Do Induction Kits & Performance Panel Filters Really Give More Power

"A Comparison of Induction Kits and Performance Filters and how these impact a cars performance"

In the world of performance vehicles, it is a common belief that induction kits and performance panel filters are great modifications if you want to pull up the power and torque of your vehicles.

But here we dive deep into the topic to find out if this really is true. So, without any further ado, let’s get started.

Please watch our video which answers the question do Induction kits & intakes add power. Be sure to keep up with our latest YouTube content and subscribe.

Stock Cars Intake Design Constraints

Before we start it is worth highlighting that the stock air box on almost all stock cars muffles the sound of air intake. This makes sense because, in everyday usage, the more silent a car is, the better.

Stock vehicles mostly have a panel air filter that cleans the air that enters the vehicle’s system.

Are Power Increases From Air Induction Kits Cost Effective?

It might be true that the induction systems do add to the power of the vehicle due to the increased airflow to the engine.

However, usually, these induction kits are quite expensive components so we need to consider whether or not they are good options for people looking to adopt the most cost-effective way of improving the output of their car.

So, the concept of letting more air into the system for higher combustion rates and thus more power seems promising but is it digging a hole in your pocket without delivering much of a result?

An Air Induction Kit Might Decrease Your Car’s Power

Well, before we head into it, it is also worth noting that there are several cars where performance aficionados believe that the after-market induction kits decrease the performance of the car.

One such example is the Maza RX-8 and as the stock air intake system on this car supplies air not from the engine bay but the front bumper, it works pretty well.

The Mazda RX-8 has a two-stroke engine which has a lot of engineering put into the stock system.

The intake system in this car works with a resonator which speeds up the flow of air to the engine which is how a larger quantity of air is delivered to the vehicle.

So once you disturb the factory-fitted parts, you remove a major part of the engineering that has gone into the vehicle so this affects the output of the stock system.

Know Your Car Before Installing An Air Induction System

Thus, the car on which you fit the aftermarket induction kit has a lot to do with the overall performance of the car.

This is why many experts suggest not to play around with the stock air intake system of the Mazda RX-8. Rather they think that the results might be negative on performance.

In the case of the Mazda RX-8, knowing all of this stuff can save you from a lot of gibberish promises that even brands like K&N post on their website regarding power increase for this car.

K&N claims a power increase of 10 hp, however, real-life results are very different.

Improvements Due To Air Induction Systems

However, one benefit that the air induction kit will still deliver is that the overall looks of the engine bay and the vehicle’s sound will see a massive improvement when compared to the stock system in the car.

Now let's consider various examples to see the results of adding air induction systems to different types of cars.

On A Naturally Aspirated Car

In the case of the Honda S2000 when an induction kit is installed on the stock vehicle, with no other mods, the gain in power is just 6.7 hp which is around 4% increase however when we consider that this part alone costs a significant amount of money, this increase doesn’t seem all that impressive.

So while the slight boost in power will be a piece of good news for any car lover, it won’t be something they would feel particularly excited about after spending a substantial amount of money.

It is also to be highlighted that this 6.7 hp gain in power is achieved at the upper end whereas at the lower side the gain is even lesser than this i.e. in the range of around 4 hp.

You Be The Judge

Depends upon how you look at it, but you must also consider that the Honda S2000 is a naturally aspirated vehicle so with the stock engine and no turbo added to the system, the upper 6.7 hp gain might mean the difference between winning a race or losing it.

So, in the end, I would say that this gain is subjective on how you look at it. If you want such trivial improvements, the air induction system delivers that.

On A Turbo Charged Vehicle

Now discuss the effect of an air induction system on a vehicle with a turbo. So, let’s consider R34 Skyline with a 2.5 litre inline 6 cylinder turbocharged engine.

Without the air induction system installed on the vehicle, this car can produce a total of around 227 hp. However, it is to be noted that the stock setup of this car already has a snorkel for feeding air to the air box.

With A Pod Filter

If a pod filter is installed on this car, the power decreases as compared to that generated by the stock setup.

With Filters Removed

It is also to be noted that when the filters (both pod as well as the stock setup) are removed from the car, the power generated is nearly the same as the one produced by the stock setup.

This shows that the stock arrangement on the Nissan Skyline R34 is not a restriction which is again something you don’t hear very often from people supporting the air induction systems and their claims to ramp up the power figures.

Rather you might hear a lot of people ranting about how the stock air filters are highly restrictive in nature and prevent the car’s engine from delivering its peak performance.

In the case of the R34, for example, which had a snorkel installed by Nissan itself, the power rather decreases slightly when the factory-fitted air box with the snorkel is removed.

Now with the cold air induction system installed on the same vehicle, the power increases by around 5 hp as compared to that of the stock system on the car. This is around a 2.2% increase

Moment Of Truth

So, if you ask for the truth, most experts agree that to feel the difference in power increase, it has to be around 10%.

A similar power gain can be the difference on a cold morning compared to a sunny warm afternoon. (Cold air carries more oxygen and allows the car to make more power by burning more fuel.)

