A cold air intake system is a modern and highly popular type of engine tuning which is capable to effectively reduce the amount of heated air entering the engine, thus increasing the efficiency of cylinder filling.
That is for when you press the accelerator pedal, there is a better throttle response, the air fed to the engine should be as cold and dense as possible. This is the very function that an air intake system is designed to perform.
Concept & Mechanism
In any tuning of the engine and its maintenance, the fuel/air mixture is one of the main components on which the performance depends. However, standard air filters are equipped with a filter element made of incredibly dense material, and its design can not provide enough flows of this mixture directed to the cylinders.
So, a cold air intake system is a “zero resistance” filter with microscopic openings that allow much larger air volumes to flow.
Basically, modification of the system is carried out in two ways: increasing the volume of inlet air and reducing the restriction to the air inlet. To achieve these improvements, a spigot, receiver, an inlet manifold, and an air intake filter are modified.
The effect of increasing the horsepower of a vehicle depends on how much the standard filter has constrained the engine since it is the filter that is the biggest restriction in the air supply to the combustion engine.
There are two types of intake filters:
- Cotton non-woven fabric, corrugated and reinforced with metal mesh, is used on vehicles moving on asphalt pavements;
- Fine mesh polyurethane (foam filters). A mesh in these intakes is less resistant to suction, and the filtration element itself is much better at trapping dust, has a larger cleaning surface, and provides a more aggressive air supply to the engine. Such intakes are typically designed for off-road race trucks/cars. Typically, the filtration element is located outside the truck’s hood, in a colder air area, e.g. under a fender, instead of a headlight, in a bumper, or behind a grille. The filter is connected to the engine by a spigot. This is more appropriate because the filter does not suck in hot air to feed the engine, which significantly reduces its functionality – it takes cold, dense air directly from the atmosphere.
An air intake filter is a carbon, plastic, or metal (depends on the manufacturer) cone-shaped unit which tightly sits on a filtration component and shields hot air coming from the engine. Certainly, the design provides not “zero,” but greatly reduced restriction to airflow.
Both the cone shape and filtration component configuration itself create auxiliary vortexes during operation that contribute to the more efficient filling of the engine cylinders.
Every driver knows how strong the counter-flow air pressure is. The colder and denser the flow, the better the fuel it interacts with burns. It is this force that is used by a cold intake system to increase engine power and reduce vehicle fuel consumption.
Pros and Cons
Thus, one way to add some horsepower to your vehicle is to install an intake filter. But like any system, this one has its pros and cons, too.
- Increased engine power and torque;
- Rapid turbocharger start;
- Increased throttle response;
- Reduced fuel consumption;
- Reduced detonation probability;
- Smooth engine run;
- Aggressive Sound.
- Additional noise;
- Hydrostatic shock possibility with non-standard options of unit installation and vehicle operation;
- The necessity to remove/change the location of some factory mounts, sensors, and blocks;
- Some intake models do not clean the air well enough, so there is a possibility of engine damage;
- Challenging installation process (sometimes).
The list of Cold Air Intake Systems for 3.5L Ford F-150 EcoBoost:
|aFe Power 54-12192||powder-coated metal||2012-2014 Ford F-150 EcoBoost V6-3.5L||View on Amazon|
|K&N 63-2592||stainless steel, |
high-density cross-linked polyethylene
|2015-2016 Ford F150 EcoBoost V6-3.5L||View on Amazon|
|S&B Filters 75-5081||silicone, |
Raptor 2015-2017 EcoBoost 3.5L/2.7L
|View on Amazon|
|Spectre Performance 9034||aluminum, |
|2015-2019 Ford F-150/|
Raptor EcoBoost 2.7/3.5L V6
|View on Amazon|
|Roush Performance 422089||plastic,|
Raptor EcoBoost V6, 3.5L/2.7L
|View on Amazon|
|Injen PF9015P||stainless steel, |
|2017-2020 Ford F-150/|
Raptor Twin Turbo 3.5L/2.7L
|View on Amazon|
Review of Top-Rated Cold Air Intake Systems for 3.5 Ecoboost:
aFe Power 54-12192 — Best Cold Air Intake for 3.5 Ecoboost Engine
This cold air intake system from the world-famous manufacturer provides an outstanding 32 horsepower & 35 lb-ft torque for your F-150! The aFe Power Magnum FORCE intake system features a high-quality powder-coated dual metal pipe, which provides low heat transfer and very smooth curves to ensure high airflow capacity.
