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If you’re looking to improve the performance of your vehicle or the quality of your drive, then you need to focus on the combustion engine of your vehicle. The cooler it is, the better it runs, but maintaining low temperatures while driving or racing can be tough. It doesn’t have to be, though.
One of the easiest and most efficient ways to improve the power and performance of your vehicle is to install or upgrade its cold air intake system.
Cold air intakes help to lower the temperature while improving the airflow to your combustion engine. They allow for the maximum level of combustion in your engine without the threat of overheating or uncontrolled firing.
However, not all cold air intakes are the same, and they’re not all made equally, either. If you’re looking for the best of the best, we’ve tested and researched several brands and have come up with the top-rated 5 best cold air intake system brands.
Best Cold Air Intakes
|Flowmaster Cold Air Intake||K&N Cold Air Intake Kit||R&L Racing Cold Air Intake|
|Filter||High-flow, 8-layer cotton gauze filter||Extensively tested for dust capacity and filtration||Replaces the OEM filter and airbox|
|Hardware||Corrosion-resistant stainless steel hardware||Mandrel-Bent Aluminum Intake Systems||Uses top-quality stainless steel and high-quality silicone|
|Special Features||Reinforced silicone couplers||Uses lofted synthetic media to facilitate airflow||Improves up to 95% filtration efficiency over paper OEM filters |
|Customer Ratings||4.8 / 5.0 Stars||4.3 / 5.0 Stars||4.3 / 5.0 Stars|
Also see: Cold Air Intakes Comparison Table
Quick Answer: The 5 Best-Rated Cold Air Intakes
- Flowmaster Cold Air Intake
- K&N Cold Air Intake Kit
- R&L Racing Cold Air Intake
- S&B Filters Cold Air Intake
- Spectre Performance Air Intake Kit
Best Cold Air Intakes Reviews
Obviously, not all cold air intake kits or systems will fit all makes and models of vehicles. But, we’re going to review the above manufacturers and provide some background on them. We’ll also tell you a bit about some of the product lines by the company.
There may be multiple models in each product line, so keep that in mind. We cannot address each one individually for time and space reasons. Just keep it in mind during your research and be sure to select the model that is an appropriate fit for your vehicle.
After our reviews, we’ve provided a buying guide section. This is full of information that will provide you with some technical knowledge and all that you need to know for consideration while making your selection.
Flowmaster Quick Look:
Flowmaster has long been committed to developing and providing the best exhaust products on the market to be “The Exhaust Technology Company.”
With roots in exhaust performance and quality, the company branched out to offer exciting new products, including tuners and air intake systems.
Between their parent company, Holley, and Flowmaster itself, they have developed the Delta Force Performance cold air intake system as well as the iNTECH cold air intake system.
The goal of Flowmaster, with these changes, is to become “The Performance Technology Company.” We think that they’re off to a great start.
Flowmaster Product Lines
There are two primary product groups for Flowmaster cold intakes.
Delta Force Performance
- Black anodized aluminum fittings
- Corrosion-resistant stainless steel hardware
- Reinforced silicone couplers
- High-flow, 8-layer cotton gauze filter
It’s a high-flow intake tube that maximizes airflow. Where applicable, it has black anodized aluminum fittings. It also has high-quality reinforced silicone couplers along with full stainless steel hardware for corrosion resistance.
Additionally, it features a large diameter, high-flow 8-layer cotton gauze filter. This helps it to trap more dirt and debris than the average 6-layer designs seen in the industry.
They also have a custom-fit black powder-coated air dam. It comes with attachment brackets that securely mount the system in place, as well as soft bumpers that help to eliminate any metal-to-metal contact.
They’re easy to bolt into place, requiring no cutting or drilling. Delta Force filters come with a lifetime limited warranty as well.
Holley iNTECH Cold Air Intake
- Factory mounting locations
- Extensive dyno and mileage testing for maximum performance
- 4-layer dry air filter
- Unique Slip-Seal housing-filter-tube interface
They increase performance as well as improve the overall aesthetic of your engine bay. It features a one-piece intake tube design that provides maximum airflow efficiency.
The Slip-Seal interface removes any need for special adaptors or traditional hose clamps for a seamless, simple installation. The high-quality, bellow-style couple at the throttle body is silicone and improves the flexibility, allowing you to use nitrous plates or throttle body spacers.
K&N has been an industry leader in automotive technology and filtration for over fifty years. They offer a variety of products that are meant to increase performance, vehicle protection, and longevity throughout thousands of vehicle applications for car enthusiasts all over the world.
The company started with founders Ken Johnson and Norm McDonald, motorcycle racers that developed an innovative new idea for the production of an air filter that could perform under dirty, dusty off-road environments.
