An air intake, is tubing that brings air through the air filter, and in to the engine. Some air intakes have a box which is used to surround the air filter. Modern air intake systems have a thermostat on them to regulate the temperature of the air before it gets to the engine. Making sure the air which is being fed into the engine is at the right temperature will ensure maximum performance, fuel economy, and efficiency.
Aftermarket air intakes are designed to increase air flow to the engine which allows for an increase in power. Most air intakes which come standard on a vehicle are focused around noise reduction and efficiency. Most standard air intakes are also hidden away in the engine compartment and use smaller tubes which may not allow for maximum air flow to get to the engine. Aftermarket air intakes are also normally shorter and have less twists and turns in the tube. Having less turns in the tube will reduce air resistance. Aftermarket air intakes will also make more noise than the standard air intake. This is due to the resonator-based muffling tubes which are normally replaced when using an aftermarket air intake.
It is important that the air intake provides as cold air as possible to a warmed up engine. Since cold air has more oxygen which is more combustible, the engine will put out more power. Many vehicles also have heat shields surrounding the air intake which protect it from the hot air coming off the engine. Heat shields can block air flow which may cause a loss in horsepower.
When replacing an air intake, it is good idea to place it were the duct can use the ram air effect. Using ram air will increase air flow and allow for cleaner air to be introduced into the engine. The material of the air intake also plays a role in making sure the temperature of the air is what it should be. The materials which air intakes are usually constructed with include plastic, rubber, metal, and carbon fiber.
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