Best Cold Air Intake Systems

Whether you’re looking to slightly bump up your car’s power, to make its sound stand out of the crowd, get slightly better fuel mileage or merely get a fresh new look under the hood, a cold air intake is a product for you.

One of the best ways to get more power is to help your vehicle breathe better. Imagine your engine is a big air pump. All you have to do to make your car run faster is allow the air to flow through the engine better and faster. That’s exactly what a cold air intake system does. But if you want to spend your money well, you need the best cold air intake system you can get. The thing is, where to choose?

Not to worry! We have prepared a short list of our top 5 picks based on customer feedback and popularity to help you narrow down your choices within the category. Get rid of your boring stock intake system and upgrade to one of the better and easily affordable intake systems that we give you.

Top 5 Best Cold Air Intake Systems in 2018

1
Roush 421980 — Best of the newest cold air intakes

We all know that Roush is and has been one of the leaders in Ford tuning for years, so what else to expect from them if not the best products on the market? The ROUSH 421980 COLD AIR INTAKE KIT is a high-quality, superior air intake system for your Ford F-150 truck. After all, Roush is the best cold air intake brand.

This intake from Roush utilizes mass air flow instead of speed density. However, it doesn’t require tuning. The system has increased inlet and air box sizing to provide maximum airflow.

   The air filter, which has excellent filtration properties, is reusable. You just need to pop it off, give it a wash and pop it right back on.

Roush claims that you need to wash your filter only every 100000 miles except for when you often drive your truck in very dusty and dirty conditions, then it needs a wash more regularly.

The filter is in an open box, and that means it will give you extra sound compared to an enclosed system. Along with the dry air filter, you will also receive an 85mm intake tube and all the parts needed for installation from Roush.

   Like all cold air intake systems, it won’t produce a world of a difference when it comes to power, but the brand claims that you will get additional 13 RWHP and 19 ft-lbs RWTQ. Those still are substantial numbers, considering it’s such a simple and inexpensive modification.

Also, most customers can agree that the numbers the company claims are those that you actually get, unlike most brands that tend to peak power gain numbers.

The installation will take you anywhere between 30 minutes and an hour, depending on your mechanical skills. Most of the work can be done with just a flathead screwdriver and a socket set.

The intake is California legal. You can use in all 50 states.

 This cold air intake is the third most expensive on our list, but it is the best on the market and definitely worth the money. In fact, besides producing the best intake in the price range, Roush also has great customer service as well as fast shipping.

With everything said, it is easy to see that this product is the best all-rounder. We didn’t name this product “costumers’ favorite” for no reason.

 The Roush 421980 is an air intake for truck lovers who want a brand new high-quality intake, which will give them a fair amount of additional power, sound, and mileage. Roush is the most trusted brand on the market, and this air intake clearly shows why.

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Pros
  • As the company claims, this is the most highly-engineered cold air intake kit on the market.
  • This intake has the best reviews on the market. The majority of customers are satisfied to the fullest with this product, and it is difficult to find negative reviews about it.
  • CAD-designed for optimized hood sealing to keep out heat and gain maximum performance
Cons
  • Some customers claim that instead of giving better fuel mileage, the Roush forces your truck to consume more fuel, but such a problem may be provoked by using your truck mercilessly.

2
Spectre 9033 Air Intake Kit — Cheapest cold air intake

   This cold air intake has the smallest price tag among the five we’ve reviewed. It will cost you less than $200, but don’t let such a low price tag make you think that this product lacks in performance or doesn’t deliver the key benefits its rivals do.

This product is pretty much a bare-boned system, but it will still unlock your engines performance potential. 

   The Spectre 9033 Air Intake Kit comes with a polished aluminum intake tube that will surely stand out, giving you a fresh and shiny look under the hood.

The system comes with a washable and reusable air filter. The filter box is open, so you’ll get that desired extra sound from your engine. Some customers even say that the Spectre makes your truck roar like a beast. You also get stainless steel clamps, a velocity stack, couplers, and all necessary hardware for a perfect fit and finish.

