The Frontier is one of the very few foreign pickup trucks that are popular in the States. Designed, manufactured, and released by Nissan, it’s got all the traits of a champion. The engine, transmission, and suspension system deserve our praise. But, there’s always room for perfection, and if you want to get a handsome boost at a (relatively) low price, an air intake system might be the right investment for you.
The Best Cold Air Intake for Nissan Frontier will improve the powertrain in more than one way. You’ll get extra HP/torque, quicker acceleration, and better fuel efficiency. What about the sound, though? Won’t the engine get overly loud and in-your-face? And what can you do about that? That’s exactly what we’re here to figure out!
Stock vs. Third-Party Air Intake: What’s the Difference?
First of all, third-party intakes are crafted from premium-quality materials. I’m talking about aluminum, high-grade plastic, and superb coating. Secondly, thanks to the aerodynamic design, they move the filter outside of the engine bay. That way, it’s much easier for cold air to find its way into the motor. Cold air is much denser than hot fumes, which allows the combustion chamber to generate more power.
In addition to dramatically dropping the air temperature, a CAI also improves the airflow. This is achieved thanks to larger tubes. Mandrel-bent and custom-molded, aftermarket tubes are a lot more efficient. Last, but not least, brands like K&N, aFe, and AEM remove the air box, which further improves the overall performance.
Why are Aftermarket CAI Systems Louder?
Do you know why the factory intake doesn’t make an aggressive sound? Well, because it’s not very efficient. As we just learned, a stock cold intake isn’t a match for a decent-quality aftermarket unit. It is “restrictive”, as the experts put it. In contrast, an aftermarket CAI will be able to provide up to 20, 30, or even 50 percent more airflow. And, according to the laws of physics, the stronger the airflow, the louder it is.
What can you do to keep the Noise to a Minimum?
A quick note: you might think that the CAI is simply louder, but it’s also different. You can hear the air rushing through the tubes. This is especially evident when you reach high RPMs and then quickly release the throttle. Now, the big brands like Ford, GM, Toyota, Nissan, and such always use so-called dampeners to control the noise.
Or, they implement an enclosed design for their intake systems so that the noise is “trapped”. Now, one of the most effective ways to keep the roaring at bay is to NOT go with a short ram. It will be pretty powerful, open, and work beautifully with other aftermarket gear. However, it will also be disturbingly loud. In contrast, a more “traditional” CAI is always more controlled and has a satisfying tone.
Another solution would be to wrap the tube in Dynamat. This has proven to be quite an effective solution for intakes. If you’re still not 100% happy with everything, try installing a resonator or a muffler on your exhaust system. It won’t be a game-changer for the Frontier, but can still dial that aggressive growl down.
The Biggest Pros and Cons of a New Cold Air Intake
Alright, now that we’ve talked about why aftermarket CAIs are louder and how to deal with that, here are the biggest pros and cons:
- More HP/torque. Depending on your truck and the actual air intake, you can expect to get extra 10-30-horsepower and torque
- Quicker acceleration. Thanks to a stronger airflow, the throttle will be fully open. As a result of beefed up throttle response, the Frontier will accelerate faster
- Higher mileage. The cold air helps the engine to maintain a perfect fuel-to-air ratio. Thus, it burns less fuel, making the entire system more fuel-efficient
- A longer engine lifespan. With a factory setup, the engine always lacks cold air and is often close to overheating. With a new CAI, you’ll greatly increase its lifespan
- Hydro-lock. If the aftermarket filter gets exposed, it will start to accumulate water. In the worst-case scenario, the water will reach the cylinders. A bypass valve can fix this for you, though
- Tricky installation. Unless the cold air intake was specifically designed for your Nissan Frontier, you might have to make new holes with a drill or cut the CAI to make it fit
- The price. Be ready to pay at least $250-300 for the new intake system. Otherwise, it won’t introduce any real improvements. The labor cost for the installation is pretty steep as well (100-150 US dollars)