APtuned Blog

10Sep/1148

Cold Air Intake vs Short Ram Intake – What’s the difference?

We get this question a lot. People ask us the pros and cons and which is better daily. We decided to create an article about this topic to better explain the differences with intakes, which we recommend, and which would be right for your vehicle or performance needs. We will be adding to this as new technology comes out, so please check back often, or add a comment about how a short ram intake or cold air intake has worked for you.

What is the difference between a cold air intake and a short ram intake?
As the name implies, a short ram intake is "short". Due to it's size, the intake pipe doesn't stretch far away from the intake manifold, so the air filter remains somewhere near the engine. A cold air intake has longer piping, and is designed to push the air filter away from the engine into an area that has colder air, hence the name cold air intake. Typically, since the cold air intake draws in cooler air it usually makes more horsepower than a short ram. However, depending on engine design, this isn't always the case, and we'll explain further below. A short ram intake is generally less expensive as well, and easier to install and service since the air filter is typically easy to see when you pop the hood. A cold air intake is longer, and places the air filter farther away, sometimes in a fender, so installation is more difficult as is service, and is usually more expensive.

Short Ram Intake
The short ram intake is generally designed to replace your stock air box. Most stock cars come with a plastic box with a plastic hose connected to the throttle body (or directly to the turbo). A performance aftermarket short ram intake typically has a hard pipe made of aluminum that replaces the stock rubber pipe, and the stock air box is replaced with a open element air filter. This generally gives you a good power increase over stock because you are replacing the restrictive air box with an open element air filter, and replacing the rubber hose (which is usually accordion like on the inside) with a smooth metal pipe. Most quality short ram intakes are calibrated through design to keep the stock air/fuel mixtures the same as stock to not throw any check engine lights. Sometimes a manufacture won't offer a cold air intake when their research shows it doesn't increase power over a short ram intake.

Cold Air Intake
A cold air intake is designed to place the air filter as far away from the hot engine as possible. Especially important when your radiator fan turns on, it will not blow the hot air into your air filter as with most short rams. Some manufactures make the cold air intake so that it places the air filter inside a fender or under a fender to try and capture as much cold air as possible. When an engine takes in colder air, it's packed with more oxygen, and creates more power. When a intake manufacture tests the intake, they test different air filter locations to see which is the coolest location. This usually creates more power over a short ram, but due to the location the air filter gets dirty faster, is harder to install, and harder to maintain when the air filter needs to be cleaned.

Do I need a bypass valve?
An air bypass valve is designed mainly for the cold air intake. Since the air filter is placed so low in the engine, it can suck up water when driving over a puddle or in heavy rains. If your intake sucks in water, the engine will likely hydro-lock, and be destroyed. A bypass valve attaches to your intake pipe, so that if the air filter does become submerged in water, the air will instead go to the path of least resistance, and get pulled in through the bypass valve, and usually not suck in any water. Highly recommended for rainy areas.

Which intake sounds better?
Usually a short ram intake would be louder, since the pipe is shorter in length and closer to the throttle body. A cold air intake isn't much quieter, but might sound a little less deep due to the air traveling a farther distance in the pipe and the pipe almost acting as a resonator. Both give your car a strong deep tone when on the throttle that is undeniably a modified sound that any enthusiast recognizes.

Are air boxes better than open element air intakes?
This really depends on your vehicle. Some vehicles are designed in a way that places the air filter in front of, or near the radiator. The problem with this is that the air filter will get hot air pushed into it when the radiator fan turns on. One way around this is to put the air filter into a box that blocks the air from the radiator fan from directly hitting the air filter. For vehicles with a design like this, an air box would be better. Keep in mind also that sometimes an open element air filter doesn't necessarily make more power than a properly designed aftermarket air box. The air box can also keep the air filter cleaner, requiring less maintenance.

Is it better to have an intake with a dry air filter or an oiled air filter?
This is up for strong debate. Manufactures that use oiled air filters claim they capture more dirt particles. Enthusiasts say that the oil in the air filter can get sucked through the filter, and clog the mass air flow sensor (MAF or MAS) and cause erratic readings. Now a days, most manufactures offer a dry filter that does not need to have oil applied to it. We have had good luck with dry filters, and don't see any need to go with an oiled filter if possible.