The Magnum FORCE intake system also uses a shield with a complex structure to protect the filters from engine side heat.
The aFe cold air intake system is legal in all 50 US states and will surprise you with its performance. Especially if it’s your first replacement. The reason for that is that it can effortlessly outflow stock intakes by up to 44%!
The dual-tube design of this system provides balanced tube pressure, maximizing intake airflow and velocity, as well as improving throttle response. The 54-12192 model is enclosed in a durable, mounted 16-gauge heat shield that utilizes the lower half of the stock airbox.
Two 360-degree conical-shaped rotomolded Pro 5R air filters are made of durable 100% polyurethane and feature 5-layer progressive oiled cotton gauze to provide maximum protection, performance, and allow for multiple cleaning cycles. Have no doubts – you can surely expect hassle-free, bolt-on installation using only factory mounting locations.
- Model – 54-12192
- 2 Pro 5R filters
- Dual pipe
- Weight – 12 lbs
- Material – powder-coated metal
- Dimensions – 23.1″ x 16.6″ x 13″
- All hardware included
- Vehicle fitment – 2012-2014 Ford F-150 EcoBoost V6-3.5L
- Up to 44% better performance than the stock intake
- Oustanding performance and maximum airflow
- Increased horsepower (up to +32 HP) and torque (+35 lb-ft TQ)
- Dual intake pipe design for balanced pressure, maximum airflow, and velocity
- Dual 360-degree washable, reusable Pro 5R air filters
- Mounted heat shield
- Legal in all 50 states (CARB E.O Number D-550-15/28)
K&N 63-2592 — Cold Air Intake for 3.5 Ecoboost
You will get used to outstanding airflow and filtration in no time (as we get used to all good things fast) which are guaranteed by one of the most efficient cold air intake systems in the world, manufactured by K&N. This intake is able to provide world-class protection for your engine.
The K&N 63 AirCharger Series is an extension of the 57 FIPK Series. These cold intake systems are designed for various vehicle types, including F-150, and represent a significant improvement over standard K&N replacement filter. This 63-2592 model features non-metallic tubes (as all intakes in the series) to help reduce the intake air temperature and engine sound.
Unsmooth OEM cold air intake systems reduce your engine’s performance even if you install the K&N filter in the OEM location. OEM intakes are a weak link in the airflow chain that deprives your vehicle of extra horsepower.
Conical-shaped K&N filters, included in most cold air intake systems, drastically improve the airflow, providing reliable performance and letting your engine breathe freely. Aerodynamically designed intake tubes improve the cylinder airflow, making towing, and throttle response much better.
K&N intake is a work of art! The conical filter has the highest capacity that one can fit into the engine compartment using the stock openings and mounting points. This filter size provides even more airflow with less restriction than the standard K&N O/E replacement filter, which is limited to the size of the standard airbox.
The bigger filter captures and retains more dirt. It also has an extended service life and does not require any major cleaning before 100.000 miles.
The filter is isolated from the high temperature, produced by the engine, by a heat shield. It’s designed to reduce the temperature of the air entering the engine, which increases the air density, and thus, increases the power.
The filter is followed by a dual-pipe made of high-density cross-linked polyethylene. This process makes it possible to accurately form a pipe to reduce turbulence and accelerate the flow of air into the engine.
This is why some of these pipes have unique shapes or recesses that are specially designed for each vehicle. The pipe is connected to the engine through an adapter made of high-strength silicone reinforced with nylon, which ensures a long service life.
All of the above results in the best cold air intake systems available today for increased performance, excellent durability, and neat aesthetics.
