cold air intake vs short ram intakes

Difference Between Cold Air Intakes and Short Ram Intakes

One of the first upgrades many of us do to our cars is add a custom intake and a better flowing exhaust. The intake is going to let more air flow into the engine and the exhaust is going to let the car push that air out better creating a better breathing engine and more power. An intake doesn’t make too much more power, depending on if you go with a cold air intake or not, but if you’re planning on doing many more serious upgrades in the future, this is a good place to start. It also saves you money on gas and buying new filters for your car because higher flowing performance filters are made to last a little longer.

There are two different options when it comes to the type of intake though. There’s the short ram intake which is usually one short intake aluminum pipe that has a higher flowing air filter at the end and then there’s the cold air intake, which is similar to a short ram intake but has another tube coming out, after the first, that goes down towards the lower portion of the car to suck up cooler air. There are pros and cons to both setups and we’ll go over them in the following paragraphs.

Short Ram Intake

A short ram intake is often criticized by many professional engine builders due to many reasons. One of the most common reasons is they believe it actually lowers horsepower due to it sucking in warmer air than it would in the standard air box. A lot of this, is believed, to be due to the location of the filter in a short ram intake system. It is usually located right behind the radiator in the engine bay or even closer to the throttle body and we all know how hot an engine compartment can get. On the otherhand, some prefer it over a full cold air system because if the piping in the intake is shorter, then you get air to the engine faster and it makes more lower end power. Even if you just take out your factory air intake box and replace it with a higher flowing performance air filter, your car will still see an improvement because of the filters ability to take in more air but there are arguments to this as well because it’s still going to be taking in warmer air which can, in fact, reduce power.

Cold Air Intake

A cold air intake system is recommended by more people than a short ram intake because it moves the filter location to an area that can suck in cooler air. Cooler air flows under the car and a cold air intake takes advantage of this by having the filter come out lower in the engine bay, usually by the front bumper under the area where your battery is or close to the car’s fenderwell. Some people like having more power in the higher rpms and a cool air intake system helps with that because of its longer tubing. The air takes a little longer than a short ram to get to the engine so there’s a delay in the power it gives you in the powerband. The cool air induction will give better power overall though because it is getting cooler air to the engine and cooler air is more dense than warm air so it helps the engine build power better.

You’re probably already thinking now that you would rather have a cool air intake in your car but there is also some risks you need to pay attention to and consider before making a decision. Because the cold air intake moves the filter close to the ground there is a big risk of hydrolock. Hydrolock is what happens when your engine sucks up water and seizes. This can be very expensive to fix because most of the time you will need a new engine. When I put a cold air intake in my car, I kept an extra short ram intake pipe in my trunk because if it would rain I would change out the cold air intake to the short ram to avoid potential problems. Some people don’t like this risk of sucking in water so they avoid an intake altogether but if you drive in an area that doesn’t rain a lot or doesn’t have lots of puddles of water, then I wouldn’t worry about it too much. With that said we do not take any responsibility for any damage that you might do with an intake on your car so do this with caution and those warnings in mind.

In our experience, if you were to choose between these two options, we would go with the cool air intake because it makes more power. You can usually find intake setups for your car ranging from $30 for a short ram to $400+ depending on the brand.

I had a civic hatchback which I put an eBay intake in a few years ago and it was only $50. It was a full cold air intake system with a high flowing air filter and it made the engine sound a little more aggressive when I would floor the pedal. A few years went by and I swapped it out for an AEM brand cold air intake that was $225 at the time and I actually didn’t notice a difference. There might have been a slight horsepower difference because AEM is known for studying and testing their products but if there was, it wasn’t enough for me to notice.

So there ya go, the differences between a short ram intake and cold air intake. Check back with us as we go over how to save money and make your own intake if you can’t find one made for your specific vehicle. Thanks for reading.

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3 thoughts on “Difference Between Cold Air Intakes and Short Ram Intakes”

  1. What do you think about certain intakes for a turbo car? I hear some people say it doesn’t matter if it’s a cold air because the intercooler cools the air already and then some people say it’s still better. I also see people running a filter right off the turbo with no intake piping….which do you think is better and why?

    1. If you’re turbo’d I would just simply get a short ram intake but with a heat shield to keep it away from the engine temps. A cold air intake really isn’t necessary for a turbo car since the intercooler is already going to cool down the intake temps but if you really want one, It won’t hurt anything. I run an intake that’s the same length as the stock one was in my Volvo.

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