What are some short ram intake brands?

AEM Short Ram Intake
K&N FIPK Kit
Weapon R Secret Weapon Intake

What are some cold air intake brands?

AEM Cold Air Intake
Injen Cold Air Intake
K&N Cold Air Intake
Takeda Cold Air Intake

Above you see an Injen Short Ram Intake installed on a 2007 Honda Civic Si. Notice how the intake remains in the engine bay. This is the stock location for the factory air box.

Above you see a cold air intake on the same 2007 Honda Civic Si. Notice how the air filter is not in the engine bay. We circled the intake pipe that runs from the throttle body down under the car into the driver side fender well. The arrow shows the intake pipe.

We hope you find this useful and it helps you decide which intake you want to purchase. You can see our catalog of short ram intakes or cold air intakes and if you have any questions, please leave a comment.


Comments (48) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I have a 1989 mazda 323. my car is a carburetor not fuel injected like these ones. Ive been reading up on these and am trying to get the best fuel economy to power ratio. Some people say that cold air increases power and decreases fuel efficiency and warm air decreases power and increases fuel efficiency. Whats your opinion on this? Ive done a small but not proper experiment and found that having cold air going straight into my carb increases both my power and fuel efficiency but want to know your opinion before i go making some mods.

    • Hot air decreases power and fuel efficiency. By dropping your engine’s internal temperature by 10 degrees, you increase horsepower by 1%. I modified my 81 chevy c10 with 2 cold air intakes and I can tell different in power and gas refills.

  2. I have a 97 Honda civic dx coupe. Is a short ram or cold air intake better for the car?

    • Cold air is the best, fresher, cooler, and longer distance to travel to create a Vortex directly to the motor:)

    • I’ve got a cold air on my otherwise stock ’00 Civic dx coupe 5 speed and i just out ran a ’92 stock ‘teg 5 speed with a short ram by two cars the first time in the quarter and three the second time he has a b18a1 mind you. I think it made me alot of power and increased my throttle response. Watch the welds on cheaper kits and the mounts. A bypass valve is a must and use good boots and clamps. I love the sound it gave my engine too. You can hear the intake crack when you rev it and the hiss that comes all the time sounds really aggressive.

  3. i have i 1997 hyundai tiburon 4 cylander dohc what would be better short or cold air?

  4. i have a 05 infiniti g35 coupe, which intake system is the best for it, speed and sound wise

  5. I have a 2002 honda accord coupe, which would be better? A cold air intake or short ram?

  6. i have my 3000gt 96 and i dont know what to put on it should i put cold air intake or a short ram intake?

  7. I have an 03 mazda protege5 is a short ram or cold air intake better?

    • I have a 02 mazda millenia s (supercharger)and i have a short ram on it and never have any problem,the car runs and sounds good

  8. For everyone asking the same damn question answered by this article… It depends on your car, the displacement and what your looking to get out of it!

    CAI’s usually offer higher HP gains than a Short Ram on the same motor. short rams are cheaper and easier to work with, hence why they are a common choice.

    If your doing it yourself, go short Ram…. if your paying someone get a CAI w/ bypass.

    If you’re taking the thing to a track, just get a CAI.
    Hope this helps.

  9. seeing as in the article your using a civic 8th gen, do all CAI’s require you to relocate the battery? or just some of them?

    also, on 8th gen civics, do you have to remove the front bumper? or is there an easier way?

    what is the HP difference on the 8th gen. between SR and CAI?

    • I have a 8th gen civic and did not need to relocate the battery or remove the bumper. I used a lift and then took the plastic guard off that is below the bumper. Hope this helps

  10. is ram air intake possible for single cylinder engines?

    • Won’t work due to the 720deg between intake pulses. Would need a special intake set up to bounce the air back at the engine at the desired peak operating frequency. (Think water hammer)

  11. i have a 2004 Honda Civic coupe EX with the 1.7 liter engine VTEC. which is best for my engine? short or cold?

