For some of us, choosing the next purchase for our vehicles is often like making an important decision for our child. It is up to us to research and make the most educated choice. Many things come into play when making those decisions; quality and of course, performance, should be the number one decision makers, but often times in today’s world, one’s budget makes a large impact on your final choice. This makes all the more reason to make sure possible purchases are researched out, as much as possible.
In this article, we will be researching for the purchase of an aftermarket cold air intake, we will touch on the positives and the negatives of each brand as an overall. Among adding a little extra horsepower, choosing to go with an aftermarket filter or intake could be for the soul purpose of slowly and wisely adding small upgrades to an older vehicle; it makes sense to put the amount of money one would be putting towards replacing the factory filter, towards the aftermarket, in hopes of better quality, durabilty and also hopefully making it easier to take in and out for maintenance.
First, we will look at S&B Filters, based out of Fontana, California, making filters for not only diesels, but gas and even UTVs, and other performance parts, S&B Filters keep their prices reasonable and products meet quality standards, by having most of their products manufactured themselves in the United States. Their filters are designed to cut down on airflow restriction, while protecting your motor. Among several different series of tests, S&B does test their products at the worse-case scenario, meaning they put equivalent air flow and as much debris to the filters as if you were driving at full throttle, to make sure your motor is protected from debris while sucking in even more air. They also test how much dirt the filters can hold before they need be to cleaned or replaced. S&B claims to test competitor’s products to see how the S&B products compare and even ways to improve their own designs.
S&B Filters intake systems are “straight forward” when it comes to installation, taking around thirty minutes using standard tools. Filter systems come with your choice of Cleanable (Cotton) or Dry filters, both filters are similar in performance capabilities, so the decision is up to you as the shopper, do you want to clean the filter or replace it? On S&B’s website, they also throw out some points to take into consideration when making your choice between cleanable or dry. If your vehicle is under warranty, using a dry filter will keep the dealership of accusing you of not cleaning the filter properly, either way, S&B offers good customer service, and offers to back you up in the event the dealership gives you a difficult time. If you live, work or play in a considerably dustier area, you can prolong the life of S&B’s dry filter, by blowing it out with compressed air, directions available on their website, but ultimately, the dry filter would need to be eventually thrown out. The cleanable filter can also be used in a dustier environment, but cannot be blown out; doing so would separate the media of the filter. S&B Filters are now made with silicone, making them stronger and more durable, and will not crack. They also hold up to extreme amounts of heat.
S&B offers not only filters, but intake elbows, air scoops, cleaning kits, filter wraps and even customization. Prices range around the three hundred dollar mark for most intake kits. Intake kits do not include the intake elbow. We also noticed S&B Filters sit inside a protective compartment, which makes you think that they would be protected more from debris; but does that compartment cut down on air flow?
Our second filter company to research on, was aFe Power, advanced Flow engineering. Based out of Corona, California, AFE Power manufactures high performance parts for the automotive industry. The company has a large product range, from filters, exhaust systems, toque converters, and more. They manufacture their products in United States.
The filters from aFe are 100% polyurethane on the top and base and the actual filter is made up of five layers of real fine mesh cotton, providing max air flow; their replacement filters will outflow the factory paper filters by up to fifty-seven percent. aFe offers three different types of filters, the Pro 5R which is both washable and reusable, made of oiled cotton guaze media; it provides maximum performance with maximum airflow and its deep open pleats provide longer spans between servicing. The Pro Dry S, offers the same characteristics as the Pro 5R, except as the name states, it’s a dry filter and will not need re-oiling. The third filter type offered is the Pro Guard 7, it is an oiled cotton/synthetic gauze filter, that can be washed and re-used; it offers maximum protection with the highest filtration efficiency. Where the Pro Dry S and Pro 5R offer five layers, the Pro Guard 7 offers seven layers of finer media for that extra protection. Similar to the S&B intake system, aFe provides an incasement, too, their’s is not closed off as much, which might provide more airflow. The intake system from aFe is around the five hundred dollar mark.
