Ford F-150 Cold Air Intake System Comparison

Long Term Aftermarket Air Intake System Reviews

The following evaluation of the most popular cold air intake systems available for the Ford F-150 is not a quick and dirty review; it's an extensive evaluation 10 years and over 120,000 miles in the making. During the course of our journey, we frequently swapped products and compared them relative to one another as well as against the factory air intake system. As a result, we're able to compare the quality, performance, reliability, fit and finish, and overall value of each system.

Disclaimer - This review is subjective in nature and includes the opinions of the author(s). All results and experiences may vary considerably by application. This is NOT a paid endorsement of any of the products featured herein and no compensation was received for the publishing of this article; all products acquired at retail value through authorized retail outlets. A dynamometer was not used in any of the test results; all claims made with regard to performance (with the exception of manufacturer claims) are entirely subjective.

Test Vehicle & Parameters


2002 Ford F-150 SuperCab

Drive Type:

4 wheel drive



Differential Ratio:

3.55 : 1

Mileage @ Start:

80,000 miles

Mileage @ End:

200,000 miles

Additional Modifications:

Custom exhaust system
Edge Evolution CS programmer (transmission programming only)

Product Overviews

Manufacturer & Part Number

Price as Tested

Manufacturer Claims


AirAid 400-109


Increased horsepower and torque (no specific figures)

Lifetime (limited)

AirForce One Performance 16408


Increases of up to 15 HP for 4.6L, 17-18 HP for 5.4L


S&B Filters 75-2514-4


68.5% greater flow than stock intake system

1,000,000 miles (limited)

Advanced Flow Engineering (AFE) 51-10082


12 HP, 13 lb-ft gains, up to 46% greater airflow than factory air box

2 years

K&N Engineering 57-2541


Up to 13.12 HP increase (5.4L engines)

1,000,000 mile (limited)

Results - AirAid vs AFE vs S & B vs K & N






• Perfect OEM fit
• Desirable CCV & IAC hose placement
• Best low-end performance
• Aesthetically pleasing.

• Loose fitting IAT sensor
• No air filter heat shield

Air filter broke at base due to vibration (replaced under warranty, no hassle from AirAid). Expired CARB executive order number; never rectified by manufacturer despite multiple attempts.

AFE Power

• Desirable CCV & IAC hose placement
• Great OEM fit
• Good all around performance & throttle response
• Dry filter requires no oil
• Aesthetically pleasing
• Sturdy filter heat shield

• Poor intake tube fitment (tube too short, installed at awkward angle)
• Thin walled intake tube at hose clamp locations

Intake tube failed at hose clamp location 2 months beyond warranty period.

S&B Filters

• Solid mounting technique
• Thick, sturdy intake boots
• Good fitment w/ modifications to MAF adapter
• Filter heat shield
• Good all around performance & throttle response

• Light whistling noise
• Crankcase vent hose location undesirable
• Loose fitting IAT sensor

MAF sensor adapter and airbox required modification for proper alignment on vehicle.


• Good top-end performance.
• Filter heat shield

• Heavy whistling noise with and without factory intake resonator
• Poor low-end performance
• Poor intake tube fitment
• Undesirable CCV & IAT hose routing

IAT sensor seal disintegrated during installation (manufacturer not contacted, problem eradicated with hardware store fix).

Noisy; produced whistling/whooshing noises at varying frequencies relative to engine RPM. Obnoxious, harsh vibration at idle, MAF adapter contacting heat shield.

AirForce One

• Attractive stainless steel intake tube
• Good top-end performance

• Poor low-end performance
• Poor fitment of air filter adapter
• Poor CCV & IAT hose routing, improper hose sizing

Dirty, corroded intake tube. MAF sensor adapter required modification for proper fitment on vehicle. Poor customer service experience. CCV hose adapter fitting eventually severed from boot.

In-Depth Cold Air Intake Reviews

AFE Power

Installation Ease & Instructions:

AFE's air intake system was a textbook installation, much like the AirAid. Everything bolted up as intended with no modifications required. The CCV and IAC hose routing was simple and straight forward. The MAF sensor adapter and heat shield bolted into place with ease.

