test Drive

It is a good idea to make sure everything is working correctly so, take your upgraded vehicle for a spin.

6. Tune your Vehicle (optional)

This is an optional step but many experts say you will only truly experience the performance gains from a new air intake with a custom tune. This is a subject of much debate as others say that without a tune you will only improve the sound of your engine.

A custom tune at a dealership can be very expensive. However, you can achieve the same results with a performance programmer so have a look at our article on the Best Programmer for 5.3 Silverado.

Even if you don’t own a Silverado, the programmers listed are compatible with most vehicles and we have chosen the best brands on the market.

Lastly, these video guides will also be useful as a visual aid for the installation process:

What is a Cold Air Intake and What Does it Do?

A cold air intake is a system linked to your engine via the throttle body. It consists of a long tube that links up with a box that has an air filter inside.

The reason for the long air pipe is so that the intake inlet and filter can be placed as far away as possible from your engine where the air is cooler. Some, aftermarket cold air intakes are even designed to pull in air from below your engine on the front left or right to reach the coldest air.

Most new cars come standard with a cold air intake system. However, these generally restrict airflow compared to an aftermarket option. More on this later…

Now that we know what it is, what does it actually do…?

Well, as the name suggests, it pulls in cold air. Air is required for combustion and cold air is much more oxygen-rich (sometimes referred to as more ‘dense’) than warm air. Therefore, colder air aids combustion, and better combustion leads to better performance.

Furthermore, most cold air intakes are designed to provide unimpeded airflow, and therefore greater velocity, which also leads to more oxygen for combustion.

Cold air intake anatomy

Benefits of a Cold Air Intake

The advantages of a cold air intake are not only restricted to performance. There are actually a whole bunch of added benefits that are worth knowing.

Have a look at this quick visual overview of the benefits before we get into the explanations below:

Benefits of a cold air intake

1. Increased Horsepower and Torque

This is one of the key benefits of an aftermarket cold air intake.

As discussed above, a cold air intake can enhance combustion and engine efficiency. One of the results is greater performance including horsepower and torque gains.

The amount of horsepower you gain will depend on your specific vehicle but the range is generally between 5 and 20 HP.

Your torque increase is generally in the region of 15 LB-FT.

That being said, if your vehicle does already have a stock cold air intake and you are just replacing it with an aftermarket option you may not get the performance gains you were hoping for.

Here’s why…

Stock intakes are designed to work with your vehicle ECU tuning and the ECU is tuned to run on the amount of airflow provided by the stock air intake.

Therefore, you may want to consider tuning your vehicle after installing an aftermarket intake.

You can take your car to get a professional tune but this can be very expensive. Therefore, you can also consider a performance programmer (link above under ‘Tune your vehicle’) which will allow you to custom-tune your ECU for the new part.

However, even if you don’t tune your vehicle you will still get a lot of the other benefits listed below:

2. Better Gas Mileage

So, we’ve established that a cold air intake provides more airflow at an increased oxygen density. This leads to better fuel to air ratio meaning less fuel is required for adequate combustion.

This leads to great miles per gallon.

It is also helpful to think about it in reverse. Imagine there is less air and oxygen, your engine will have to use up more fuel to compensate for a lack of oxygen.

This will save you money on fuel and is a great benefit to a cold air intake.

3. Improved throttle response/acceleration

Installing a cold air intake will also aid acceleration and improve the response when you put your foot down.

This is another benefit of better combustion as your vehicle gets the power it needs as soon as you require it.

Therefore, You will get from 0-100 much faster with an aftermarket air intake…try putting your foot down once you’ve installed your new intake and see for yourself!

4. Improved Engine Sound

For some drivers, this may be one of their favorite benefits.

Installing a cold air intake will provide a louder and more satisfying engine roar compared to stock.

Others may consider this a downside. Those individuals can opt for muffled cold air intakes.

5. Less Expenditure on Filters

Stock filters are typically made from paper and are hard to clean. Furthermore, it is recommended that you replace them every 15000 miles.

On the other hand, aftermarket filters on cold air intakes are much more durable and long-lasting. If you maintain and clean them according to the guidelines these can last for much longer than stock paper filters.

It is generally recommended you clean them every 25 000 – 50 000 miles. Some of the more expensive options can last up to 100 000 before cleaning is required.

Therefore, you will save money with an aftermarket cold air intake and you will save yourself the effort of frequently replacing your stock filter.

6. Better under-hood appeal

This is a purely cosmetic benefit but it is not to be dismissed.

The colored filter, heat shield, or even chrome tubing can all add massive visual appeal when you pop your hood.

This is a fringe benefit most people don’t talk about but the fact of the matter is that a cold air intake looks good and is something that should be shown off.

Bottom Line

A cold air intake can provide a whole bunch of benefits from performance to aesthetic improvements. Furthermore, this is a relatively simple part to install.

This article has gone into detail regarding the installation process as well as the benefits you can expect from a cold air intake.

From here you can decide whether a new cold air intake is for you.

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