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A Breadth of Breathers

Cold air intake systems are an inexpensive and easy-to-install performance upgrade.

Low investments and great returns are not only fundamental principles of business, but a great way to look at modifications that enhance vehicle performance. And if it’s a low-stress/relatively low-cost 3- 10 horsepower bump that you’re seeking, look no further than air intake systems. With prices anywhere from around $300-$500, custom air intakes provide a noticeable horsepower increase without breaking the bank. There is also the matter of easy installation.

The AER V2 has a dual chamber design that helps it provide cold air in the upper RPM ranges where most cold-air intakes fall off.
While bolting on a turbo kit or tinkering with an ECU is likely work for a professional, most people with even a hint of do-it-yourself ethos can complete an intake installation in (depending on the car/system) 45-90 minutes.

Most cold-air intake systems come in four main pieces. There are two mandrel-bent aluminum pipings, one billet-aluminum MAF adaptor and one high-flow filter. Par for the course ? results tend to add from 3 to 5 horsepower.

The frequency of the sound wave generated by an intake system varies with it’s length, longer systems tend to generate lower frequency waves. With traditional cold air intakes, as the RPM increases, inlet valve opening increases while the inlet tract length remains constant. Over a period of time, the increasing frequency of the inlet valve and the inlet system resonance become out of phase with each other and the effect of using sound pressure to promote cylinder filling declines.

Another iteration of this system isn?t a coldair intake but simply an induction system. While most cold-air intakes feature bent and snaked pipes, designed to both fit into the desired area of the engine and also to promote further cooling of the air as it has a longer distance to travel, typical induction systems use a straighter but binary pipe design and rely heavily on placement in the engine’s coolest spots.

In the case of AEM?s V2 Induction system, sound is a key issue. Not only because some customers are not only looking for increased performance out of an air filter but are also looking to make their intake/exhaust noise a signature of their cars. While appeasing customer wants is crucial to any company, the V2 induction system is using sound waves to facilitate performance.

The V2 features a dual chamber design which was instituted to provide multiple frequency sound waves to help charge the cylinders with air in the upper RPM ranges, where cold-air intakes can begin to go out of phase. In V2 design, the primary pipe is usually smaller in diameter but longer than the secondary pipe. This difference in shape/size helps to create lower frequency in the inlet tract that match at lower RPM while the shorter secondary pipe helps to facilitate cylinder filling in the higher RPM.

Yet another aftermarket air-intake choice is the short ram system. Essentially a simpler version of the cold-air intake, short rams rely heavily on engine placement for cooler air. And while not as technically advanced, sources at AEM say in certain applications the short rams work better than intakes. The examples sighted were Saturn/Pontiac Sunfire type vehicles with normally aspirated four cylinders. However, AEM does contend that its short ram system works best for the Mitsubishi Evo VIII.

The following commentary comes from the moderator of a popular tuner message board when asked about cold-air intakes versus short rams: ?Trouble with short rams is that, while they have less restriction due to their short length, they often wind up sucking hot air once the engine warms up, robbing you of horsepower. The sound is likely to be virtually identical as it’s mostly caused by having a cone filter instead of a silenced airbox.?

Because of the growing popularity of the intake upgrade, the number of intake choices has skyrocketed, as have the number of vehicles these kits are made for. Companies who had spent their time worrying about providing intakes for snappy little four bangers are also cranking out bigger systems to facilitate customers now seeking a similar upgrade for their SUVs.

Companies on the forefront of these battles include AEM as well as K&N Filters. Both are heavy players in the intake game and neither is looking past the SUV market. Systems designed for SUV use tend to feature a much bigger intake filter (which are largely cone shaped) but are also making use of heat shields.

It doesn?t stop there. There are also custom intakes available for hybrids. AEM currently markets a system for those doing Honda engine swaps. And it’s only a matter of time before the other hybrids get some help with their breathing. It’s only fair – everybody else has one.

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Sat. July 13th, 2024

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