  12. I have an 87 Trans Am GTA, with a 350 tpi. Which would be better for my car, and if I go short ram what will happen to my mass air flow sensor?

  13. i have a 90 accord lx cb7 with stock exhaust and stock engine i want to know whats better for the car a short ram intake or a cold air intake and which brand is better aem or k&n ?

  14. I have a 97 Nissan sentry is cold air or short ram better

  15. I have a ’96 5-speed Teggie. I already have an exhaust on it that makes a decent amount of noise. I don’t want my car to be obnoxiously loud but I want whatever gives me more horsepower and better fuel efficiency. Which one should I get Cold or short ram??! Thanks.

  16. I am looking for an intake that will give me performance and dependability…I am not sure if i should go with the cold air or the short ram…I have a 2006 chevy cobalt ls 2.2L and i would like to get an intake for it but im not sure what to get…if anybody has a cobalt with an intake let me know some of your feedback…thanks!

  17. I have a 2000 4-Cyl, 2.2 Liter toyota solara should i put a short ram intake in or a cold air

  18. i just bought a good lucking car but its to weak what should i get for a 2007 toyota yaris sedan short or cold.

  19. You guys have to decide on your own. I have a short ram on my 91 240sx headers, cat delete, and 3″ exhaust, my car has a great sound to it. Not like most of your import fart cans, and all were nonames purchased off ebay. Quit asking opinions an do your own thing. all the info is here. me for instance I’m lowered 2″ up front so in south ms I wouldnt have a Cai even with a bypass because the roads flood horribly. Before you start getting into fixing cars up you first wanna get some type of general knowledge an research, the more you kno the better, then you dont have ask obnoxious questions.

  20. I have a 99 Honda civic would a ram or cold air be better or my car

  21. I put intake system in my infiniti g35 now it doesn’t want to idol …Any suggestions

  22. Alright, so cold air is always better for extra torque and fuel efficiency. Why even install an open air intake inside the engine compartment? Doesn’t the hotter air cancel out the increased air flow? (The stock intake takes cold air almost straight from outside, above the front grille of the car). A modified cold air intake with more flow would be better but where to run it? Inside the fender is problematic for the longer run (thus reducing the flow, although I guess you can use a large diameter hose) as well as for all that dirt and water that comes in. Same latter issue for an above the hood intake. A better solution might be keep the stock intake and add the mini electric air blower inside the air hose for increased air flow. There are some that work full time and some that only come on at high throttle. Has anyone had any experience with that?

  23. I have a 2012 mitsubishi lancer vrx (sedan). I was wondering what would be better. Cold air? or Short ram?

  24. I have a 2008 nissan altima coupe. What would be better a short ram or cold air intake from my car.
    If I put a cold air intake would it be alot of work like would I have to take the front bumber off, and will there be a chance that water would get sucked up from puddles or rainy days?
    What brand would be better for a short ram or cold air for my car?

  25. I have a 1994 Saturn sc2 what would be better, short ram or cai

  26. To answer all your question. Cold Air intake would be better. Hence, it draws in cooler air instead of warm air.

  27. I have a 08 Nissan Armada which type of intake will I get better performance from short or cold ?

  28. 1999 Honda Civic DX, SRI or CAI??

  29. I have a da9 and there is practically no difference between a short ram and a CAI. With mt short ram, the filter ends up in the fender anyway and it sucks air directly from outside. There is also the battery between the filter and the engine so it doesn’t get warm and it’s not in front of the radiator either.

  30. I have a honda accord 2002 se
    Im trying to figure out if I should put a short ram intake or a cold air intake
    I also but a new exhaust in my car so I dont know if that chages thinks

  31. do you think a short ram would work in an 4dr 89 accord lx…it has a carb but its missing the flexible vent nd hot air hose nd keeps over heating the engine…i was just wondering if it be easier switching the short ram intake nd make a hood scoop for it but would it keep it cool nd even work at all??

  32. I have a 2012 Chevy Cruze 1.4L TURBO edition, and I was wondering whether I should get a K&N 69 Series Typhoon Short Ram (w/ a heat shield) or should I get an Injen SP Cold-Air intake? Please help!