   The intake will give you additional 10 RWHP and 13 ft-lbs RWTQ. That’s a nice HP gain.

The system is very basic, so you’ll only need the slightest bit of mechanical know-how to install it by yourself. The installation will take you up to an hour with the help of basic tools.

It won’t be a problem taking your 2015 F-150 to the streets in any of the states. Unfortunately, installed in a 2016 or 2018 truck, this component is not CARB compliant. That makes it illegal in the state of California.

Opn te up side, the intake requires no tune.

Since 1983, the company has provided many innovative, high-performance products and this is one of them. The Spectre 9033 will help fuel your passion for performance. The company demonstrates what they stand for perfectly with their own slogan: “From humble beginnings in a two car garage, to setting world records and becoming the first wheel driven, gasoline-powered car to run over 400 mph, it’s been one heck of a ride”.

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Pros
  • Noticeably less expensive than all the other products on our list, almost half the price of second least expensive intake on our list.
  • Includes a polished aluminum tube which looks much better under the hood than the typical black tube.
  • Powder coated steel heat shield keeps your vehicle safe from any excessive heat.
Cons
  • This cold air intake tends to last less than the other intakes by a few years (you’ll still be able to get at least 4 to 5 years out of it). But that is acceptable, considering the low price and a warranty for only 90 days.

3
K&N 77-2591KP — Best quality cold air intake

Being one of the most recognizable names in the category, K&N doesn’t really need an introduction. They’ve been on the market for years now. By pioneering the fuel-injection performance kit, K&N has paved the way for the creation of the air intake systems existing today.

Many will go for this option based on name and reputation alone. Many will not, considering the heavy price tag of more than $500.

   Coming with a polished aluminum tube, it will be a biggie for truck owners who prefer a flash under the hood instead of a black tube, which tend to dominate the category.

The high-end cotton air filter needs washing and oiling every 100000 miles. It’s best to make sure oiling is done properly after every cleaning for best performance.

The open air filter will give your vehicle that desired extra roar. This high-flow performance cold air intake replaces all components of your factory air intake system giving you dramatically improved airflow using high-quality materials.

   The air intake system will add up to your power somewhere around 13 RWHP and 19 ft-lbs RWTQ. Installing this intake will be one of the easiest things you ever did. It will take you up to 90 minutes, and you’ll need only basic tools.

This intake kit is 50-state street legal for 2015 F-150s only under CARB EO# D-269-46. CARB approval for 2016 and 2018 F150s is still pending. But you should keep in mind that series 77 intakes from K&N have always been 50-state legal.

No tuning is required so your wallet won’t have to take a complete beating. K&N gives you a 10-year 1000000-mile warranty on the system — K&N’s Million Mile Limited Warranty.

   Change your restrictive factory intake for this product from K&N. It allows more airflow. More air leads to more usable power and acceleration throughout your engine’s RPM range. This system is night and day from stock performance.

Not only will you get a fantastic intake system that will last you your whole truck’s life, but you’ll also be getting a bright, popular and high-quality product that you can easily show off in the garage.

To sum it all up, K&N is for those truck lovers who want quality and performance no matter the price tag.

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Pros
  • This intake comes with K&N’s Million Mile Limited Warranty, which means that most likely this intake will last you your whole truck’s life.
  • K&N is a brand that has pioneered the cold air intakes that we use today. Just the logo of this brand is usually enough to be certain in its quality.
  • K&N users claim that this intake prolongs your engine’s life.
Cons
  • Unreasonably high price tag for a cold air intake. Although extra benefits are noticeable.

4
AEM 21-8129DC — Highest performance cold air intake

If you want to get maximum power out of your no tune air intake system at a reasonable price, a little over $300, then this product is for you.

   The team over at AEM claims that you will get an additional 16 RWHP and 18 ft-lbs RWTQ, having overall slightly higher results than its rivals in our top 5 review. But do not forget that actual results will vary depending on the condition of the vehicle, mileage, and weather. The system will provide your truck with more aggressive and attractive sound, better performance and will bring style to your vehicle with a custom aluminum air intake tube that has a gunmetal grey finish.