Next we checked into Banks Power, a member of the automotive industry for over fifty years, based out of San Gabriel, California. Banks Power keeps an old-school business ethic in play, by maintaining customer service, low prices and cutting edge products that are scientifically proven to be at the leader of the pack. Banks Power offers products and installs for not only diesels, but gas motors to motorhomes and sport utility vehicles. The founder and hands on President Gale Banks, has not only started this business from the ground up, but has also set world records in the racing industry, and is in the winner’s circle often, for both marine and automotive. Banks Power offers many products from intake filters, turbo upgrades, programmers, and even Jeep turbos.
Their intake system, Banks Ram-Air outflows a stock air filter up to thirty-eight percent. The Banks Ram-Air is a cotton filter and its aerodynamic and contoured shape eliminates sharp bends, allowing efficient air flow. Their filter is designed to work effortlessly and seamlessly with factory sensors, not causing any codes to pop up, that could cause problems. It does use the factory elbow, to allow movement with the motor, providing durability. The encasement is similar to S&B and aFe’s, being closed off and kept in a protective case, but like S&B’s it is closed off with a top. This filter is easily installed and also very accessible, allowing for easy and quick monitoring and maintenance. The Banks Ram-Air comes with either a dry or oiled filter, and they also offer ‘pre-filters’.
Along with retailing all top name brands of aftermarket products, Sinister Diesel has come out with their own cold air intake kit for the six and seven point three liter Powerstrokes. Their design is manufactured by Sinister themselves, and they strive to meet and exceed five standards, strength, performance, simplicity, durability and fit. The Sinister cold air intake is built out of aluminum, rather than plastic; aluminum stands up to a much wider span of temperatures and it will not crack. The bends of the aluminum kit are CNC mandrel bent, and bent to achieve maximum air flow. Bonus, Sinister’s intakes go all the way from the filter to the turbo; giving your engine the better flow of cold air it needs, meaning better performance. The kit comes with silicone couplers, providing years of trusted performance against the temperature extremes of your motor. Fitment also plays a major role in performance of cold air intakes. Being that Sinister’s intakes are designed, engineered and fabricated in-house, they can really control the process, from beginning to end, including testing prototypes. This intake kit is also simple to install, minimal experience needed using common tools; kit comes with a full color instruction manual and all the necessary couplers and clamps needed. Their kits also come polished, and powder coated with Sinister’s unique, eye catching blue, giving you a clean and truly different look under the hood. The Sinister kit retails for around three hundred and fifty dollars. If you live or race in an extremely dirty or dusty environment we suggest, when purchasing cold air intakes, to throw in a prefilter with your purchase. According to the Sinister Diesel website, Airaid makes a prefilter to fit their kit’s filter; it has been tested and proven that there is no significant airflow loss while using the prefilter.
Sinister Diesel is based out of Northern California, and strive to provide continued, excellent customer service. They began as MKM Customs, and after supplying customers with the top brand names they enjoy and appreciate, they still had a vision of how a performance part should look and perform, that is how the Sinister Diesel brand was born.
Though there are many more companies to consider when shopping for your vehicle’s next air filter, these offer great points to consider and look for when shopping. Do you have a warranty to keep in mind? Do you prefer a more ‘closed off’ filter, or one more open? Do you think there is a negative or positive to having your filter completely encased; would the possibility of a little less air flow be better than keeping it open to even more dirt and debris, or is there that much of a difference between the two? Upgrading to a reusable, aftermarket intake system, may take a few extra dollars now, but could easily make up for it in the long run, especially when your factory air filter is not reusable, and is difficult to get in and out, and more often than not, are expensive! In the end, we think budget and what you are looking to add to your vehicle performance wise, will make up your decision when purchasing the air intake system.
Let us know your experience when choosing and installing a cold air intake system!
Author: Amy Kent, Senior Editor
Photos credited to the respective company's website.