You can also get another high-quality K&N cold air intake system for newer Ford models, including 2018-2019 FORD Expedition; 2017-2019 FORD F-150; 2017-2019 FORD F-150 Raptor; and 2018-2019 LINCOLN Navigator here.
And then there’s also a K&N air intake system option for 2011-2014 Ford F-150 that you can get here.
- Model – 63-2592
- Estimated HP gain – 23.01 HP at 3505 RPM
- Clamps included – 7
- Couplers included – 2
- Material – stainless steel, high-density cross-linked polyethylene
- Weight – 10.1 lbs
- Dimensions – 22.3″ x 14.3″ x 12.5″
- Air filter height – 6″
- Mounting hardware included
- Vehicle fitment – 2015-2016 Ford F150 EcoBoost V6-3.5L
- High-quality performance cold air intake system
- Roto-molded HDPE intake tube and oversized oiled cotton air filter
- Increased HP
- Dyno-tested intake system
- Up to 50% more airflow and exceptional filtration
- Better towing
- Improved acceleration and uphill performance
- No cleaning before 100.000 miles
- Improved engine sound
- Precision engineering
- Contamination protection
- More airflow at lower restriction
- Increased engine service life
- Easy bolt-on replacement (installation only takes 90 minutes, using a screwdriver, pliers, and a ratchet-set)
- No cutting or drilling is needed
- Will not void vehicle warranty
- Great price/quality ratio
S&B Filters 75-5081 — Cold Air Intake for 3.5 Ecoboost
This system will make your engine run much better, no matter if your calibration is stock or tuned – you will forget about the “Check Engine” lights! The 75-5081 model from S&B provides superior airflow to your engine with 43.1% higher airflow than stock intakes.
The efficiency rating of this state-of-the-art unit is 99.3%! With this S&B system, you don’t have to worry about the filter – a huge custom airbox will protect it from engine heat with no problems. Moreover, there’s also an exclusive clear lid that covers the precision-oiled filter (80 grams of oil).
Your engine will as be happy as yourself because the quality of this cold air intake system is so satisfying!
Let’s see what it can boast with – you have premium ultra-durable (can withstand up to 400F temperature) silicone parts that will not crack, look great, and have outstanding tear strength; 8-layer cotton washable media; and detailed instructions to make the installation process a no-brainer.
The S&B system is ISO 5011-tested and legal in all US states (CARB ID D-590-16). You can surely expect improved throttle response and fuel mileage!
You can also get another intake system (75-5122 model) if you have 2018-2019 Ford F-150 2.7L/3.5L Ecoboost with oiled cleanable cotton filter here.
Or, if you are not looking for the oiled filter, you can get the 75-5067D high-quality dry extendable filter by S&B here. This one is designed for the 2011-2014 Ford F-150 3.5L EcoBoost.
- Model – 75-5081
- Dimensions – 15.1″ x 17.6″ x 26.2″
- Weight – 16.6 lbs
- Materials – Silicone, urethane rubber, cotton
- Instructions included
- Vehicle fitment – Ford F-150/Raptor 2015-2017 EcoBoost 3.5L/2.7L
- Precision robotic-applied oil (80 g) on filters
- Premium silicone filter parts for longevity and sleek finish
- 8-layer cotton washable media
- 43.1% more airflow with 99.3% efficiency rating
- ISO 5011-tested
- Improved throttle response and fuel mileage
- Huge custom airbox to protect the filter from engine heat
- Signature clear cover lid
- Legal in all US States (CARB ID D-590-16)
- Easy installation (detailed instructions)
Spectre Performance 9034 — Cold Air Intake for 3.5 Ecoboost
Despite its low price, this oiled air filter represents high quality in every detail. This one was designed to add some noticeable HP and torque for your Ford F-150. Moreover, the filter provides superior engine protection from debris and other harmful particles.
Due to the black powder-coated stainless steel 2-piece heat shield, there’s no way heated engine air will enter the intake inlet, so you don’t have to worry about that. The kit features a polished aluminum air intake tube and unique low-restriction red Spectre filter with non-woven synthetic media.
