metal intake tube

Metal vs Plastic Intakes: Pros And Cons

When it comes to enhancing the performance of your vehicle’s engine, upgrading the cold air intake system is a popular choice among enthusiasts. One of the key decisions you’ll face is whether to opt for a plastic or metal cold air intake. Each type has pros and cons, but metal cold air intakes offer a better solution for achieving optimal engine performance.

Read on as we explore the pros and cons of both options and explain why metal intakes are the best option. 

Plastic Cold Air Intakes

plastic cold air intake

Plastic cold air intakes are a popular accessory on many aftermarket auto part websites. These intakes are easier and cheaper to manufacture, typically using a rotational molding process. This process creates parts by pouring hot, liquid plastic into a mold that rotates, filling the void. While this process is inexpensive, it produces lower-quality parts which vary in thickness and can create air turbulence or reduced air optimization that can hinder any potential performance gains.  


  • Cost-Effective: Plastic intakes are generally cheaper to manufacture, resulting in a lower price point for consumers.
  • Lightweight: Plastic intakes are lighter than their metal counterparts, which can contribute to overall vehicle weight reduction.
  • Insulation: Plastic helps insulate against engine heat, preventing heat transfer and maintaining a lower intake air temperature.


  • Durability: Plastic can be more susceptible to cracking or breaking over time, especially when exposed to extreme temperatures or mechanical stress.
  • Heat Soak: Plastic intakes may suffer from heat soak, where accumulated engine heat affects the intake air temperature, potentially reducing performance gains.
  • Limited Airflow: Plastic’s structural limitations may hinder airflow optimization, limiting potential power gains.

Metal Cold Air Intakes

Chevy trailblazer intake

Metal cold air intakes offer a range of advantages that make them a superior choice for performance-oriented drivers. While they are typically more expensive than their plastic counterparts, better performance gains and a more durable and longer-lasting product more than offset that cost. Typically made from aluminum or stainless steel, they are better at shedding heat and can help dress up your engine bay.    


  • Durability and Longevity: Metal intakes are highly durable and less prone to damage, ensuring a longer lifespan and sustained performance.
  • Heat Dissipation: Metal efficiently dissipates heat, minimizing the risk of heat soak and maintaining a consistently cooler intake air temperature.
  • Improved Airflow: Metal intakes can be designed with smoother contours and larger diameters, enhancing airflow and potentially increasing horsepower and torque.
  • Engine Bay Aesthetics: Metal intakes often provide a polished and premium appearance that enhances the visual appeal of the engine bay.


  • Cost: Metal cold air intakes are generally more expensive due to the higher manufacturing and material costs.
  • Weight: Metal intakes are heavier than their plastic counterparts, which may have a marginal impact on overall vehicle weight.

The Superiority of Metal Cold Air Intakes

CAI intake

Metal cold air intakes offer a clear advantage over plastic counterparts in terms of durability, performance, and overall value. The ability to dissipate heat efficiently, maintain consistent intake air temperatures, and optimize airflow can significantly enhance engine power and responsiveness. While they may come at a slightly higher cost, the long-term benefits and improved performance make metal cold air intakes a superior investment for serious enthusiasts seeking to extract the most from their vehicle’s engine.

Why Choose A Cold Air Inductions Product?

At Cold Air Inductions, we do real power testing that shows actual power gains. Our cold air intake systems are built to the highest quality using OEM-quality fittings and retaining all of the original sensors. At CAI we’re Tier 1 OEM suppliers, and our kits include:

  • Inspection window on certain kits – great to check the reusable air filters
  • Powder-coated aluminum components to reduce intake temps
  • Perfectly insulated air boxes to maximize cold airflow
  • OEM-spec fasteners and connectors
  • Retention of stock OEM sensors

Cold Air Inductions has been a leading manufacturer of sealed cold air intake systems since 2004. All our intake kits are designed and engineered for specific vehicles to deliver noticeable improvements over stock performance and come with a lifetime warranty. 

Contact us to order your CAI cold air intake kit today.