Fit, Finish, & Quality:

Clean, aesthetically pleasing appearance. The integrity of the intake tube was called into question when it sandwiched under the pressure of the band clamp. Beyond that, the components are high quality and seem manufactured to high standards.

Performance & Fuel Economy:

Great all around performance with low end response similar to that of the AirAid, but with more confidence on the top end. AFE claims an extra 12 horsepower, which seems reasonable. 1 to 2 mpg fuel economy increase with results depending on driving conditions.


Very easy to "overtighten" the boot at the MAF sensor and dent the plastic intake tube, causing a leak.

Problems, Gripes, & Overall value:

Other than an obvious weak spot at one end of the intake tube (a little extra material would go a long ways in strengthening this particular point), no problems to report. This is the editor's pick and overall favorite at F150 Hub; a great product and great value. Highly recommend the dry filter option.

S&B Filters

Installation Ease & Instructions:

The S & B cold air intake suffered from similar fitment issues as the AirForce One. While the CCV/IAC hoses were correctly sized and placed, the heat shield and MAF sensor adapters required drilling new holes to properly fit the vehicle. Despite the modifications, installation was fairly straight forward.

Fit, Finish, & Quality:

Clean OEM look, however we found the chrome accent piece on the air filter itself to be somewhat odd and out-of-place. Hardware and components appear well made and manufactured with high standards.

Performance & Fuel Economy:

Great all around performance with strong throttle response. No dynamometer results are provided by S & B for this intake system. Overall good compromise between low and high end performance without favoring one over the other. 1 to 2 mpg increase over fuel economy with factory air box, but limited fuel economy testing was performed on this product.


No problems to report; CCV routing is undesirable and runs the risk of eventually chaffing the vent hose that connects to the driver side valve cover.

Problems, Gripes, & Overall value:

Fitment could be improved for 4.6L applications, however the S & B intake ranks high in overall value; it is the least expensive unit tested, but easily earns top marks in most of our criteria. If the CCV hose routing was more like the AirAid or AFE intakes, it would be a tie for the editor's pick.


Installation Ease & Instructions:

The AirAid cold air intake was the easiest to install and coincidently had the best OEM fit. The kit slid right into place and the CCV/IAC re-routes actually increased the simplicity of the installation (this was a major challenge on select competitors systems). To be fair, it's worth noting that this system does not feature a heat shield around the filter, thus simplifying the installation process.

Fit, Finish, & Quality:

Excellent fit and finish.

Performance & Fuel Economy:

Excellent throttle response and overall power gains. While no dynamometer results are provided by AirAid, this intake system significantly strengthens low end performance and provides reasonable gains at higher engine speeds. 1 to 3 mpg increase depending on driving conditions (max 21 mpg recorded with intake system on ~ 350 mile round trip @ ~ 70 mph).


The broken air filter (picture available in figures near end of article) has us questioning the long term reliability of this product. To be fair, the AirAid intake was tested the longest and thus had somewhere around 40,000 miles on it when the failure occurred. Nonetheless, we'd like to think that product was designed to last considering AirAid is the only manufacturer to offer a lifetime warranty (S&B and K&N offer 1,000,000 mile warranties).

Problems, Gripes, & Overall value:

Because it was the most expensive product tested, it's difficult to claim it was the best value. However, this is a very good product with great performance and fuel economy gains; would purchase again without hesitation.

K & N

Installation Ease & Instructions:

The K & N system we tested had the most complicated and time consuming installation process. This system features separate hardware for 4.6L and 5.4L installations. While we can appreciate K & N's due diligence, there were issues with the CCV and IAC hose routing. The MAF sensor adapter bolted up without modifications, but the intake tube support bracket doesn't seem to position the filter correctly inside of the heat shield (the smaller 4.6L bracket secures the intake tube too low while the 5.4L bracket is entirely too tall).

