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Will My Cold Air Intake Suck Up Water and Hydroloc My Engine?

  • Posted: 02-01-2016 07:13 PM
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It comes up fairly often, that cold-air intakes are questioned for use in rainy or wet areas because of the risk of engine damage. A recent email from a customer asks it all:

"I understand that heat soak is possible with short ram & can slow me down, but the possibility of hydrolocking on a brand new car [with a cold-air intake] doesn't sound very appealing to me. All my friends have very conflicting opinions on this & I'm basically caught up in the middle!"

Our reply puts it in real, honest terms:

"The hydrolocking issue has been blown out of proportion. While it is a very real thing, the chances of you actually encountering that scenario are very slim. Unless your daily commute involves fording small creeks or pools, that is.

"In all seriousness, you would have to be driving through seriously DEEP water, fully submerging the filter, for this to be a real threat. You'd also perhaps a lack common sense. We would not hesitate to use a cold air in a place where it rains heavily all the time (we have a store in the Porland area as well as Cali). You do need to be mindful that if you're driving through a freakishly deep puddle, it might be time to re-evaluate your route"


Even a cold air system where the filter is placed near the ground, the amount of water that is required to submerge the filter is usually 8-10 inches or more. Hold a tape measure up to your leg to see how deep that is. You would not likely drive through water this deep, and so you really should not have an issue.

Furthermore, the engine is going to want to stall if it tries to suck up water. The deeper you go, you might find that more throttle is needed to push through the river, but more than that you are just going to injest more water.

The next arguement made is typically:

"My car is really low though...the water would not need to be really deep for me to have an issue then?"

Well, theoretically, yes. But, aside from the issue of driving a car at an unsafe ride-height, this argeument can also be made about water being just a little bit deeper than you might think. In other words, it is commonly false judgement that causes issues more than the filter being a little lower to the ground.

The best rule of thumb is, if you cannot see or tell how deep the water is, avoid it. Go around or go another way. There are possibly times when you have no choice, but that would not preclude you from having an issue even in a completely stock car. At the end of the day, floods cause issues for cars. A cold air intake is not likely to work against you dramatically.



It can happen, definitely, that the filter may get WET, and not actually suck up water. The filter, if installed properly on the car, is covered in the frony by the bumper, and the bottom and sides by a splash shield. If you remove the splash sheilds from your car, it is highly recommended NOT to installa cold air intake, as the filter will be exposed to water and will surely become saturated in rain. This will not cause a hydroloc, but can suffocate and stall the engine until it dries.


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