Can a Cold Air Intake Cause Transmission Problems?

Can a cold air intake cause transmission problems [Answered]

Cold air intakes are commonly installed on cars that need a bit of help in the horsepower department. By increasing the amount of air going into the engine, the motor can use more oxygen, which makes it easier to burn fuel and produce more power. This is why a cold air intake is one of the most common modifications for both turbocharged and normally aspirated engines.

k and n cold air intake kit

Some people worry that a cold air intake could cause problems with their transmission if they have an automatic transmission. This is not true at all because the cold air intake attaches to the engine, not any other mechanical systems in the vehicle. If you have concerns that a cold air intake will affect your transmission, you’re probably better off looking at some basic transmission maintenance instead.

Cold air intakes are a popular aftermarket modification for cars and trucks. Like many modifications, there are both positives and negatives to a cold air intake, which we will cover in this guide.

This guide will cover:

  • What exactly is a cold air intake?
  • What causes transmission problems in cold weather?
  • Cold air intake pros and cons
  • Are there any disadvantages to having one?
  • How much horsepower do they add?
  • Are there any potential dangers to having one installed on your vehicle?
  • Will an aftermarket cold air intake damage my engine?

What is a cold air intake?

cold air intake

Let’s start with a little background. Cold air intakes are designed to allow air to enter the engine in a way that is more convenient than the stock intake. Most cars are equipped with an air filter inside of their hood.

When you start your car, it pulls air in through this filter, which cleans it before it enters the engine.

Tuning companies realized that they could add additional piping and a heat shield to force more cool air into the engine. This additional airflow allows the engine to burn more fuel and produce more power.

Let’s get down to business. The performance gains from an aftermarket cold air intake will vary widely depending on your car, but there are some general guidelines that can help you decide if one is right for you.

Cold air intake pros and cons

Cold air intake pros and cons


The stock intakes are designed to draw in air from the engine compartment and force it into the engine where it can be used to burn fuel. A cold air intake will draw in air from outside the engine compartment and force it into the engine.

There are numerous advantages that can be gained from installing a cold air intake on a vehicle.

These advantages include:

  • Improved throttle response
  • Improved acceleration and horsepower
  • Enhanced torque and fuel economy
  • Quicker engine start-ups and idling
  • Increased horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency
  • Better combustion efficiency,
  • Less pollution,
  • Faster acceleration and
  • More horsepower and torque.
  • Another advantage of installing a cold air intake is that if you do so when you’re modifying your car from stock, it won’t void your manufacturer’s warranty because it’s considered an aftermarket modification.
  • HP Increase – Most cold air intakes will add between 5 and 20 horsepower to your vehicle.
  • Gas Mileage – There is no truth to old wives’ tales about gas mileage being affected by cold air intakes.
  • Durability – If installed correctly, a cold air intake should last for 100,000 miles or more.
  • Resale Value – Cold air intakes are unlikely to decrease resale value.
  • Performance Gains – The biggest gains come from installing a cold air intake on turbocharged vehicles.

Cold air intakes are popular on both turbocharged and naturally aspirated engines.

Can a cold air intake really improve your vehicle’s performance and fuel economy?

cold air intake really improve your vehicle's performance and fuel economy

Increased horsepower

How much horsepower does a cold air intake add? One of the major benefits of using a CAI is that it increases horsepower by up to 5%. The increase in horsepower makes your vehicle faster and is ideal for those who enjoy speeding or driving fast.

Increased fuel efficiency

A CAI allows your vehicle to have better fuel efficiency by allowing it to burn more gas at one time. This means you can go farther on one tank of gas than before.

Easy installation

Most cars are easy to install a CAI because they have pre-existing holes for them. All you have to do is attach the tube from the car’s air filter box into the tube that comes from the engine’s air cleaner box.

A cold air intake (CAI) allows a vehicle to have better fuel efficiency and slightly more horsepower. The reason for this is that with a CAI, the engine is able to pull in cooler air than with the stock intake. The cooler air allows the engine to burn more gas and thus, creates more power.

Take away heat from the engine

The main purpose of a cold air intake is to take away heat from the engine. Colder air will densify more, so it will be more dense than the hot air that’s being exhausted out of the engine, which should theoretically help with performance and fuel economy by increasing air density.

But just because there’s more dense air doesn’t mean it’ll make more power as it won’t have any extra oxygen in it, which is necessary for combustion. That doesn’t mean all hope is lost for cold air intakes, though.

Cold air intakes do have extra one advantage, which is that they typically don’t require an aftermarket exhaust system to function properly.

When you install a dedicated intake system or high-performance intake kit like K&N’s Breather Filter and Intake Kits, you’ll need to replace or modify your stock exhaust manifold in order for the factory PCV (positive crankcase ventilation) system to work.

Disadvantage- dangers of cold air intake

While a CAI does provide several benefits, it can also cause problems. For example, if not installed properly, it can result in damaging the transmission.

The dangers of cold air intake also include:

  • increased gas consumption,
  • increased dust buildup and
  • increased noise.

Most people don’t find these disadvantages to be too much of a problem though because they really love the benefits they receive from installing them on their vehicles.

Cold air intake disadvantages

Cold air intake disadvantages

Cons of the cold air intake

  • Causes engine overheating in warm weather:

 When the intake air is cooler than the engine, it creates a vacuum that pulls cool air from inside the engine and back into the cylinder. The result is a cooler-running engine, but also one with less power because there is less oxygen available for combustion.

