Giving your engine a consistent, efficient flow of air is one of the basics of keeping it healthy. In saying this, while the cleanliness of your engine’s air flow is the first priority of the intake system, it’s worth taking a look at the effects that a higher flow of air can have on the performance your engine, compared to what it would normally produce of it’s own accord.
Why Does My Engine Need to Breathe?
You essentially have to think of your engine as a huge respirator in some respects. In order to fuel combustion and drive itself, the engine takes in a huge amount of air, which is then mixed with a minuscule amount of fuelto create a volatile mixture. The amount of air that the engine can take in defines how much the engine can cycle, and as such sets the main limit of its power.
Now, you can always make this mixture more volatile by either adding a higher octane fuel or simply injecting more fuel altogether, but this leaves a very large, very inefficient problem, namely that the engine will always be restricted by the amount of air it can draw in. As such, for those looking for an upgrade in engine performance, however small or large, turn to their air intake as one of their first modifications.
What are the Options?
The answer to this question largely rests on the needs of the driver. Any solution that results in either a higher amount of air or cleaner hitting your engine’s intake manifold will boost both the engine’s performance and efficiency by a huge amount. The more air that can be easily drawn into the system, the easier it is for the engine to perform combustion and the less fuel it needs to burn to make more power.
The way air gets into your engine is basically made up of two stages. It’s filtered upon entry into your engine bay, passed through a channel of pipes before finding itself in your intake manifold, where it’s then mixed with fuel. These filters work to a very high level of filtration, as they need to capture as much dust, gas and fumes that come from the road ahead as they can, before it gets into your engine. The impact any of these contaminants can have on your engine can’t be overstated.
Higher flow air filters, generally made by performance companies like K&N, are designed specifically to retain this level of filtration while allowing more air to enter this channel, letting your engine breathe more efficiently.
Despite what their name may suggest, I feel the need to clear up the fact that intake (or induction) systemsdon’t actively suck air into your engine. What they do do, in addition to replacing the filter and allowing for a greater natural flow of air into the engine, is REPLACE all of the channels, pipes and tubes that lead from your engine bay to the combustion chamber where it is mixed with atomised fuel.
This entire channel, which is generally designed with twists and turns to restrict the amount of air going into the engine for reasons of noise and power reduction, is completely streamlined. What follows is the cleanest, purest possible flow of air into your engine, and in the particularly in the case of naturally aspirated engines, a change in the effective volume of air inside the pipes, this effects air speed and the torque produced, and the amount of horsepower your engine can naturally produce is increased.
The ideal solution is a Cold Air intake, which has greatly lengthened piping, often placing the air filter beyond the engine bay, reducing heat soak caused by being close to hot components. This makes the air denser, which increases the amount of air going into your cylinder and henceforth efficiency.
Both of these options provide a great option for anyone looking to add some natural grunt to their engine’s capacity for generating power. By allowing your engine to breathe cleanly and efficiently in whatever way, you’re maximising the potential of your vehicle in one of the easiest ways. If you need a little more info on just how all your filters actually work, click here. If you’re a little lost on what all the brands like K&N do, take a look here.