The cold air intake’s purpose is to help bring cool air into the vehicle’s engine. It does not come standard on modern vehicles. Instead, it is an aftermarket part that can be added once you purchase the car. If you have a used vehicle, the previous owner may have added it to the vehicle.

Cold air intakes can be made of rubber, metal, plastic, or composite materials. The most efficient systems use an airbox, which is the size of the engine and extends the powerband of the engine. The opening for air to enter the intake system must be big enough to ensure enough air is available to the engine, whether your vehicle is at idle, full throttle, or anything in between.

As air passes through the cold air intake, it gets denser because it becomes colder. Therefore, you get more oxygen in a smaller volume of air. In a vehicle, more oxygen means more power. Since the cold air intake has an impact on the engine, a clogged, dirty, or bad cold air intake will reduce performance and fuel economy.

The filter in the cold air intake will become clogged over the years because it is constantly sucking air in. Once the filter gets dirty enough, the engine will have a loss in horsepower. If this goes on, the filter will become clogged and fuel economy on your vehicle will be poor. Another effect of a dirty filter is less engine power. This is because there will be less air available for combustion in the engine because the vacuum pressure will not be able to pull in enough clean air.

Since the cold air intake does go bad or get dirty over time, you should be aware of the symptoms that the cold air intake needs to be replaced.

Signs your cold air intake need to be replaced include:

  • Loss of performance while driving your vehicle
  • Poor fuel economy
  • Reduced horsepower in your engine

While the cold air intake is not a necessary part of your vehicle, if you do have one, it is a good idea to keep it clean and well maintained so your car runs at its best.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as How Long Does a Cold Air Intake Last? and was authored by Valerie Johnston.


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