Fit, Finish, & Quality:

Intake tube fitment is questionable, and the system lacks aesthetic value; it's quite plain. The CCV hose mess cannot be hidden because the throttle body cover will no longer fit. The components seem of good quality, but between the harsh vibrations and whistling/howling noises...this one leaves us skeptical.

Performance & Fuel Economy:

Good mid-range and top end performance characteristics, but somewhat sluggish throttle response and low end power. K & N claims a 13.12 horsepower increase for trucks equipped with the 5.4L V-8. The K & N kit had the lowest fuel economy gains at 1 mpg, however it was also tested the least (~ 3,000 miles) due to the noise issues. More data may have affected the overall reporting on fuel economy gains.


IAT sensor grommet broken during installation. While installing the sensor in the appropriate bung, the grommet begin to deteriorate in large chunks (it's a tight fit). Aside from that remark, there's not much to say with regards to reliability as we didn't keep the K & N system installed long.

Problems, Gripes, & Overall value:

As a result of the whistling sounds, which overpowered the exhaust note of our single chamber Flowmaster, and the resonance caused by the filter adapter contacting the heat shield at idle, we didn't test the K & N as extensively as some of the competing products. The K & N system we tested receives a poor ranking in overall value. Poor fitment, less desirable performance characteristics, and the aforementioned grievances. As the 2nd most expensive system tested, we had much higher expectations for a leading name in automotive filtration products.

AirForce One

Installation Ease & Instructions:

The AirForce One intake system was difficult to install because several of the components did not fit correctly. Several correspondences were exchanged with the manufacturer to verify we had received the correct part for our application. Despite improperly sized CCV and IAC hose fittings and a filter adapter that did not bolt up to our MAF sensor, we were advised to modify as necessary.

Fit, Finish, & Quality:

Attractive appearance, high quality intake boots. However, the CCV hose installation method is poor and the CCV hose adapter is made of a cheap, low grade material.

Performance & Fuel Economy:

Poor low end performance and throttle response, but excellent mid-range and top-end power gains that increased confidence greatly when merging onto the freeway. No dynamometer results are provided by the manufacturer, however they claim a 15 horsepower increase for 4.6L V-8 equipped trucks and up to 18 horsepower for 5.4L V-8 equipped trucks. 1 to 2 mpg increase over fuel economy with factory air box, depending on driving conditions.


CCV hose adapter/fitting broke after a few thousand miles of driving (system is clearly flawed).

Problems, Gripes, & Overall value:

While it looks nice, the AirForce One intake system is lackluster in its quality. At the time we acquired this unit, it was the "must have" intake system for F-150 owners. The business disappeared 2 to 3 years after our purchase. While not a "bad" value, we wouldn't own another; there are much better products out there at similar or even lower costs.

Figures & Photos

Click any image thumbnail to view full-size

AirAid intake installed; this product provides a very clean appearance when the hood is popped, and the plastic engine cover still fits over the throttle body.

AirForce One intake installed; While the stainless steel finish is attractive, the CCV hose routing eliminates the use of the engine cover and thus is visible.

S&B intake installed; simple, clean appearance, however the chrome accent piece on the filter assembly seems out of place.

Closeup view of the poor fitment between the intake tube/air filter adapter and the heat shield on the K & N intake system.

Closeup view of the CCV hose routing [mess] on the K & N system, including the interference with a nearby bracket.

Closeup view of the broken filter assembly on the AirAid intake system; the failure was blamed on an overtightened clamp.

Closeup view of the crushed intake tube on the AFE intake system. This failure was also blamed on an overtightened clamp. We believe a failure of this type should not happen and that the material thickness at this location is to blame.

Horsepower and torque chart for the AFE Power intake system tested on a 5.4L engine.
Source: AFE Power, as published on their website

Horsepower and torque chart for the K & N intake system tested on a 5.4L engine.
Source: K & N, as published on their website


K&N Engineering Inc -

Advanced Flow Engineering -

AirAid -

S&B Filters Inc -