The company’s routes are in air filters, and they continue to design and produce high-quality air filters to this day.
They also produce oil and fuel filters, cabin air filters, home air filters, and more.
K&N Product Lines
There are three primary product groups for K&N cold air intake kits.
Mandrel-Bent Aluminum Intake Systems
- Extended use between cleanings – up to 100,000 miles
- Washable and reusable
- Aerodynamically-engineered tube for increased airflow
- Extensively tested for dust capacity and filtration
This cold air intake is designed to help improve and provide an increased level of airflow to your engine while simultaneously reducing turbulence.
This allows it to keep air cooler, which provides more power to your vehicle. The aluminum intake tubes are paired with a durable, washable High-Flow Air Filter with oiled cotton as the media type.
Roto-Molded High-Density Polyethylene Intake Systems
- The innovative design of layered, oiled cotton for up to 50% more airflow
- Installation can be completed in 90 minutes or less
- Removes unnecessary engine bay components
- Increases horsepower and torque while improving sound
It also helps to reduce turbulence, which keeps the air cooler and provides an increase in power to your car. The system is paired with a reusable, washable High-Flow Air Filter that features oiled cotton fiber media.
It uses a conical design that’s oversized to provide optimal airflow while increasing the number of miles you can travel between cleanings. Additionally, it uses a steel heat shield to protect the airflow from the high temperatures in the engine bay.
Blackhawk Induction Air Intake Systems
- Synthetic filtration media
- Minimalistic and stylish aesthetics
- Uses lofted synthetic media to facilitate airflow and provide engine protection
- Oversized conical air filter
The materials used also include black powder-coated aluminum and other all-black components for a sleek, minimalist, stylish aesthetic that won’t clash with the rest of your engine bay.
With the synthetic Dryflow filter media, you’ll get increased airflow as well as exceptional engine protection. All of this can be accomplished without requiring oil. Additionally, it has a steel heat shield that helps protect the air being taken in from the high temperatures otherwise found in your engine bay.
R&L Racing Quick Look:
R&L Racing doesn’t seem to have a working website at the moment. However, we can say that they’re a private company that allows customers to shop for a variety of performance parts, kits, and systems for their vehicles. This includes everything from turbo accessories to intercooler kits and cold air intakes.
R&L Racing Product Lines
There are primarily two product groups for the R&L Racing cold air intake systems.
Dynamic Black Cold Air Filter
- Replaces the OEM filter and airbox
- Uses top-quality stainless steel and high-quality silicone
- Improves up to 95% filtration efficiency over paper OEM filters
- Black powder-coated aluminum piping and heatshield
This cold air filter system requires no drilling, cutting, or fabrication for installation. All you need are simple hand tools to install this intake in around 30 to 45 minutes. It comes complete with everything you need to install it, including step-by-step instructions.
This high-flow air filter comes complete with an aluminum heat shield that’s coated in protective black powder. It also comes with an insulation mat, 4-ply silicone couplers, vacuum hoses, and elbows.
The filter is completely washable and reusable and improves air filtration efficiency by up to 95% over OEM paper filters.
All together with the heat shield and insulation mat, this kit will reduce intake temperatures as well as heat soak from the engine bay.
Color Heat Shield Cold Air Intake System
- Increases 7-10% of horsepower and 6-8% of torque
- Easy to install
- 60-day factory warranty
- High-quality aluminum finish
It comes in black, blue, or red colors and is incredibly easy to install. It allows your engine to draw in more cold air than normal, resulting in increased horsepower and torque.
It increases your engine’s horsepower by 7 to 10 percent, and the torque by 6 to 8 percent. It also comes with a MAF sensor adapter, just in case you need one for your vehicle, along with all necessary mounting hardware, hoses, and reducers.
S&B Filters Quick Look:
S&B Filters, as the name implies, specializes in cold air intakes, filters, and other vehicular performance parts for diesel and gas trucks and SUVs. The company prides itself on the intake systems it develops. They heavily reduce airflow restriction while protecting your engine from dust and dirt.
S&B Filters tests their filtration products against their competitors using the high ISO 5011 standards. Nearly all of their products are produced in the United States, keeping quality high and prices as low as possible.
S&B Filters Product Lines
There is a single type of S&B Filters cold air intakes in their product line. (see below)
S&B Dry Filter
- Airflow that is comparable to cotton filters
- Lasts up to 30,000 miles with regular highway conditions
- Compressed air can be used to extend filter life
- Perfect for environments with high levels of dry dust
S&B’s dry cold air intake filters provide a similar level of performance characteristics to cotton filters. When considering the ISO 5011 test data, the dry filters are 99.68% efficient at improving airflow to your combustion engine.