The intake temperature can be reduced by using an after-market heat shield, but they don’t work as well as stock air intakes.

  • Slows down turbo response:

Most turbocharged engines use twin-scroll turbos which have separate inlets for hot and cold air. The cold air intake doesn’t allow enough hot air to get to the turbocharger and thus slows down its response time.

  • Can cause decreased gas mileage:

Since colder air is denser than warmer air, it contains slightly more oxygen per cubic foot than warmer air does. When a car’s computer senses this as a “lean” condition, it richens the mixture to compensate. That results in an overall decrease in fuel economy. The amount of decrease varies depending on several factors including how much richer the mixture is and how much throttle is being applied when the cold air intake is installed.

The truth about cold air intakes

What causes high idle on a cold air intake system

Tests have shown that a cold air intake can give as much as 10 percent more horsepower than the same engine with a standard air filter.

 But there’s some disagreement about what happens when a cold air intake is used on an engine with a carburetor versus one with fuel injection.

 Carbureted engines draw in only fresh air and fuel needed for immediate combustion, while fuel-injected engines use sensors to determine how much air and fuel is needed by the engine under all driving conditions.

The sensors in these fuel-injected systems rely upon hot air from the engine compartment to function properly, so it’s been suggested that cold air from outside the engine compartment could mess up proper airflow and affect the sensors’ accuracy, leading to possible drivability problems.

 However, those who sell cold air intakes say this isn’t true because the sensors require only a small amount of heat to work properly and external heat sources like exhaust pipes are present near them.

Cold air intakes may be less effective for vehicles that don’t need additional cooling, such as police cars and other fleet vehicles.

Can a cold air intake cause overheating: 3 main Reasons

One of the main reasons that a cold air intake can cause overheating is because the air that is being pulled into the intake manifold is hot. This air comes from inside of the engine itself, meaning the air is very hot, and then is fed through a pipe that leads to a filter before it’s drawn into the engine.

A second reason why a cold air intake can cause overheating is because of its design. Many cold air intakes are designed to be placed directly in front of your radiator, which means that they can block airflow through your radiator. This makes one of the most important parts of your car’s cooling system less effective, and can cause overheating.

A third reason a cold air intake can cause overheating has to do with where it’s positioned on your vehicle. The engine bay is often one of the hottest parts of your car, and if you install an aftermarket intake in an area that doesn’t have direct airflow, it can lead to high temperatures in an already hot environment.

Cold air intakes (CAIs) are generally less efficient than a factory intake in terms of the amount of air that is pulled into the engine. They also tend to impede flow more than a factory intake, which can cause airflow problems throughout the intake tract and reduce efficiency even further.

Types of Intake Systems

The main types of air intakes include:

Cold air intakes: These intakes use an air filter and a tube to direct cold air from outside of the vehicle directly into the engine. Some vehicles have pre-existing openings that allow this type of intake to be installed. These intakes do not require any additional modifications to the vehicle, but they do not offer any significant performance gains over other types of intakes.

Air filters: These intakes use an open element filter, which draws in unfiltered air from outside the vehicle. This type of intake increases the amount of airflow into the engine, which can offer performance gains. However, it also increases the amount of debris that enters into the engine, which can clog up filters and cause damage to valves and pistons.

How does a cold air intake work?

To understand how a CAI works, you have to understand how your car’s intake system works. It’s designed to bring in a certain amount of cold air, which is measured in degrees Kelvin.

The temperature of the air has an effect on how much power your engine can put out. When the air temperature gets really hot — like it does in the summertime — it means there’s less oxygen for your engine to burn, so you get less power from your engine.

 Colder air has more oxygen, so it allows your engine to produce more power. That’s why many cars come with a large scoop on the hood that channels in cool air from outside of the car.

What is the difference between a short ram and cold air intake?

Short Ram Intakes

The short ram intake has been around since the beginning of the car world. They were fitted as standard equipment on many vehicles in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s, including muscle cars like Mustangs, Camaros, and Corvettes.

 These kits are simple systems that run off of the factory air box and deliver colder air to your engine than stock.

Since these kits run cooler than traditional intakes, they also allow you to run more timing advance without causing detonation (which would result in reduced performance).

The extra power from running more timing advances comes from an increase in volumetric efficiency.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will an aftermarket cold air intake damage my engine?

Will an aftermarket cold air intake damage my engine

If you install an aftermarket cold air intake, it will reduce the amount of coolant that your engine needs by allowing more cool air to enter into the combustion chambers.

This is accomplished by using a larger diameter pipe which requires less effort from the engine in order to fill up with more air.

2. What happens if the transmission is cold in a car?

What happens if the transmission is cold in a car

The fact that a cold air intake works better on manual transmission vehicles does not mean that it is not an efficient way to increase performance on automatic transmissions.

3. Why is my check engine light on with a cold air intake?

Why is my check engine light on with a cold air intake

If you have a problematic cold air engine, then notify the driver of a problem by signaling the check engine light.

4. What happens when you put cold air in the throttle?

Thirottle is a term that’s used to describe how quickly the engine will respond to an increase in throttle input.

Stock air intakes typically enter warm air into the intake tract that leads to the throttle body, which results in slower throttle response than what can be achieved with cold air intakes.


Cold air intakes are frequently installed in cars that require additional horsepower. Cold air intakes decrease the air temperature inside a car as well as the temperature of the intake, thus allowing a vehicle to run at optimum performance.

The entire purpose of a cold air intake is to allow as much cool air as possible into the combustion chambers without doing any damage to the filter and without over-working the engine.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *