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Wrangler Cold Air Intakes - An Overview

By:  Louis Orellana  / Jun 20 2019
Wrangler Cold Air Intakes - An Overview

If you’re looking to improve your Jeep’s overall engine performance there are several modifications you can do, starting with the air intake system. Cold air intakes are typically an easy to install modification that start at a relatively a low cost and provides some improvement in overall engine performance. In this information guide, we’ll discuss the function and benefits of a cold air intake, along with discussing some popular examples while also highlighting the differences between them.

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More often than not, Wrangler's are more readily associated with off-road performance rather than street handling. That doesn't mean you can't add some extra oomph to your rig's engine. A cold air intake is a simple mod that can net a few extra horsepower and torque.

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What is a Cold Air Intake?

Your engine needs a clean steady source of air. The oxygen is used in conjunction with fuel to produce combustion which powers the engine. As the pistons retract, a precise combination of air and fuel is introduced in the piston chamber, allowing the piston to generate an explosion during the upward combustion swing. The process happens very quickly, but is an essential part in the overall performance of your Jeep’s engine.

Considering oxygen is such an important part in the combustion process, the quality of air must be controlled. The factory air box contains a flat paper filter that helps filtrate fine dust particles from entering the engine. Air is drawn into the factory air box through an inlet opening along the top. The factory filter and inlet opening is somewhat restrictive and open for improvement, opening up a market for cold air intakes.

Cold air intakes generally have less restrictive filers and larger inlet openings, allowing for a larger volume of air into the engine, while still maintaining a high quality of filtration. The larger volume of air, in theory, provides colder and denser air to the engine, which results in a more powerful combustion, which then translates to an increase in power and throttle response.

What are Some Benefits of a Cold Air Intake?

A cold air intake is designed to provide a significant increase in air volume coming into the engine, through the benefits of a bigger conical air filter or larger air inlet. In addition, cold air intake tubing is constructed from smooth plastic or aluminum, which helps improve the delivery of the air to the throttle body. This increase in volume and speed of delivery helps ensure the air being delivered is as cool as possible within the engine bay temperatures. Colder air is denser than warmer air and most cold air intakes are designed to provide as much cold air as possible to the engine. This allows for two of the most noticeable benefits of a cold air intake, which is power and throttle response. Increases in horsepower vary according to the design and manufacturer of the cold air intake system. Typically, when paired with a larger, less restrictive exhaust system, you can achieve an increase in horsepower from 1-5 hp.

An additional benefit of using a cold air intake is a slight increase in fuel economy. If the engine is receiving an increase in volume and density of air it can reduce the amount of fuel needed for proper combustion. The reduction in fuel consumption can lead to better overall fuel economy since the engine isn’t forced to overwork due to a lack of air intake. Depending on the cold air intake system, there can be an increase in fuel economy from 1-2 mpg. 

Although some of these figures might not be substantial, the power increase is relative to the overall potential of a naturally aspirated engine found in Wranglers. In order to achieve larger gains in power, forced air induction would have to be used from either a turbo or supercharger. These types of modifications can be very complex to install and extremely expensive, making a cold air intake kit a relatively cheap and easy to install alternative.

What are Some Examples and Differences Between Cold Air Intakes?

Most aftermarket cold air intakes have several things in common. The first is a smooth intake tube from the air box to the engine’s throttle body and intake manifold. This inlet piping can vary in material, from silicone or hard ABS plastic to also aluminum. There are varying theories to the benefits of each type of material, but ultimately the inlet pipe is designed to deliver as much air from the air box as possible through the minimal amount of restrictions of turbulence in the delivery path. In addition, an air inlet pipe is also designed to dissipate any heat the air can introduce to the engine. Considering most air intakes draw air in from within the engine bay, this is an important step in the process. With that in mind, these are some of the most common cold air intakes available for Wranglers.

The RedRock 4x4 cold air intake kit offers a very simple entry level priced solution for the replacement of the restrictive factory air box. The air filter is a conical oiled design and can be cleaned, re-oiled and reused, avoiding the need to replace air filters.


The Airaid MXP series cold air-intake comes with a SynthaMac dry conical filter. There are several important elements to this cold air intake. The conical filter itself provides a full 360-degree inlet of air. In addition, the filter itself is dry, when other conical filters contain oils to help filter fine dust. It’s important to note unlike the Redrock 4x4 kit, this air filter is a dry filter. The dry vs. oil debate is an important distinction when considering cold air intakes. Oiled filters are reusable and can be cleaned and then re-oiled for a lifetime of use. Oiled filters can, however, produce a film that damages the MAF (Mass Air Flow) sensor on newer model Wranglers. A dry filter still has a long lifespan if properly maintained, without the negatives of oil. This cold air intake is also almost completely enclosed with the exception of the side inlet. This allows the box to shield the air from the engine heat and help provide the coldest air possible to the engine.

The Injen Evolution cold air-intake kit offers the similar benefits of the Airaid, including a dry conical air filter and a nice enclosed design. What makes the Injen system unique is its ability to be paired with an optional Injen external snorkel. External snorkels do an amazing job of providing high volumes of cold air from outside, through the sealed system and directly into the engine. This fast delivery of air helps ensure that the engine receives the largest amount of cold air possible.

Added Power for Off-Road Rigs

There is no doubt anything you can do to allow your engine to breath better is an improvement over the factory air box. Combining an efficient cold air intake with a smoother less restrictive exhaust can result in a noticeable gain in power. It’s important to note most power gains seen on Wranglers through cold air intakes is seen on the higher end of the power range, generally highway speeds, where the poor aerodynamics of the Jeep would probably negate most of that power. Nonetheless, cold air intakes still allow your engine to breathe better and relieve some level of strain while on the trail. In addition, there is also a slight increase in overall fuel economy, making this modification a good overall investment.

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