Spectre Performance Quick Look:
Spectre Performance has been designing and manufacturing unique, innovative vehicle parts and components since 1983. Their products are designed, tested, and intended to perform optimally and last for years to come.
Spectre Performance Product Lines
There are two product group types for the Spectre Performance air intake kits.
Vehicle-Specific Cold Air Intakes
- Easy to install
- Uses high-quality aluminum tubing
- MAF sensor and vent hose have provisions for mounting
- Round, non-woven synthetic material air filter
These filters are washable and reusable and prevent the restriction of airflow. It’s made with polished aluminum intake tubing and a black, powder-coated two-piece heat shield. It comes with couplers, clamps, and all of the necessary hardware needed for an OE fit and finish.
Universal Air Intakes
These kits are unique in that they break down into three additional subsections: Single Plenum Kits, Dual Plenum Kits, and V6/V8 Throttle Body Injection.
The universal air intake kit systems are designed to increase the performance of your vehicle. They do this by routing the intake inlet away from heat sources including the radiator and headers. They’re manufactured from high-quality, polished four-inch-diameter aluminum tubing. They come in standard, low profile, and ultra-low profile models.
Cold Air Intakes Comparison Table
|Filter||Hardware||Special Features||Customer Ratings|
|Flowmaster Cold Air Intake||High-flow, 8-layer cotton gauze filter||Corrosion-resistant stainless steel hardware||Reinforced silicone couplers||4.8 / 5.0 Stars|
|K&N Cold Air Intake Kit||Extensively tested for dust capacity and filtration||Mandrel-Bent Aluminum Intake Systems||Uses lofted synthetic media to facilitate airflow||4.3 / 5.0 Stars|
|R&L Racing Cold Air Intake||Replaces the OEM filter and airbox||Uses top-quality stainless steel and high-quality silicone||Improves up to 95% filtration efficiency over paper OEM filters||4.3 / 5.0 Stars|
|S&B Filters Cold Air Intake||Airflow that is comparable to cotton filters||Lasts up to 30,000 miles with regular highway conditions||Perfect for environments with high levels of dry dust||4.2 / 5.0 Stars|
|Spectre Performance Air Intake Kit||Round, non-woven synthetic material air filter||Uses high-quality aluminum tubing||MAF sensor and vent hose have provisions for mounting||4.1 / 5.0 Stars|
How To Choose A Cold Air Intake Kit
There are several factors to consider when you begin your search for the best cold air intake. The best cold air intake kits will meet or exceed all of the following considerations for your personal needs.
What is a Cold Air Intake System?
Cold air intake systems consist of long tubes along with an air filter. The system is always fitted from the front of a vehicle’s engine block, allowing it to draw cold air efficiently.
This is effective even in high temperatures or under extreme conditions. The filters themselves are typically mounted around the front corner of the car or near the bumper of the vehicle.
Cold air intake systems are used mostly by car enthusiasts that understand and value the importance of supplying fresh air to the internal combustion engine block.
It allows for an increase in power and performance without spending a lot of time or money on expensive or fancy systems, some of which don’t even work as well as the cold air intake system itself.
Cold air intake kits are available for every car type, make, and model and are guaranteed to boost the overall performance of your vehicle’s engine.
You’ll find that many cold air intake filters will come with a heat shield that completely seals the air filter from any external causes of wear and tear. This means that it can reliably improve the oxygen intake in the engine.
The increase in oxygen along with the temperature dropping nature of this intake allows for a one percent increase in power for every 10 degrees of dropped temperature.
Overall, cold air intake filters will allow for efficient air filtering, increased fuel economy, improved acceleration, stronger sound, and enhanced overall performance.
Cold Air Intake Prices
One of the most crucial factors of choosing the best cold air intake is the price of the kit. The price, of course, also depends on your make and model of the vehicle.
You should always check the specifications of your vehicle and the cold air intake system to be sure that they are compatible before purchasing them.
Read the specifications carefully and check out the warranty information, and compare prices online and through the official brand websites.
Vehicle Types and Custom Designs
While looking for and selecting a cold air intake for your vehicle, make sure that you’re selecting one that is optimal for your car and will fit correctly without too much work needing to be done.
Most manufacturers offer premium fits for your car. They will usually have places on their website for you to look up the model number, dimensions, engine, and design of your vehicle to make sure that the correct cold air intake is selected for your needs.
Before finalizing a decision, double-check to make sure that all of the specifications are correctly met and that the chosen cold air intake system or kit will provide your vehicle with the maximum performance.
Brand and Material Types
The material of the cold air intake plays a major role in the achievable performance of the vehicle it’s in. Because the main purpose of your new cold air intake system is to provide fresh, cold air to your combustion engine, the material must be heat-resistant. It should also be able to handle extreme heat and other relevant conditions.
