Cold Air Intake Vs. Short Ram Intake: Know the Actual Differences

You might have heard or read somewhere that the factory air intake that comes with your vehicle isn’t very effective and that replacing it with an aftermarket model would be a great move for boosting horsepower and torque.

Well, that is totally correct, but a major issue always surfaces when looking to make the replacement. There are numerous aftermarket air intakes, and they come in different makes. So, which one is the right one for you?

First off, understand that there are 2 popular types of aftermarket air intakes – short ram and cold air intakes. The question of which of the two is the better than the other relies on a few aspects, most importantly:

  • Amount of air delivered
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    Degree of power boost
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    Ease of installation
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    Engine sound

Of course, the type of intake you choose should depend also on the kind of vehicle you’re driving for the purpose of compatibility.

To figure out which one between the cold air and the short ram air intake is better, let’s consider a few aspects.

Comparison Between Cold Air Intake Vs. Short Ram Intake

1. Placement and Design 

Cold Air Intakes

As their name suggests, cold air intakes are intakes whose purpose is to suck cold air and deliver it to the engine. These intakes are placed as far away from the engine heat as possible to ensure only cool air is delivered.

The intake pipe and filters of cold air intakes are typically mounted in the wheel well or the fender, as these locations have a good supply of cool air. But those are not the only mounting positions; the target is normally to ensure that only cold air is drawn. Thus, you might find some intakes being positioned behind the engine or beneath it, depending on the engine’s design.

Short Ram Intakes

Short ram intakes happen to be the most popular aftermarket air intakes. These feature a simple design that allows them to replace the factory intakes with an open-element filter and a better, smoother pipe. As a short ram intake is designed to replace the factory intake, it is placed in the engine bay, where the factory intake was positioned.  

2. Ease of installation

Cold Air Intake

A cold air intake normally has more piping, and as a result, it is a little more difficult to install than a short ram intake. But that shouldn’t scare you. As long as you have a user manual and a user guide like this one(How to Install Cold Air Intakes on Vehicle: Beginners Guide), then you can DIY.

Short Ram

Because of their simple design and the fact that they only replace the factory intake, short ram air intakes are easier to install than cold air intakes.

3. Engine sound

Cold Air Intakes

The sound that the engine produces depends a lot on the amount of air getting in. Normally, the more the air, the more the sound. As a cold air intake allows free entry to air, the engine sound is enhanced, so we’d recommend someone who loves a strong and lively engine sound like the one pickup trucks had in the good old days.

Short Ram

The amount of air that a short ram intake lets into your engine is not as what you’d get with a cold air intake, and for that reason, a short ram intake doesn’t produce as much engine noise.

If you’re looking for more torque and horsepower than what the factory intake offers but don’t want the engine noise that a cold air intake presents, then a short ram intake would be an excellent choice.

4. Performance 

Cold Air Intakes

The benefit of installing a cold air intake is that the cooler air it avails in the engine leads to better engine performance and reduces fuel consumption.

The design of cold air intakes usually has specific purposes including to:

  • Minimize the intake’s length
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    Facilitate a more direct route to the engine and limit or avoid interferences

Short Ram Intakes

Two things are certain. The first one is that an aftermarket short ram intake definitely performs better than a factory air intake, with increased horsepower and torque and better fuel saving capacity.

The second one is that a short ram intake is not as effective in boosting horsepower and torque as a cold air intake. Let’s see why this is so in the “associated issues” section. 

5. Associated Issues 

Cold Air Intakes

Some people worry that by pumping cold air into their engine manifold, they could be damaging the engine. Allow us to debunk that belief. Actually, cold air is good for the engine.

How so?

Cold air contains a higher count of oxygen molecules than warm air. And as you can remember from your basic science lessons, oxygen is needed for combustion. The more the oxygen, the more efficient the combustion.

The only valid issue revolving around cold air intakes is that of the increased noise cold air intakes present, but again, this could be an advantage depending on how you look at it. For those who love a livelier engine with strong sounds, a cold air intake would be very appropriate. But for someone who hates engine sounds, a cold air intake with noise-limiting technology might do.

Short Ram Intakes

Short ram intakes utilize the original intake’s position in the engine bay, and as a result, the heat from the engine raises the temperature of the air inside them more easily. Consequently, the air pumped into the engine manifold is a bit warm. Hence, the number of oxygen molecules the engine gets isn’t as high as what a cold air intake would offer.

With lower oxygen levels, the combustion is also not as efficient as it would be with cold air, and consequently, the horsepower delivered goes down while the fuel consumption goes up. But, you can counter this issue by buying an intake that has a heat shield, to prevent the heat from influencing the air’s temperature.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. What does an aftermarket air intake do?

The work of a vehicle air intake is to draw air from the outside and take it to the engine. An aftermarket air intake replaces the factory air intake and takes up that task. Air is needed in the engine for fuel to be burned efficiently so horsepower can be produced, and remember, horsepower is the energy that moves the vehicle.

2. What difference do cold air intakes make?

An ordinary air intake lets air into the engine, but a cold air intake brings much more air into the engine. The more the air, the better the combustion, and the more horsepower the vehicle gets. Moreover, when the combustion is efficient, the fuel saving efficiency also goes up as less fuel is going to waste in the ‘unburned’ form.

3. What makes a short ram intake a good option?

A short ram air intake is often cheaper and easier to install than other aftermarket air intakes, as it involves a simple design that just fits into the former installation’s space without any need for a modification. Yes, it’s a good option, but if you need more power, a cold air intake should work better for you.

4. Some intakes have a heat shield. Does this make any difference?

Yes, a lot of difference in face. You see, cold air contains more oxygen than warm air, and thus it optimizes combustion better than the latter. A heat shield prevents the heat coming from the engine from increasing the temperature of the air in the intake pipe, and hence it helps improve efficiency greatly.

Final Verdict

Just for the record, both the cold and the short ram air intakes are good aftermarket alternatives to the factory air intake that came with the vehicle. But, if you’re looking for the aftermarket air intake with the better performance, we’d recommend you go for the cold air intake. It will give you better horsepower, better fuel saving capability and definitely a richer engine sound.

We’d only recommend the short ram intake if you don’t like a noisy engine but be sure to get one with a heat shield, so you enjoy increased horsepower.

That would be all, folks. Don’t forget to share this article with your workmates and friends on social media.

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