(Editor's note: We're trying something new here by offering a few quick-install stories that could help your pickup with better performance, fuel economy, style, or all of the above. And they can be done right in your driveway. Let us know what you think or pass along some of your own quick-fixes, problem-solvers or pickup improvements that worked for you and your rig.)
The two things that most of us wish for in our pickup trucks is more power and better fuel economy. We recently ran across a cold air intake kit that can be installed in less than 30 minutes and promises to deliver both without voiding the warranty or triggering a check engine light. We used the intake system from Cold Air Induction, which costs just less than $400 if you do the install yourself. There are other companies that offer similar products, so if you're interested we suggest you do additional research for applications that fit your truck and price range.
Air intake upgrades are nothing new, but a few things about the Cold Air Inductions system intrigued us. In addition to increasing airflow to the engine by reducing restrictions in the air box, air filter and air tube, the system features thermal barriers to keep under-hood heat from increasing the temperature of the air entering the engine. Cooler air is denser, so it delivers more air to the engine enabling the engine to make more power. Additionally, the air box and air tube are made from high-grade aluminum to save weight. The kit even includes a window into the filter so you can visually inspect the filter at any time. As a result, the air cleaner can be cleaned and oiled as needed for longer life.
We broke out a few hand tools and a stopwatch to see how long it would take to install the kit on a 2016 GMC Sierra 1500 Z71 with the 6.2-liter V-8. This kit is the same set-up for a Chevrolet Silverado with the same engine.
Here's how easy it was to install.
Cars.com photos by Cole Quinnell
The kit we used also fits a 2014-2015 Chevy Silverado 1500 and GMC Sierra 1500 with the 6.2-liter V-8. Kits also are available for the 5.3-liter V-8 as well as many older GM pickups and SUVs. We chose a system finished in textured-black powder coat, but the company also offers a near-chrome powder coat.
The first steps are to remove the fender brace and disconnect the battery. Next, remove the T15 Torx screws that hold the mass air flow sensor in the factory air tube. Do not remove the electrical connector from the sensor — doing so will trip a check engine light when you reconnect the battery and start the truck. Leave the harness connected and move the MAF sensor away from the air intake.
There are two positive crankcase ventilation tubes; one on each side of the factory air box connecting to each valve cover. Push down on the locking sleeve at the valve cover to release these hoses. Then loosen the large hose clamps that connect the air box to the throttle body and the air tube to the air box.
There is a wiring loom attached to the rear corner of the air box; remove this. The air box is mounted with a rubber-stubs stud pushed into a hole in the inner fender well. Hold the air box firmly, wiggle it back and forth and lift up to remove it.
Remove the rubber mount from the factory air box and install it in the bottom of the Cold Air Inductions air box. You may need to gently use a flat-blade screwdriver to insert it, but be careful not to damage the mount. In this photo you can see the heat-barrier material that lines the Cold Air Inductions air box.
You'll need to temporarily remove the windshield-washer reservoir before you can install the new air box. Use a 10-millimeter socket to loosen the mounting bracket. Leave the hoses connected and simply set the reservoir on top of the engine. Set the Cold Air Inductions air box in place and firmly push down. You may have to rock the box side to side while pushing down to get all of the mounts to seat completely.
Next install the silicon elbow coupler supplied with the new system to the factory throttle body, and connect the new PCV hoses to each valve cover. Position the new hose clamps so they will be easy to tighten once all of the components are in place.
Insert the new air tube through the air box and slide the Cold Air Inductions pre-oiled air filter onto the end. Rotate the air filter so that the metal pleat clamp (a strip of metal that runs the length of the air filter) is facing down in the air box. Install the air tube in the silicone elbow at the throttle body. Once you have all of the pieces aligned properly, tighten the large hose clamp at the throttle body, silicone elbow and air filter.
Using the 0.5-millimeter Allen head bolts supplied in the kit, install the MAF sensor in the new air tube. You may need to adjust the inner sleeve of the air tube to align the holes properly. Then the air-box lid installs with spring-loaded quarter-turn screws that are captured in the lid. This makes removing the lid for service quick and easy, and you don't have to worry about losing the fasteners.
Reconnect the battery and install the fender brace. The finished system looks great and performs even better. We completed the install in less than 30 minutes.
There are a few proof points when it comes to power. For dyno testing, we used a rear-wheel dyno to measure the power improvement at the rear wheels. We found a gain in horsepower and torque over the entire rpm band tested, and a peak difference of 12 pounds-feet of torque and 6 hp. While driving our GMC the throttle response seemed improved, and we noticed a throatier sound when romping on the throttle. Under normal driving conditions we saw a fuel-economy improvement more than 2 mpg, which is an almost 15 percent improvement in combined highway and city driving.