When it comes to brand options, always choose a name brand product over an off-brand one. These typically come with better warranties and higher quality materials. They also provide an overall better lifelong performance.
Ease of Installation
You don’t want a cold air intake that’s going to be difficult to install, especially if you’ll be installing it yourself. This is true even if you’re not a professional or overall car expert.
If you’re unsure of how difficult installation will be, you should consult a mechanic that you trust or an aftermarket car modifier to see what they say about the cold air intake that you’re considering for your vehicle.
Performance and Features
There are several additional features that you should keep an eye out for while deciding on which cold air intake is best for your car.
Your chosen cold air intake filter should be able to filter all of the dirt and dust that might otherwise make it into your engine. It should be able to reduce, if not completely eliminate, the chances of damaging the internal combustion engine. This will increase the overall engine life of your car as well as improve its performance.
Proper Thermal Barriers
When it comes to performance, heat is the enemy. When choosing a filter for your vehicle, make sure that you’re reading the thermal barrier information thoroughly. Additionally, check the heat management system of the cold air intake tool. The cold air intake will help to keep the internal combustion engine cool during operation, even in extreme conditions.
CARB Approval (for California Vehicles)
Residents of certain states, particularly California, need to be certain that the cold intake filter is approved by any government oversights. Usually, this information can be found in the product description along with the other relevant specifications.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: What are the benefits of a cold air intake system?
A: By installing a new cold air intake system in your car, you will notice five main benefits. These are efficient air filtering, increased fuel economy, stronger sound, improved acceleration, and enhanced vehicular performance.
While the quantity of air is important, the quality is just as important, if not more so. Dust, dirt, and other small pieces of debris getting into your combustion engine can cause damage to not only the engine itself but to your entire vehicle. Cold air intakes can help filter out all of the impurities in the air, saving you a lot of money in repair costs.
One of the biggest perks of cold air intake is that it will increase your overall fuel economy. When your engine receives cool, clean air in adequate quantities, it runs better and more efficiently. This means that it uses less fuel to function and to get you where you need to go.
This benefit really only applies to those enthusiasts who appreciate a rich, full, bold-sounding engine when it’s accelerated. If you’re one of those enthusiasts, then a cold air intake kit is a must for your car. This is because stock air intake filters are designed to keep your car running quietly.
Cold air intake systems can increase the horsepower and torque of every vehicle from a sedan to an SUV. This will give you some extra take-off power entering highways or in races at an amazingly affordable cost.
Additionally, cold air intakes can reduce damage to other vital parts of your vehicle’s combustion engine.
With all of the above considered, cold air intakes can improve the overall performance of your vehicle by leaps and bounds.
Q: Can you install a cold air intake kit by yourself?
A: After choosing your cold air intake kit, you can install it.
There’s no need to have your car dealer or a local body shop install the kit for you, most kits can be installed with simple hand tools in anywhere from 30 to 90 minutes without too much hassle or previous knowledge at all.
Just be sure to follow the instructions included with the kit before getting started.
Q: How long do cold air intake systems typically last?
A: The lifespan of your cold air intake system will depend on the quality of the kit you purchase. The materials of your cold air intake kit can be rubber, plastic, composite materials or metal.
Some cold air intake systems will last for tens of thousands of miles, and some may last longer depending on the environment that the car is being driven in and the condition of the vehicle itself.
Additionally, some filters can be washed or otherwise cleaned, which extends their available life and usefulness.
As you can see, there are a plethora of cold air intakes in the market for every vehicle currently available.
The cold air intake kit or system that you select should be based on the features and benefits that are most important to you while also being a perfect fit for your vehicle.
Make sure that you check all of the specifications on your vehicle before committing to a cold air intake type.
Additionally, you may want to check what air intake your vehicle has installed already, and compare it with the ones you see during your research, as it may give you an idea of how your car will be improved specifically through the upgraded installation.
You should, after checking your vehicle, now have all of the information needed to select the best cold air intake for your needs.
How We Researched
To come up with the top cold air intakes, we researched a variety of sources for reviews such as 4×4 Magazine and Outside Online Magazine along with our own personal experience.
We also consulted online magazines for product research and reviews to get as much unbiased information as we could. To help weed out fake reviews we used Fakespot.com to make sure we only looked at genuine reviews.
With so much quality gear available, we had to narrow it down based on what we felt were the best options were for the price. The staff authors have a wide and varied background in offroading, motorcycling, and auto mechanics. They are eager to share their knowledge with readers.
To help narrow down the selection we used personal experiences along with recommendations from fellow auto-enthusiasts and industry experts.
After extensive research, we came up with our list to help you choose the right one for you.