Tune Required vs No-Tune Required Mustang Cold Air Intakes

Tune Required vs No-Tune Required Mustang Cold Air Intakes

Last Updated June 10, 2021 | Chris Cervenka

Cold Air Intakes For Your Mustang

A common question we get from customers interested in installing a cold air intake is the difference between intakes that require a tune and intakes that don't require a tune. Then, there are even some Mustang cold air intakes out there that have a removable spacer that will allow the owner to choose. The basic explanation is that the computer on a factory tune can only comprehend so much air registering through the mass air-flow (MAF) sensor in the intake tube. If you were to alter that air-flow too much, the engine could run lean and ultimately cause catastrophic engine failure. So, choosing the correct intake for your needs is vital to your Mustang engine's lifespan.

What Makes a Cold Air Intake “Tune-Required”

"power increases throughout the entire powerband"

The main difference between a “tune-required” intake is the diameter of the intake tube. This is because the computer is told from the factory that the intake tube is a certain diameter and if that diameter is altered, the engine could run too lean or idle incorrectly, which could ultimately cause serious problems.

That’s why some cold air intakes, like the Roush Intake for the 2015-2017 GT, included an 85mm spacer to allow Mustang owners to use the factory tune with their intake. This 85mm spacer will allow the Mustang’s computer on a factory tune to operate correctly with the added benefits of a freer-flowing filter with some power gains.

However, if you were to remove the 85 mm spacer to reveal the full 105 mm bore, the MAF sensor would be confused on a factory tune since the bore size was changed. If the computer is tuned correctly for this increase in intake bore size, then you will be able to see the full benefit of adding a cold air intake to your Mustang. With the computer allowing and recognizing more air through a larger bore, you’ll be able to really see power increases throughout the entire powerband. Especially towards the top!

Tune Required Cold Air Intakes

A 5.0 Coyote engine with a JLT intake Tune-Required JLT Intake on our 2015 Mustang GT

To get the absolute most out of your cold air intake, it’s important to pick up a tuner to finish the combo. Adding a cold air intake to your engine will definitely free up some power by removing restrictions in the intake track, but a proper tune will allow you to get the most out of your intake. A good example of a tune-required intake would be most JLT Performance intakes.

Ideally, if you're adding an intake to your Mustang, you'll want to pick up a tuner to go along with it. It's like adding a supercharger to your Mustang but keeping the factory all-season tires on the rear.

What's the use of having 600+ horsepower if you can't put it to the ground and spin all the way through 4th gear? The same kind of thinking goes along with a cold air intake. If you want to get the most out of your new intake, a tune to go along with the modification is what you need to finish the job properly!

Benefits of a Tune-Required Cold Air Intake:

  • A tune will allow you to get maximum power from your new cold air intake.
  • No question of whether or not your engine is running too lean.
  • Louder intake noise
  • Increased gas mileage
  • Better Throttle Response when combined with a tune

No-Tune Required Cold Air Intakes

Mustang Airaid Cold Air Intake installed on a GT No-Tune-Required Airaid Intake on our 2015 Mustang GT

The benefits of a cold air intake are awesome - more intake noise, added power, increased gas mileage - it’s almost a no-brainer! If you don’t want to get a tune in order to maximize the power increases of your cold air intake, there are still many reasons to rid of that factory airbox.

Adding a no-tune required cold air intake, such as most Airaid Intakes, you’ll still be able to see increased power, increase gas mileage, and the intake noise we all know and love. These numbers won’t be as drastically different than an intake/tune combo but definitely worth it.

A big reason why many opt for a no tune required cold air intake is the fact that you don’t have to mess with your Mustang’s computer. If you want to keep the factory tune intact on your Mustang but want a step up in power - a no tune required intake is the perfect choice for you!

Benefits of a No Tune Required Intake:

  • Slight increase in power
  • Louder intake noise
  • Increased gas mileage
  • Don’t have to tune - For those who are more concerned with the factory warranty

How to Install a Cold Air Intake

Cold air intakes usually can just be bolted onto the engine bay. Although there are a variety of ways that cold air intakes can be hooked up into the engine bay, the majority of them can be installed in a simple plug and play manner. This is another big reason why cold air intakes are such a popular mod. In case you want to see how simple this is yourself before taking the plunge, then check out this video from our video team that shows how easy it truly is.

Making The Choice

If you’re the kind of Mustang owner who wants to get every ounce of power from your ride, then a cold air intake and tune combo would be ideal for you. The tune will allow you to get every horsepower possible out of adding the intake to your car. It’s a win-win.

Now, if you’re just looking for a bump in power on your street car but aren’t too worried about getting every horsepower out of it, then a no tune required intake is for you. An added benefit of choosing this kind of intake is that you won’t have to tune your car which keeps your factory tune intact - this is very important to some Mustang owners.

Tune Required vs No-Tune Required Mustang Cold Air Intakes

If you’re looking to boost the power output on your Mustang, one of the first mods usually is a Cold Air Intake. The idea is to free up air-flow coming into the engine which allows your Mustang to breathe easier equating to more power. Factory airboxes are typically restrictive and don’t allow sufficient airflow to the throttle body and intake manifold in the upper RPM range. Adding a cold air intake will increase that air-flow when the engine needs it most allowing for more power!

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