   The system houses a dry filter, which utilizes oil-free synthetic media, giving you smooth, unrestricted airflow. It is washable and reusable, saving you time and money.

The system has one of the easiest installations on the market. It comes with all the components needed to install the intake and a simple installation manual. 

   All you’ll need is 45 minutes in the garage, a screwdriver, a 10 mm socket driver, side cutters and a 4mm hex key.

Unfortunately, the system is not 50-state smog legal, so if you’re located in an emissions restricted area, such as California, the only way you’ll be riding this truck is if you’re going off-roading.

   AEM is slowly evolving into one of the best brands on the market when it comes to cold air induction, and this product is proof of that, but, as strange as it may seem, the system still remains the least popular out of the 5 reviewed.

As it is now, AEM earns their customers trust with outstanding performance, rather than a big name. If you want an intake that can keep up with big brand rivals, or even outperform them, then this is the perfect product for you, adding style, sound, and performance to your truck.

The AEM intake is for drivers who want to have a high quality and high-performance intake, but don’t want to pay extra dollars for huge brand names.

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Pros
  • This intake gives the highest performance boost out of all the products in our review.
  • Low maintenance oil-free air filter. The filter needs to be washed only every 100000 miles.
Cons
  • The intake gives such a high boost in performance only if all other conditions are perfect (the state in which the vehicle is, how loaded the vehicle is, weather). Otherwise the power boost levels with the others.

5
Yates Performance 422088 — Most universal cold air intake

If you love Roush and only trust their brand, then this is the product for you. Roush is an extremely popular brand with one of the most trustworthy names in Ford aftermarket tuning.

Like any other intake, it will help your car pick up a little more throttle, sound and paddle response as well. As the brand claims, it’s one the most highly engineered cold air intake kits on the market.

   The system comes with a high-flow and high-capacity, washable and reusable air filter that doesn’t require oiling, meaning it’s a dry filter. Included in the kit is an oversized injection-molded air box tray, a clean air tube, a 105mm mass airflow tube, and all required mounting hardware with instructions.

You are expected to get 31% less restriction when hitting the road.

   As the team over at Roush claims, you should get an increase in power by 13 RWHP and 19 ft-lbs RWTQ. The air filter in this kit is the only one out of the 5 reviewed with an enclosed box, which is good for truck owners who want to keep it on the quieter side. You’ll definitely hear a difference in sound quality but barely in sound volume.

This intake is not approved for sale in California or other states that require California E.O.#.

 The system is no tune so you won’t have to spend any additional bucks to have it running at its full potential, with a price tag of a little over $400 for the kit itself. Like all of the other systems, it requires an easy installation that will take up to an hour with the help of the same tools. Roush gives you a 90-day warranty on this product.

It’s the most universal intake in all meanings, except for not being 50-state legal.

Pros
  • This intake from Roush gives the highest decrease in air restriction, about 31%
  • The air intake comes in an enclosed. A great feature for truck drivers who want to keep it on the quieter side.
  • Utilizes EPDM rubber couplers for proper fitment under engine load, rocking, and twisting
Cons
  • Multiple claims of a sloppy fit with 2018 F-150 models. But that is usually due to poor installation skills.

Buyer’s Guide

Types

Single air intakes. If you need a basic cold air intake, this is what you want. Unless you’re going for the wow factor, a single air intake is the most you will ever need. There are many types of single intakes, but they all are single.

Dual air intakes. You will not find this kind of air intake often. Why? Because dual air intakes do not really offer anything innovative and new. The only thing different about them is that they have a very different design. However, can they offer nothing aside from pretty looks? Of course not. They come with two tubes, and that alone means they take twice as much air as other air intakes.

What to consider when purchasing a cold air intake

Air filter

When purchasing a cold air intake for your Ford F-150, the specs and features of the air filter is the first thing that you should take into consideration. There are two types of air filters that we’ve reviewed. Air filters that do and don’t require oiling. And whether they need oiling or not, all filters need to be washed.

