There are several styles of intake available, and you should be aware of what the differences are. Not all Air Intake Upgrades are the same, and some can be used in combination for the most benefit. Below, we’ll discuss the different types of Air Intake upgrades and what the pros and cons of each type of system are.



What is a Cold Air Intake?


Contrary to the popular misconception, a “cold air intake” is not just a conical filter at the end of your regular intake tract (more on that later). Rather, a true cold air intake reroutes the path of the intake to a cooler air source outside the car, drawing from under the front bumper or fender well as opposed to the hot engine bay. These often come with some sort of heat shield to separate the intake further from the engine bay to avoid sucking in hot air. The colder air is denser in oxygen content, resulting in a better air/fuel mixture, meaning the engine can make more power.

What is a Ram-Air Intake?

Gruppe_M_Ram_Intake_BMW_RS_1210169507Gruppe_M_Ram_Intake_BMW_RS_1210169623 A Ram-Air intake and a Cold-Air Intake are a lot alike, in that they change where the engine is sucking in air from. What a Ram-Air intake typically does is move the intake opening to the front of the car, right in the path of travel. Often, a scoop on the hood is the air source for ram-air. The idea is, as the car travels forward at 60+ mph, air is no longer just being sucked in by the engine, additional air is being pushed into the intake by the car as it cuts through the air, ramming it into the intake. This is supposed to pressurize the intake manifold, acting like a very simple turbo or supercharger system. While this sounds great, in practice, most of the time the car is not moving fast enough to allow the “ram air effect” to occur.

What is a Short-Ram Air Intake?


A short-ram air intake is, in simplest terms, just installing a conical type high flow air filter to the mass air flow sensor, shortening the intake tract and thereby increasing response. This is one of the least expensive ways to upgrade the intake of your car, however this primarily benefits throttle response and the sound of your intake, as the car is sucking in hot air from under the hood, rather than denser, colder air from outside.

What is a Drop-In Air Filter Upgrade?
This is the simplest and easiest form of upgrading the intake system of your car, and often the least expensive. This simply means replacing the restrictive OEM Air Filter unit with a high-flow replacement.


What is a Throttle Body Spacer and what does it do?
Several manufacturers offer “throttle body spacers”, which are inserted between the throttle body and intake manifold, slightly altering the overall intake flow of the engine for a few more horsepower, improved torque and mileage. Some spacers feature special rifling to further alter airflow.


This CAD Drawing Illustrates Airflow Through an aFe Throttle Body Spacer

 In short, A Cold air intake that draws from a cool air source and utilizes a proper heat shield will yield the best results, whereas a short ram will suck in hot underhood air.

On the other hand, a Ram Air intake that feeds directly from the nose of the car will offer many of the benefits of a traditional CAI even if the car isn’t going fast enough to actually make the “ram air effect” actually work most of the time. A “Ram Air Hood” or similar aero effect hood that directs cool air to the airbox will also offer similar benefits.

So, in short, Basically, as long as you a) increase airflow and b) decrease intake air temperature, your car -will- make more power, and certainly “sound” better.

We hope that we’ve been able to clearly explain what the different types of air intake upgrades are, and of course, you can always ask the Modification Experts what they recommend for your vehicle by calling 714-582-3330 or chat online at!
Story By Nicholas Gregson