    Thanks
    –Will

  33. Some times you just can’t beat the factory installation. I have found that there are often “Trade Offs” that are too big to go fooling around with what is already there. For instance, as posted somewhere above, if your air intake already takes in air from outside the engine compartment, why spend money for another that does the same? Is not the idea to get cool air? If you already got cool air, leave it alone. If not, then maybe you should make a change. However, when you get to that oiled gauze filter, BEWARE. I would be hard to convence that it would filter more dirt or even the same amount as a paper filter. In my opionion, if you hold a filter – gauze, foam or paper up to a strong light source and see spots of light shining through it, dirt will also pass through. Ask yourself the question is more dirt worth more air….not to me.

    Here are some thoughts on filter efficiency:

    1. If the location of your new air intake allows water to reach the filter, you have rendered the oil on the gauze or foam just about useless and will allow the water with contaminants to be sucked right through (Just my opinion, but something to consider). As for paper filters, your guess is as good as mine. However, I will say this about paper…wet paper will likely be clogged by water, then the water will be sucked through even though the dirt may be left behind in the filter. I would not depend on this or want microscopic particles in the water to enter my engine.

    2. From a filter test I read, paper filters best, but clogs up fast in heavy dirty conditions. An oiled foam filter like many dirt bikes use, lasts longer as it will hold more dirt in its cells, but may not filter as well as the paper. Last and my opinion again, the oiled gause filters…check them out for thickness. They depend on a very thin series of gauze layers with tiny fibers invading the air flow. When I checked one it appeared to have too much air space around each fiber. I think more dirt would pass through this type filter than the other two. Sure, more air passes through too, but will it be worth it in the long run? In an advertisment test for oiled gauze filters for dirt bikes, a day of use filter was displayed showing all the desert dirt collected on the outside while the inside was clean. My opinion again…no filter collects dirt on the inside, only on the outside or in the filter material. At most, the inside would be stained, but not covered with dirt. Think it through for your self…air had to pass through this filter for the engine to run. Where did it go? While the filter was fresh, not much filtration took place because of the spaces between the fibers. Where did the dirt laden air go – right into the engine. When the filter was dirty, more filtration took place, but the air had to have been restricted considerably. The thoughtful choice was to change the filter often during the day allowing more dirty air through with each filter change.

    The choice is yours of course. I would not take a chance on poor filtration for some gain in noise or performance in the form of power or efficiency. Racing is a different story where engine rebuilds occur often and are expected.

    Thanks for hearing me out….Dan

    May God bless you today and every day for all eternity through His Son Jesus. Eternity is a long time, I would not take a chance on it like I would not chance poor filtration. Prepare for it today.

  34. I have a 2000 honda civic dx, (coupe) automatic and i’m still deciding on getting short ram intake or cold air intake. If i get cold air intake, and install on my car will it push more horsepower, even thought it’s an automatic drive? I always thought installing intake systems with manual transmission is better. Thanks!

  35. I would like to get a cold air intake for my 2013 Hyundai elantra coupe. Although it really worries me when I read that a cold air intake can suck up water and ruin the engine or that a cold air intake lets small particles into the engine and makes it dirty. I need this car to last, so would it be better to go with the short ram?

  36. I just purchased a 2003 350z. I am thinking Short Ram Intake since I am more interested in the sound over horsepower gain. For this particular car, should I purchase a unit that that includes the air box? I am also interested in installing a Throttle Body Spacer at the same time, do you think the spacer is a good complement to the intake? But I am concerned about the used car warranty I purchased, will these particular installations void my warranty? Thanks for your input.

  37. I have a 99 celica 2.2l stock air box is fairly close to the engine so I an considering a short ram intake system, should I just invest amore money and get a cokd air intake? Would it make a huge difference in fuel economy and woukd it affect the other componets of the car

  38. I have a hyundai tiburon 2007 V6 2.7 , just wondering what brand is the best cold air intake for my car .

  39. I have a 2006 Volkswagen Passat. Which would be better cold air or short ram?


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