Cold Air Intake Installation

This article briefly demonstrates how easy it is to install a Cold Air Intake (CAI) on a Mustang. A CAI is often the very first performance mod added to a Mustang. They are inexpensive and easy to install. By itself the CAI can add 2-10 HP, but the real gains are seen as you add other intake modifications. The CAI provides the increased airflow needed to support more power modifications. A CAI helps in several ways. First it includes a low restriction air cleaner that smooths airflow and reduces friction. Second it includes a metal or plastic intake piping that is straighter and smoother than the stock intake. This further smooths the airflow reducing friction. Lastly, it is designed to insulate the air from engine heat. Cooler air is denser and able to provide increased oxygen to the engine. It installs in under an hour using basic hand tools.

For this demonstration we'll install a K&N brand CAI generously donated by Auto Anything. Auto Anything sells a wide variety of top name products at excellent prices. We highly recommend their products and great service. Check out their website.


We installed the CAI on a bone stock 98 GT convertible. Follow along the pictures below to see how easy it is.

The first step for engine work is always the same: Disconnect the negative battery cable. This is important for two reasons. First for safety, second it clears the Power Train Control Module (PCM) memory. This allows the PCM to recalibrate itself when you restart the engine, thus adjusting to the work you have done. This is very important for mods like the CAI. Without it the engine will not properly manage the air/fuel ration. The second step in the CAI installation is to remove the stock air intake system. On the SN95 cars this is quite easy. First loosen the work clamp at the Throttle Body. Then remove the bolts holding the air intake box to the inner fender. Finally disconnect the air temperature sensor wire (from the side of the intake tube) and remove any vacuum hoses from the intake tube. Now you can lift the entire assemble from the car


Looking at the intake you have just removed you can see two important parts you will need to move to the CAI. The first is the Mass Airflow Sensor (MAF) indicated by the green arrow. The second is the Air Temperature Sensor (ATS) pointed out with the red arrow. Not all models of Mustangs will have the (ATS). The ATS simply pulls out of the grommet. Note the direction it faces. When installed the filament must be exposed fully to the air flow. It should reinstalled the facing the same direction (or 180 degrees out).

The K&N CAI did not come with a hole for the ATS since not all cars use it. The instructions however, clearly indicated how to proceed. A small dimple was formed in the CAI at the correct position. A few seconds with a drill opened the correct size hole for the ATS. You then simply installed the grommet provided by K&N in the new hole. Reinstall the ATS facing the same direction as the original intake.

The next step is removing the MAF from the stock intake. it is held in place with 4 nuts. The bolts have a tendency to rotate when you try to loosen the nuts so we used a small socket wrench on the end of the bolts to hold them from turning while we loosened the nuts.

The other end of the MAF is held to the intake with a work clamp. Simply loosen the clamp and remove the intake.

The MAF is now ready to mount on the CAI. The CAI consists of a Heat shield, a Air filter and adapter, plastic piping, silicone connectors and all the necessary hardware including clamps, bolts, brackets, etc. The first step in assembling the CAI was installing trim onto the heat shield. This was a little tricky but not too difficult. Firm pressure was required along with a little trimming.

Bolting the MAF to the CAI proved to be the only difficult part of the installation. The provided bolts were just barely long enough to work and considerable effort was required to hold the parts in place and squeeze them together enough to get the nuts on. An extra 1/8 - 1/4 inch bolt length would have helped tremendously. The bolts had to go through the MAF, Heat shield, and Air filter adapter then the nuts were added. The gasket on the MAF had to be compressed adding to the difficulty.

Two of the bolts also required mounting brackets before the nuts were installed and tightened using a Allen wrench and socket wrench.

With the MAF installed to the heat shield, the rest of the assembly was quite easy. One silicone adapter was slid onto the MAF then the Plastic tube was slid into the other end. Both ends were secured with clamps. The remaining silicon tube was then clamped to the other end of the Plastic tube.

Final assembly was very easy. The Filter was clamped to the CAI assembly, then the last large clamp was placed on the open silicon tube before it was slid onto the Throttle body. The whole unit was then lowered into place.

One bolt was used to hold the brackets to the engine accessories and all the clamps were tightened.

The final steps include plugging in the ATS wiring harness, and connecting the vacuum hoses to the CAI with the provided hose adapters. Do one final check that everything is tightened and all the tools are removed from the engine bay, then reconnect the negative battery cable. Finally stand back and enjoy the results.

I especially like the look of this K&N CAI. Its black plastic looks right at home in the SN95 engine bay. Not as showy as the polished metal CAIs it looks very similar to the stock Factory CAIs provided on some later model Mustangs.

MCA