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Sucking in Air with Toyota Tacoma Cold Air Intakes

By:  Connor MC  / Jun 24 2019
Sucking in Air with Toyota Tacoma Cold Air Intakes

Whether equipped with a four-banger or larger V6 motor, the Toyota Tacoma remains one of the best choices in the compact and midsize category. If you want to further enhance the performance and efficiency of your Tacoma, installing a quality cold air intake kit is a great step towards this goal. The horsepower and torque gains may vary, but one things is for sure: installing a cold air intake will improve the overall performance and drivability of your Tacoma.

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Cold air intakes are an entry level mod for all the right reasons. They're easy to install, on the lower end of the price scale, and they allow for a small bump in power. If you're looking to start messing around in your Tacoma's engine bay, a cold air intake is a great way to familiarize yourself with engine modding.

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What is a Cold Air Intake and What Does It Do?

A cold air intake is designed to suck in large amounts of cooler air. It comprises of larger-diameter and longer piping that and a high-flow filter that allows the system to lower restriction and inhale massive amounts of cold air. The air filter is unique and can be classified as a dry or wet (oiled) filter. It allows more air to be passed to the intake while trapping dirt, dust, and other contaminants.

The cold air intake in a Toyota Tacoma will usually be placed in an open space in the engine bay to prevent heat contamination. The filter is placed near the wheel well in the passenger side or right next to the surrounding area near the front bumper. This will enable the system to feed more cold air to enhance engine performance.

So what’s all the fuss about cold air? Cooler air contains more oxygen molecules and is denser than hot air. The result is a more complete combustion that enables the engine to pump out more horsepower and torque. Cold air intakes may also improve the fuel economy of your truck. 

Simply put, adding more oxygen-rich air into the air/fuel mixture inside the combustion chamber will result in a bigger and more intense burn. You can think of it as adding oxygen or blowing air into a small fire. See how the fire rages up when fed with more oxygen? The same rule applies to your motor. All that extra energy and power will be transferred to the transmission and the driving wheels. The result? Faster acceleration, better throttle response, and more horsepower that you can actually feel!

How Will My Toyota Tacoma Benefit from a Cold Air Intake Kit?

Depending on the model year, the base four-cylinder motor in a Toyota Tacoma can pump out around 159-horsepower and 180 pound-feet of torque. On the other hand, the latest generation 3.5-liter V6 engine can produce 278-horsepower and 265 pound-feet of torque whereas the older 4.0L slots in at 236-horsepower. Replacing the stock intakes with a high-quality cold air intake kit will not only free up the intake flow in your truck. All internal combustion engines can be compared to a large air pump. It needs air and fuel to produce power. If more air can be forced inside the engine, it will result in a more powerful burn that allows the engine to breathe better. 

Second and third generation Tacomas equipped with the 2.7L 4-cylinder engine can expect to gain 6-8 horsepower and likewise in torque. The previous gen 4.0L V6 nets gains a similar amount of power, at 8-10 HP. The newest 3.5L V6, introduced in 2015, benefits the most with a massive increase 17-20 horsepower. What makes all of these numbers even more impressive is that these values are rated at the wheel, after drivetrain loss. 

Increased power means better performance across the scale – be it for acceleration, towing or off-roading, no one ever has complained about having more power and torque!

Closed-Box versus Open Cold Air Intake: Which is Better?

You can achieve surprising results with either a closed-box or open cold air intake. However, the type of cold air intake will also depend on certain factors such as the amount of space under the hood and driving application.

Closed-box or sealed cold air intakes are more expensive and more difficult to install compared to an open-type system. It consists of more parts including a sealed air box that minimizes the presence of hot air without restricting air flow. This type of cold air intake is great for off-roading and cruising on the highway. The sealed air box prevents massive amounts of dirt from contaminating the air filter and requires less cleaning and maintenance.

An open cold air intake is ideal if the goal is adding more horsepower and torque. But since the air filter is more exposed to the elements under the engine bay, it has a tendency to take in more dirt and particles, such as when driving over loose dirt or sand. This means the air filter will need to be cleaned often or might need to be replaced much sooner than the filter in a sealed system.

RAM Air Scoop Add-Ons

Depending on the brand and type of cold air intake, a sealed or closed-box intake system usually comes equipped with a RAM air scoop. The air scoop is optimized to increase the density of the airflow to force cool and pressurized air inside the filter housing. The RAM scoop will need to be installed in an area above the grille just under the hood to scavenge cooler and denser air.

Dry versus Wet Air Filters

The stock intakes in a Toyota Tacoma will come equipped with a dry paper-element filter. The stock filters are engineered to meet minimum filtration standards and are more restrictive as they only provide a single layer area of filtering through a phenomena known as surface loading. Aftermarket filters use a depth loading system, using multiple layers and multiple pore sizes, to vastly increase filtering surface area and maximize air flow. 

Most cold air intakes are equipped with wet or oiled air filters. Unlike dry paper filters, oiled air filters are manufactured using many layers of oiled cotton media and are oversized compared to ordinary filters. The innovative construction of wet air filters enables them to be washed and re-oiled when the filter gets dirty. In fact, some of the wet air filters from well-known manufacturers are designed to last the life of your vehicle! 

Nowadays, many manufacturers are using a synthetic weave for their filter which needs no oil at all. These latest design match or exceed wet filter performance yet complete negate the risk of putting too much oil on the filter which can then contaminate the MAF (very rare occurrence, but it can happen if the filter is saturated with oil).

Which Type of Air Filter is Best for My Toyota Tacoma?

It’s not a matter of choosing between a dry or wet air filter since most cold air intake kits come with washable and reusable oiled air filters. It is all a matter of choosing between an open or closed-box kit. 

For normal driving in tight city streets and open highways, you can’t go wrong with either. But if your Tacoma has additional performance mods such as a larger-bore throttle body and exhaust kit, an open cold air intake is the perfect choice.

If your Tacoma is meant to bash the boonies in moderate to severe off-road driving conditions, you are better off with a closed-box cold air intake. The sealed design will prolong the life of the air filter and provide consistent performance with lowered risk of water ingestion.

Fitment includes: 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, Pre-Runner, X-Runner, SR, SR-5, TRD-Sport, TRD-Off-Road, Limited, TRD-Pro