Why are aftermarket air intake systems so popular? A related question may be why the factory system designed by the engineer who manufactures the vehicle needs to be replaced? Today we are going to present the benefits of high performance air intakes and discuss how easy they are to install.
First, let's cover some basics about your car's engine. An internal combustion engine (petrol or diesel) works like an air pump. Air, mixed with fuel, is introduced into the cylinders, compressed, burned and expelled as exhaust.
All other things being equal, the engine's ability to "breathe" or bring in more air has a positive effect on its ability to generate power.
A vehicle's factory air intake system is a compromise. The automaker's job is to balance airflow, noise, underhood packaging and service access, while meeting power and fuel economy goals. A majority of car owners accept it. But once you learn the benefits of replacing the factory system, you'll see how easy and affordable it is to get more power out of your ride, with minimal (if any) impact on fuel economy.
Original equipment (OE) parts must fit in a confined engine compartment. The small, flat air filter restricts airflow due to its size and shape. Its location is chosen for its accessibility. Aftermarket systems relocate the filter, allowing it to be larger. Air intake tubes can now be larger in diameter, with fewer bends. All of these changes dramatically increase airflow. The filter may be less accessible and the intake sound may be less muffled, but these trade-offs are considered valid trade-offs.
With increased airflow, thanks to modern fuel injection, comes increased fuel, maintaining the correct fuel to air ratio. The net result is more power. But there is another good news, that of the air temperature. Cooler air is denser, which means it contains more oxygen molecules in a given space. If we bring cooler air to the engine, we gain even more power.
Engineers estimate that every 10 degree drop in air temperature increases power by 1%.
Almost all performance air intake systems relocate the filter so that cooler ambient air is available. In some cases, the filter is on the side, rather than the top of the engine, with a shield to block engine heat. In the best scenarios, the filter is completely removed from the compartment so that it can take in outside air. This cooler, denser air improves engine efficiency, and when driven with a light throttle, some vehicle owners report better gas mileage.
Performance air intake systems are quite affordable. Be sure to look at your options: filter placement, tube material, and the inclusion of an airbox all affect price. For most vehicles, you have the choice between systems from different manufacturers.
Installation can be done by most homeowners in their driveway, with common hand tools. First, the factory inlet plumbing must be removed. Most are plastic, held together by nuts and bolts. The air filter, filter box and tubing are unbolted and discarded. With the new system, study the routing of the air tube before putting anything in place. Some tubes are powder-coated aluminum (adding a nice visual element to the under-hood display), so be careful not to scratch it.
The trickiest part of the installation may be locating the new filter, especially if it's under the front bumper. You may need to raise the front of the car or remove the underbody panels for better access. Install everything: the filter, tubes and brackets, but leave all hardware hand tight.
Make final adjustments to components, then tighten everything. Also, be sure to reinstall any sensors in the tube eyelet, if applicable to your engine.
Although modern vehicles with their computer controlled engines are difficult to upgrade, you now know the simplicity and cost effectiveness of performance air intake systems.
Get yours and enjoy that little extra boost every time you set foot in it!
*Richard Reina is a product trainer and longtime car enthusiast at CARiD.com.