You have all the hardware you need for a perfect OE fit including 2 steel clamps, velocity stack, 1 coupler, and edge trim.
- Model – SPE-903
- Material – aluminum, non-woven synthetic, stainless steel
- Air filter height – 7″
- Weight – 6.4 lbs
- Dimensions – 15″ x 14″ x 14″
- Vehicle fitment – 2015-2019 Ford F-150/Raptor EcoBoost 2.7/3.5L V6
- Mounting hardware included (OE fitment)
- Uses OEM tubes
- CARB EO – D-629-15
- Improved HP and torque
- Superior engine protection
- The polished aluminum air intake tubing
- Unique red Spectre reusable oiled air filter
- Black powder-coated steel heat shield
- Easy to install
- Low price
Roush Performance 422089 — Cold Air Intake for 3.5 Ecoboost
Roush cold air intake system will provide astounding filtration performance and maximum airflow for your Ford F-150 engine without any installation difficulties or calibration.
This system offers up to 25% less inlet restriction (increased inbox and inlet size) compared to stock intakes and keeps engine heat away from the dry cleanable 2-layer filter. The latter was built to last for years and needs no oiling or custom tuning.
The high-flow filter is made of wire mesh for durability and proper filtration media support. All instructions and mounting hardware are included (clamp, airbox tray, clean air tube, 105mm airflow tube). The system also comes with EPDM rubber couplers for a perfect fit.
The manufacturer also claims their system is the most high-engineered on the market today and will not void your factory warranty. They promise that the owners will definitely notice a boost in mileage and power. Expect aggressive sound, easy installation (watch an installation video)
- Model – 422089
- Weight – 13 lbs
- Dimensions – 18″ x 18″ x 18″
- Vehicle fitment – 2018-2020 F-150/Raptor EcoBoost V6, 3.5L/2.7L
- All hardware and instructions included
- The complete air intake system
- Dry washable/reusable high-quality performance filter
- Aggressive performance sound
- CAD-designed for better sealing
- Superior filtration performance
- Doesn’t void stock warranty
- Reduced pressure drop
- Lid features hydrocarbon trap
- EPDM rubber couplets for a perfect fit
- Increased inlet for maximum airflow (up to 25% less restriction)
- Noticeable boost in mileage and power
- No re-calibration needed
- Easy installation (0.5-1 hour, no cutting or drilling)
Injen PF9015P — Cold Air Intake for 3.5 Ecoboost
With this Injen PF air intake, you get what you expect from a reliable US manufacturer with years of experience. This intake system takes your engine performance to another level, adding some noticeable dyno-proven HP (+11) gains and torque (+24 lb-ft) while providing improved airflow (4″ and 3.5″ dual aluminum intake tubing) and reduced restriction.
The Injen intake system offers aggressive sound and airflow, two blue dry cleanable filters, as well as multiple finish options to customize your engine bay.
It keeps engine heat away from your intake due to the smart air filter location, which also is beneficial for cool and dense air supplying. The world’s first tuned intake system features patented MR Technology tubing and everything you need for a perfect fit installation. Plus, this system is not demandable in maintenance at all – easy maintenance every 10.000 miles.
- Model – PF9015P
- Weight – 18 lbs
- Dimensions – 27.7″ x 12.6″ x 12.5″
- Material – stainless steel, 6061-T6 aluminum
- Vehicle fitment – 2017-2020 Ford F-150/Raptor Twin Turbo 3.5L/2.7L
- +11.0 HP
- +24 ft. lbs. torque
- Patented MR Technology
- World’s first tuned intake system on the market
- 4″ and 3.5″ dual aluminum intake tubing
- Two blue dry cleanable filters
- Easy maintenance (every 10.000 miles)
- Perfect fit and aggressive sound
- Improved airflow and reduced restriction
- Made in the USA
Air Intake Types
Tuning companies produce cold air intake kits of various colors, materials, sizes, inlet diameters, and shapes. The choice depends only on the personal preferences of the vehicle’s owner. They can be versatile or designed for specific vehicle models.
