Installing an aftermarket intake system on a car is one of the easiest ways to gain power. While most people think of their car as a machine that gets them from point A to Point B, car enthusiasts see things a lot differently.

We wanted to fill out the Corvette product line, especially with an older car that is going to second and third owners who are interested in modifications. – Trent Mcgee, AIRAID

For example, to the average non-car enthusiast, purchasing an aftermarket air intake might seem like an unnecessary expense, but a gearhead knows that a quality aftermarket performance intake system can help the performance of their car significantly. 

AIRAID has been making performance intakes for various models, including the C6 Corvette, for some time. New for 2014, they’ve decided to fill the void and produce a C5 Corvette intake for the masses, which we’ll be installing on one of our C5 projects to give it some much needed, fresh, cool air. 

 Product Overview

The overall construction and quality of AIRAID’s C5 cold-air intake is on point. The roto-molded intake tube fits great in place of the factory intake tube and includes all of the hardware needed to mount it to the radiator core support.

A carbon fiber intake tube is also available and looks amazing under the hood. “The plastic intake tube performed exactly the same as the carbon fiber intake tube, but doesn’t look nearly as sexy,” stated Trent McGee of AIRAID.  At 1,600 cfm, the 800 hp rated air filter is huge and has an abundance of surface area for great, unrestricted airflow, while accommodating the specific clearance needs of Corvettes. Also included in the kit is a hump hose that connects the intake tube to the throttle body as well as a special adapter to mate the mass airflow sensor to the filter assembly. 

AIRAID’s C5 system, as well as any other intake system they produce, is available with a traditional oiled SynthaFlow filter, or their SynthaMax filter, which does not require oil. The SynthaFlow filter uses oil to help trap particles with multiple layers of cotton gauze, while the SynthaMax filter uses no oil – just layers of synthetic material. Both filters come with a lifetime warranty and can be washed to last the life of the car. By offering washable and reuseable filters, AIRAID is saving their customers money as traditional paper filters need to be replaced on a regular basis.

 Removing The Factory Intake

As with any install like this, the first thing you always want to make sure you do is disconnect the negative battery cable, so that there is no power going through the vehicle. A lot of people who work on their own cars often ignore this step – if you so happen to touch a wrench or anything metallic to the terminal while working on the car when the battery is still connected, it could result in shock and possibly fry some of the car’s electronic accessories.

Filter Options

AIRAID’s cold-air intake for the C5 Corvette has two options for the filter material – the traditional oiled Synthaflow filter material or the Synthamax dry filter material. In the traditional oiled filter, the media is comprised of four layers of cotton gauze and one synthetic layer which does two things – gets the filtration to where it needs to be and keeps the oil suspended in the filter media. The Synthamax dry filter media is comprised of multiple layers of synthetic material developed by AIRAID. Both filter materials are available in blue or red and flow within 5% of each other.

The next couple of steps to remove the factory intake are to disconnect the air pump breather line from the air box and loosen the clamp that connects the intake tube to the throttle body. This will allow the flex hose to be removed from the throttle body so the mounting grommets can be unseated from the posts on the radiator shroud. Once the mounting grommets are unseated, voila, the factory intake assembly can be removed all at once – not hard at all, right?

Some Assembly Required

With the factory unit out of the way, AIRAID’s unit can finally be assembled and installed. First, the filter assembly will be constructed by mounting the filter onto the filter base and securing the two pieces with the large hose clamp – ours just happened to come assembled.

Next up is transferring the MAF sensor to the intake tube. Take note, our C5 is a 1997, which has the earlier style MAF sensor that has a separate intake air temperature sensor as opposed to the 2001-2004 style MAF sensor which has it built in. Since ours is the earlier style MAF, we took the grommet and the sensor receptacle from the factory intake tube and transferred those over to AIRAID’s intake tube.

Here you can see the grommet and sensor receptacle being used in the half-inch hole we drilled out for the intake air temperature sensor.

To do this, we drilled a half-inch hole into the intake tube right before the throttle body coupler and stuck the grommet in there, along with the sensor receptacle. If this kit is being installed on an ’01-’04 model C5, the MAF sensor is the later style and the intake tube will not need to be drilled out for the intake air temperature sensor. 

Next, we decided to be a little proactive and install the tube brackets onto the intake tube using the four socket-head screws provided with the kit. After the brackets were nice and snug, we installed the silicone hump hose on the throttle body side of the intake tube, and finished by installing the silicone coupler on the filter side.

From left to right: The factory mounting grommets installed in the intake tube brackets, the MAF being installed onto the intake tube, and the filter being installed onto the MAF/intake tube assembly.

To complete the preparation for the intake tube, we transferred the intake tube mounting grommets to the tube brackets, which in turn allowed the intake tube to be mounted to the radiator support and keeps the tube from flailing around during acceleration or over bumps. With the intake tube prepped, we installed the factory mass airflow sensor to the silicone coupler. Once that was secured, we secured the filter to the mass airflow sensor – the intake assembly is now ready to be installed.

This photo shows the piece of three-inch silicone hose that we replaced the hump hose with for a better fit.

To install the intake assembly, it really is as easy as you think, and that’s what’s great about this kit – simplicity. However, when we fitted our intake assembly to the throttle body, the intake tube mounting grommets didn’t line up with the posts on the radiator support. To fix that little fitment issue, we grabbed some three-inch silicone hose and cut it a little shorter than the hump hose, so the intake tube mounting brackets lined up with the posts on the radiator support. After resolving that fitment issue, we were back in business.

With everything fitting great, we dropped the intake assembly into place for the final time. When seating the filter into place, the filter end cap should positively engage the two grommet posts on the inner frame to hold it in place. Next, we positioned the intake tube coupler on the throttle body loosely and secured the intake tube brackets to the grommet posts on the radiator shroud. When everything looked good, we tightened the silicone coupler to the throttle body, plugged in the MAF sensor, seated the intake air temperature sensor in the receptacle, and connected the air pump breather line onto the coupler on the filter base. After tightening up the couplers and making sure everything was secure, it was time to make a few dyno runs.

The Increase 

Once the car was on the dyno, we did a few warm-up pulls to get the engine up to operating temperature. The baseline run resulted in 341.2 hp and 350.6 lb-ft of torque – keep in mind that our C5 has full Comp Cams valvetrain and a FAST 92mm intake manifold, this isn’t a stock LS1 engine. With AIRAID’s cold-air intake installed, we saw a gain of roughly 10.0 hp and 6.5 lb-ft of torque

Conclusion

Our experience with AIRAID’s C5 Corvette cold-air intake has been great – it is really easy and straight to the point to install. We did have to make a few modifications, but they were easy fixes.  The increase in power is great, plus, the intake assembly looks great under the hood with the massive, red Synthamax filter sitting at the nose of the car. Whether you’re experienced at turning wrenches or just starting out, AIRAID’s cold-air intake kit is a great first DIY project for those who are willing to invest a little bit of their time to seize some nice results – a true gateway drug to the world of car modification.