Redline Motive

Short Ram Intake vs Cold Air Intake

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Short Ram Intake vs Cold Air Intake

There has been a long standing debate over which is better, the short ram intake kit, or the cold air intake kit. In order for us to be able to better understand which intake is better, we need to understand how each intake works. We also need to look into the various applications each intake can be used for, the conditions it will be in, and what is better for you personally.

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Why an aftermarket intake kit anyway?

Before we discuss the various types of intake kits, let’s first understand the benefits of them. The engine works by sucking in air through the air intake system, and into the motor. The more air that comes in, the more power it will make. The trick is to keep this air as cool as possible. The more dense and cold the air is, the even more power your car or truck will make. This is the very basics of how this works, so knowing these basics, we can go forward and discuss the various types of intake kits.

Short Ram Intake Kit

First, let’s define what a short ram intake is. As the name implies, a short ram intake is an intake that has a short tube. Since the tube is short, the air filter, and entire intake kit is visible when you pop open the hood. Since the air filter remains in the engine bay, it is subject to more heat. So since you are able to suck in more air since there is less restriction than the stock air box, you are going to lose some of those horsepower gains because of the warmer air. The positives of a short ram intake is that it is cheaper than a cold air intake, and easier to install, remove, or work on. It’s much easier to service the air filter, since it’s easily accessible.

Cold Air Intake Kit

A cold air intake kit does also as the name implies. The cold air intake has a longer tube, so it’s able to place the air filter in a position outside of the engine bay. It could be placed in a fender, or a wheel well, or down under the front bumper. Since it’s out of the engine bay, it’s considered that these intakes draw in cold air, so as the name implies, it’s a cold air intake. While cold air intakes generally outperform short ram intakes, they do have some drawbacks. Because they are placed near the ground, they can get puddles splashed on them, which will have your engine suck in water. If this happens, you can hydrolock your motor, and this will cause your engine to be rendered useless. You can avoid this by purchasing a seperate bypass valve, which will increase the cost of your cold air intake.

Which one makes more horsepower?

This is a loaded question, because it really depends on many factors. If you get a high quality intake kit, then these intakes go through a lot of research and development or R&D to ensure their intake makes the most possible horsepower for your car or truck. Generally the cold air intake makes more power.

What about running lean?

When you allow more air into your engine, you need to ensure you have enough fuel to match it. If you do not have enough fuel for the larger amount of air coming in, you can run the risk of running your engine lean. Usually, this is not a problem for cars that do not have many other modifications, because the ECU will compensate, and increase fuel pressure to match the additional air flow. If you want to double check, we would recommend to get your car dyno’d, or to purchase an air fuel gauge, but it is very rare to see an intake cause any sort of a problem.

Are any of these intakes CARB legal?

We do carry CARB legal intake kits, which will allow you to still pass smog and inspection. CARB legal intake kits are typically more expensive because they need to go through the process of being certified. Both short ram and cold air intakes can be carb legal.

Which is better for a turbo kit or a supercharger?

If you have a turbo kit or a supercharger, the same would apply. The colder and more dense the air, the more power you will make. If you can, we suggest to go with a cold air intake with at least the piping inner diameter of your turbo inlet, or throttle body inlet if you have a supercharger.

Do you recommend an intake kit as a first mod?

Absolutely. An intake kit, if it’s short ram or cold air, is a great starting point for your performance modifications.

Which intake is louder?

We get this question a lot, and really, the cold air intake seems to be a bit louder, but we’re not sure what the big fuss is about this. Either way, they both sound much better than stock, and give the car a deeper throaty sound on throttle. A short ram intake might sound louder to you since it will be in the engine bay closer to the driver.

What about a drop in air filter?

For those of you who are not interested in spending the money for a full intake kit, sometimes the factory intake system works just as well as a short ram intake. The problem is that the factory air filter is often times very restrictive. You can get a high flow drop in air filter that will allow you to gain more horsepower and torque, and you can still look stock, and not have to pay the big bucks.

I saw a dyno test that showed a certain brand was more horsepower than another brand

When it comes to intakes, there is really not much difference between the same style (short ram vs short ram or cold air vs cold air) to be able to accurately measure on a dyno. A few horsepower difference could be simply because the dyno fan was pointed more at the air filter, or the car was cooler than a previous run. Pick an intake based on the style you like, the brand you trust, and the price you are willing to pay. Some intakes, like the tube within a tube style can infact produce more power than a standard intake, but those are in a completely different style and much more expensive.

Do they make these intakes for all cars and trucks?

Unfortunately, not all engine bays allow for a cold air intake, so sometimes the short ram intake is the only option available. If this is the case, then the choice is easy :) If your particular car or truck is tough to find an intake for, you can always fabricate your own intake out of silicone coupling, aluminum tubes, and an air filter.




  1. Jesse
    June 10th, 2009 at 00:23 | #1

    Great article, thanks for the information. Do you have a specific brand that you can recommend?

  2. Jeremy
    August 19th, 2011 at 19:25 | #2

    Thanks!!!!! very helpful

  3. August 19th, 2011 at 19:42 | #3

    @Jesse

    Hi Jesse. We recommend all of our brands found here: http://www.redlinemotive.com/catalog/air-intake.asp

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