Then, everything depends on the price of the intake. Dry filters (ones that don’t require oiling) are usually a bit more expensive for the reduced amount of maintenance they will require. The less often the air filter needs a wash, the more expensive it usually is.

Whether the filter is a dry one or not, it doesn’t really affect the lifetime or performance of the intake, it only shows the amount of maintenance your intake will need.

Air filter box

The air filter box is the housing of the filter, what keeps the filter clean and safe. You can get two types of air filter boxes: an enclosed and an open air filter box. The main difference between them is that an enclosed one gives a much quieter and smoother sound than an open box does. Because there is no top on an open box, your engine gives more noise. It’s more aggressive and stands out of the crowd. An open box definitely sounds a lot better, but you should consider purchasing an intake with an enclosed box if you live in a quiet neighborhood.

Legality of system

The power and sound that come with an air intake system aren’t really environmentally friendly. Even to such an extent that some of them aren’t street legal in all 50 states around the US. Even if it isn’t street legal, you can still go off-roading with any air intake in any of the states. It’s just a matter of whether you can drive it in the streets or not.

Price and what difference it makes

These 5 intakes are in a wide price range. Our cheapest reviewed product is a bit under $200, while our most expensive product is slightly over $600. Even though the price difference them is huge between, there isn’t a lot of additional perks you get for such a price difference. The main difference is the type of warranty that you get with these cold air intakes, which we will explain lower in the guide. Apart from that, the systems are pretty much the same. The difference between the power and sound that these systems give is barely noticeable when you compare them to one-another. They generally look the same, except for two systems having polished aluminum tubes, while the other three have unnoticeable black tubes. If 600 dollars doesn’t make a big dent in your wallet, then you should go with such an expensive option. The more expensive the intake is, the higher it’s quality is, although less expensive ones are of high quality as well.

Warranty

These cold air intakes come with two different types of warranties. Some come with some type of Limited Lifetime Warranty, while other intakes come with a 90-day warranty. The type of the warranty can be determined by the price of the intake. The wide price range is backed up significantly by the type of warranty you have. You pay a few extra hundred bucks to get a lifetime warranty instead of only a 90-day warranty. A lifetime warranty can say a lot about the quality of the air intake. On top of that, it is very convenient that you just need one intake for your truck’s whole lifespan. The intakes with a 90-day warranty are generally expected to serve only half the time an intake with a lifetime warranty would, but that depends on how you drive your truck and where you drive it.

Installation

The installation of these cold air intakes is pretty easy and very similar. It’s a one-man job, you’ll only need a basic set of tools and thirty minutes to an hour of your free time. The brands provide you with step-by-step installation manuals, some even have installation videos on their websites.

Tips

Have your intake regularly checked. It’s an essential part of your truck. The lifespan of the engine can be shortened or prolonged by your intake, so make sure it’s always in good conditions.

Do not neglect manufacturers recommendations about usage and installation. Failing to do so may lead to intake or engine problems.

Cold air intake system summary

Cold air intake systems continue to be very popular modifications for being affordable, easy to install, giving you additional power, sound, and underwood appearance, as well as not harming your vehicle in the process. Some drivers are concerned that such power gains come at the cost of their trucks lifespan but there is nothing to worry about. All systems reviewed by us and most systems on the market are designed to provide high-airflow and increased performance without sacrificing filtration efficiency or engine protection. Purchasing a cold air intake system

is one of the first steps you can take to building a serious high-performance vehicle.

 


P.S. You should also consider purchasing a performance exhaust or even a full performance exhaust system together with your intake. The intake helps you take in the air, but you shouldn’t forget that how the air exits your car is also very important. Especially if you’re going after sound with these modifications.

Questions and Answers

The two open box air filters that we’ve reviewed will seal completely to the hood, this ensures that the intake is safe from the elements.

No, it can only decrease the lifespan of your engine if it is of very low quality or if it doesn’t fit you truck. The intakes that we’ve reviewed are of very high quality and will only prolong your truck’s lifespan.

Yes, you can. It is forbidden only out in the streets.

No, it is all very basic and can be done with little mechanical know-how.

Sources and Citations

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