Thus, with such minor changes, the air induction systems just don’t seem to be the way to go especially after all the hype that the companies create.

They do add power in many cases, but this is typically only 1-3% on naturally aspirated engines and around 3-5% on a turbocharged vehicle.

Points To Ponder

Many experts believe that the Dyno tests that sometimes prove that air induction systems aid in power gain are not very accurate when put in perspective of our everyday life.

Most dyno runs are done with an open engine bay, in the real world the under bonnet temps which end up in the intake can be significantly higher.

That’s because the situations on the Dyno are often fabricated to make it perfect for the test. However, this is not how our cars work on a day-to-day basis.

This basically means that the results obtained on Dyno are not a true reflection of everyday usage.

Effect Of Replacing Performance Panel Air Filters

So, let’s move forward to discussing the performance panel air filters and their effects. Let’s consider the following different cases:

Dirty OEM Panel Air Filter vs. Clean Filter

Several experiments have confirmed that a vehicle with a slightly dirty OEM air filter produces a little less power than the same clean OEM panel air filter. However, this increase is negligible, but I have to concede in most cases there is a slight increase.

Performance Gain With A Low-Cost Panel Air Filter

When you switch over to a relatively low-cost performance panel air filter, the power increase is around 2% whereas the torque jumps up by around 3.7%.

This is not a major improvement but when you consider that performance panel air filters are not that expensive parts, this difference seems impressive and this for most drivers is a good cost effective upgrade with minimal install time and few downsides.

Performance Gain With A Branded Performance Panel Air Filter

When you replace the OEM part with a high-performance panel air filter, the difference is relatively higher. Now, for example, using the K&N air filter leads to an increase of around 2.7% in power and 3.7% in torque.

However, it is worth noting that these high-performance panel air filters from a renowned brand are relatively more expensive.

The fitlration medium is the main difference here and cotton gauze is generally the best option in terms of filtration ability and flow rates.

Worth Noting

One aspect that we must highlight here is that with the relatively low-cost performance panel air filter, we can’t be certain whether or not it is effectively filtering the air passing through it.

However, with the more expensive option from a renowned brand like K&N, you can be confident about its functionality and levels of filtration.

The performance of vehicles does not just improve on the Dyno, but rather the real-life performance in terms of acceleration of the cars also sees a slight jump which ranges around 2 to 3%.

Is It Worth It?

So, then again, whether or not this is enough for this much money depends upon how you look at it.

It is also to be noted that replacing panel air filters is a pretty easy job and takes less than a minute. So, this might be one of the quickest ways to see a performance increase in your car.

What If The Vehicle Is Heavily Modified With Air Restrictive Parts?

Now consider a situation in which you have performed several performance upgrades on your car for increasing the power and torque. This means that the airflow to the engine might be restricted.

That’s because the air inside the engine compartment is quite hot and if the air induction system that you have installed in your car is located close to the engine, instead of getting cold air, it will start gulping in hotter air which can reduce the efficiency of the engine.

So, before you decide to dive into a project with these air induction systems, make sure to first know which the hotter part of the engine bay is so that even after putting in a heavy amount of money, you don’t start sucking in hot air as this will make the performance of your car even worse.

Experts suggest that in such cases, the upgraded air filter should be placed at a location where it can get a constant stream of fresh cold air, which is normally near the bumper in most cars.

However, before delving into a project like this, consulting a professional is always a good idea.

You should also agree with the fact that the vehicle manufacturer knows the car better than you and just because you believe that installing an air intake system will help, is not always the case.

We have seen some instances where 20% power gains were realized when an induction kit was fitted because the stock setup was unable to flow enough air for the power increase of your modifications.

Drawbacks & Problems

Fitting an induction kit is not always ideal. That’s because in some cases, fitting an induction system just doesn’t suck in enough air and the example of RX-8 mentioned above is an ideal illustration of this.

People often report issues related to idling and even have lumpy running which can be because the ECU of the vehicle has not been reprogrammed to cope with the change in the air inflow with the modified part.

So, this confuses the car’s computer which then starts reflecting these issues through the above-mentioned problems.

Even if you happen to find someone who can reprogram the computer on your car, it will drain a deep hole in your pocket because the subject matter experts like these don’t offer their services for cheap.

The worst part however is that if you do all this to a new car, it voids the vehicle’s warranty which in itself is a risk not many car owners are willing to take.

It is also to be noted that when you play around with the air intake system of your car, it might not be able to pass the stringent tests that are becoming more and more common these days.

One more thing that I would like to highlight here is that the purpose of the installation of the induction system needs to be put straight before starting the project.

If it is just to install more chrome parts with coloured air filters that make the engine bay look cooler, then it’s a great idea to just get a visually impressive part like this.

These induction systems are also great in most cases for people who love their vehicles to have a better sound. However, for those who want to get significant power gains, I am sorry to disappoint you but it's suggested that you save your money and avoid fitting an air induction system on your car.

I say so because if you don’t know what you are getting into, the aftermarket air induction system can even decrease the power output of your car, let alone increase it.

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