Skip the auto shop - Our mechanics make house calls

Symptoms of a Bad or Failing Cold Air Intake

cold air intake

A cold air intake is a type of engine air intake system that is designed to bring cool air into the engine. Cold air intakes often uses shorter, smoother piping, as well as strategic filter placement away from the heat of the engine to bring cooler air into the engine than would normally be provided by a non-cold air intake system. Cold air is more favorable for engine induction as cold air is significantly more dense than hot air. As a result, it will allow for more power output from the engine. Most cold air intake systems are available as aftermarket kits, however, some manufacturers do offer their own cold air intake kits as an option. Because cold air intake kits are the direct component that feeds the air into the engine, any problems that may arise with the intake over time can quickly lead to other issues with the drivability of the vehicle. Usually a problem with the cold air intake will produce a few symptoms that may alert the driver of a potential problem that should be serviced.

1. Reduction in engine performance

One of the most common symptoms associated with a bad or failing cold air intake is a reduction in engine performance. The cold air intake also uses an engine air filter, which when clogged or dirty can cause a reduction in power, acceleration, and fuel efficiency. In more severe cases, a dirty air filter may also cause problems with starting the vehicle.

2. Excessively high or surging idle

Another symptom for a potential problem with a cold air intake system is an excessively high idle. An excessively high idle may be an indicator of a potential vacuum leak. Many cold air intake systems come with vacuum ports to accommodate the original manufacturers vacuum routing. If any of the hoses on these ports break or come free, or the ports themselves break, it will lead to a vacuum leak which will cause an excessively high or surging idle.

3. Check Engine Light comes on

An illuminated Check Engine Light is also a common symptom associated with a problematic cold air intake. If any of the sensors that are installed in the intake detect any issues, they may set off the Check Engine Light to notify the driver of a problem. Problems such as vacuum leaks or faulty sensors are the most common reasons why the Check Engine Light can be set off.

The cold air intake is the induction system responsible for feeding air into the engine, and is therefore very important to its operation. If your vehicle is displaying any of the symptoms above, or you suspect that your cold air intake system may be having an issue, have the vehicle inspected by a professional technician, such as one from YourMechanic, to determine if your car needs a cold air intake replacement.

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Skip the repair shop, our top-rated mechanics come to you.

At your home or office

Choose from 600+ repair, maintenance & diagnostic services. Our top-rated mechanics bring all parts & tools to your location.

Fair & transparent pricing

See labor & parts costs upfront, so you can book with confidence.

12-month, 12,000-mile warranty

Our services are backed by a 12-month, 12,000-mile warranty for your peace of mind.

Get A Quote

Ask a Mechanic
(100% Free)

Have a car question? Get free advice from our top-rated mechanics.

Ask A Mechanic
Over 10,000 questions answered!

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.


Post a question and get free advice from our certified mechanics.


More related articles

How to Find the Keyless Code on a Ford Explorer or Mercury Mountaineer
Many Ford Explorers and Mercury Mountaineers were manufactured with an option known as the Ford keyless entry keypad. Some models refer to it as SecuriCode as well. It...
P0121 OBD-II Trouble Code: TPS "A" Circuit Range Performance Problem
P0121 code definition Throttle Pedal Position Sensor/Switch (TPS) A Circuit Range Performance Problem What the P0121 code means P0121 is a generic OBD-II code which indicates that the Engine Control...
Veteran and Military Driver Laws and Benefits in New Mexico
The state of New Mexico offers a number of benefits and perks for those Americans who have either served in an Armed Forces branch...

Related questions

Q: White, puffy smoke from tailpipe

Hello! There may also be an internal engine issue with the valve seals, or piston rings causing the smoke; this can be verified through a compression test. To verify if the turbo is leaking, I suggest a visual inspection of...

Q: Vacuum leak

Hi. This is a very common failure on vehicles like yours. So common, in fact, that there is a technical service bulletin (TSB) on it. The TSB is XT303-13 and it addressed the hissing sound from under the hood, as...

Q: intake manifold question

I do not see the manifold listed that you mention, but the intake manifold to head should have a gasket on both sides for the lower intake and you can use grey RTV around the coolant passages. If you are...