Let’s consider a few types:
- The Cold Air Intake (CAI) system. Often characterized by high restriction, as it is equipped with a paper filter and manufacturer’s developments to reduce noise levels. The air intake is carried out from a hot engine compartment. The high flow temperature is generated not only by the air intake from the under-hood space but also due to plastic inlet elements installed close to the engine.
- The APR Carbonio system is made of carbon. This material is produced on the basis of aviation technology from carbon fiber. Carbon intake systems have a number of exceptional characteristics that are considerably more advanced than their factory counterparts. This design also has another technological feature – the inlet manifold creates additional pressure from the incoming airflow. As close to this section as possible, a low resistance element is located at the front edge of the bonnet. The number of curves and bends in the inlet path is reduced, which also contributes to optimal and increased airflow, as all inlet flows are guided directly into the filter.
- K&N’s intakes differ from other systems by their short tubing. These systems are designed to drastically reduce restrictions in the intake tract. The flow is straightened, which makes it easier for the vehicle to suck in air and provides high engine RPM. The system is easy to install. The filter housing is enclosed, which increases protection against dirt and dust. The filter cone is quite large (152 mm), which makes it not too efficient, however, the top lid can be removed to increase the airflow. It comes with washable/reusable filters. Unlike standard paper filters, the K&N intake has a multi-layer oiled media and improved element configuration. It allows for 50% more air than conventional standard filters without compromising filter quality.
- The Takeda dry type system from aFe Power (USA) is one of the first systems to be designed and manufactured. The outlet frame is made of two parts. The system is optimal for rainy periods, as you can make it shorter and move the unit under the hood. Or, in dry/hot periods, it can be extended and moved under the fender, making it easier to suck in the fresh air. The filter does not require oil lubrication and is cleaned with water and a small amount of detergent. The main disadvantage is considered to be the increased risk of a water hammer in rainy weather.
- AEM’s high-performance air intake systems (USA) are designed directly for each specific vehicle model and engine to get the most out of the whole RPM range. The inlet tubing is made of aluminum and coated with a specific ceramic heat dissipation coating. Depending on the type of internal combustion engine and model configurations, the shape of the cold intake system can vary significantly. All AEM models use innovative wear-resistant synthetic dry filters that do not require oil lubrication. Intakes of this company are produced for most Japanese, American, and European cars. The manufacturer provides a lifetime warranty.
Air intake system installation may require a highly-qualified specialist and take quite a lot of time. It involves searching and choosing a specific bay area under the hood, far from heat sources on a particular vehicle. This is needed to eliminate hot air in the cylinders completely. But any of the mentioned systems for F-150 above shouldn’t be a problem if you have the necessary tools.
You should know that the installation of an intake system makes sense only if the entire engine has been modified. Unless you believe in miracles, you should know that reducing the flow restriction is only possible by increasing the inlets, in other words, by worsening the filtration quality.
Thus, installing an intake filter on a stock engine is hardly a good idea. Admit it’s ridiculous to get a theoretical power gain by reducing the engine’s service life.
Q: Does cold air intake help EcoBoost?
A: Yes. Typically, in terms of fuel economy, horsepower, and torque output.
Q: How much HP does a 3.5 EcoBoost get with cold air intake?
A: From 10 to 35 HP.
Q: How do you wash these filters?
A: I use compressed air to blow them clean, works great.
Q: Is S&B 75-5081 Cold Air Intake system legal for California?
A: Yes, it is. This kit comes with the CARB EO sticker to be placed on metal near the intake, not on the clear lid.
Q: How hard is it to take out the S&B filter?
A: You will need a modification to the box to get to the filter. You can ask customer service to include it in the package if you are going to buy this intake.
Q: Does improvement in airflow increase HP?
A: No, it doesn’t.
Q: Are S&B filters oiled?
A: Not all of them. You can go for 75-5081D in case you need the dry model.
Q: Is the Spectre filter legal in California.
A: No, it’s not. They have certain regulations in CA for performance parts on vehicles.
Q: What is the most high-engineered cold air intake system on the market?
A: Roush Performance claimed it’s their 422089 Cold Air Intake.