A cold air intake, or performance intake, is a great mod to increase power and engine efficiency on the 6.0 Powerstroke. Since the 6.0 Powerstroke is a turbocharged engine the increased airflow over the stock intake system helps improve turbo efficiency and increase horsepower.
There are tons of 6.0 Powerstroke intakes on the market. You’ll see names from performance intake to cold air intake to ram air intake. All these intakes are virtually the same. This guide will discuss the different intake upgrade options available and provide our recommendation on the best 6.0 Powerstroke intakes on the market.
6.0 Powerstroke Intake Upgrade Benefits
A cold air intake helps the 6.0 Powerstroke breathe better by increasing airflow by more than 30% over the stock intake. The increased airflow reduces stress on the turbocharger, allows it to spool more quickly and with less restriction. This increases overall engine efficiency and therefore increases horsepower, in addition to providing a bit more turbo reliability.
An upgraded intake on a stock 6.0 Powerstroke won’t provide the same benefits as on a tuned 6.0L, but it still offers great performance gains. Gains increase for tuned engines since the primary way a tuner increases power is by increase boost, or the psi the turbo compresses air to. When boost or psi is increased the turbocharger has to work harder to compress the same amount of air to higher pressures.
The more compressed the air is, the less “space” it takes up and therefore the more air you have to send into the engine. This is when the stock 6.0 Powerstroke intake becomes restrictive because it cannot supply enough air to compensate for the additional air needed. Here are the performance benefits of a cold air intake:
- 5-12whp gains
- 15-25wtq gains
- 30%+ increase to airflow
- Better throttle response & turbo spool
- Small MPG increases
- Cool engine sounds
Power gains on a stock 6.0 Powerstroke are going to be on the lower end of the range. Tuned engines will be towards the higher end as the benefit of a cold air intake increases when boost levels are increased.
Cold Air vs. Ram Air vs. Performance Intake
As we mentioned above, you’ll see numerous names for aftermarket 6.0 Powerstroke intakes. Cold air intake is probably the most common name but also the least accurate. A true cold air intake typically relocates the air filter to a location within the engine bay that is cooler. This is popular on JDM vehicles where the intake filter is relocated to the bottom inside of the front bumper. The purpose of a real cold air intake is to draw in colder air since colder air is more dense.
Ram air intakes typically keep the stock intake location but simply aim to remove restriction and increase air flow. They are slightly less restrictive in the sense that they draw air in a lot closer to the engine giving a shorter path to travel to reach the turbocharger.
All the intake systems on the market for the 6.0 Powerstroke utilize the factory intake location. My ultimate point here is that whether your intake is called a cold air, ram air, or performance intake they are all virtually the same thing since no intake systems actually re-route the location of the air filter.
The only important factor for a 6.0 Powerstroke intake is whether it is an open or closed intake.
Open vs. Closed 6.0 Powerstroke Intakes
You will see two different 6.0 Powerstroke intake designs: open and closed. Closed intakes have the air filter sitting within an enclosed box. Open intakes have the air filter exposed directly to the engine bay and not housed in anything.
Open intakes provide greater increases to airflow whereas closed intakes provide less airflow benefits since the box they sit within creates some restriction. Additionally, open intakes are also a bit noisier and provide a more noticeable “whoosh” sound which some people like and some don’t. The argument for closed intakes is that they provide lower intake air temps (IATs) since they are not directly exposed to hot engine bay air.
So which is better? We prefer open air intake systems for the 6.0 Powerstroke since it provides greater airflow increases and therefore more performance benefits.
If you want quieter noise then get a closed air intake, but otherwise we recommend open intakes. They are cheaper and provide more power gains. Some open intakes will come with “heat shields” that are said to prevent the intake from sucking in hot air. Heat shields are pretty much window dressing and don’t really do much.
Do Intake Air Temps Matter for Turbodiesels?
You might be leaning towards a closed intake system since I mentioned they do tend to have colder intake air temps. However, the difference in air temps between an open and closed intake is probably in the range of 1-3 degrees, so it’s rather minimal.
Secondly, air intake temps really don’t matter for turbocharged engines. On turbo engines, like the 6.0 turbodiesel, the air goes from the intake system to the turbo. Turbos run very hot and therefore heat the air up naturally as it compresses it. After being compressed by the turbo it goes through the intercooler which cools it down before it enters the engine. The difference of 1-3 degrees isn’t going to overwhelm your intercooler and its ability to cool the air.
Do they matter for naturally aspirated engines? Yes. Because air entering the intake is sent directly into the engine. So if it’s 5 degrees hotter when it enters the intake it will be 5 degrees hotter when it enters the combustion chamber. But for turbocharged engines the difference is miniscule due to the turbo and intercooler.
Best 6.0 Powerstroke Cold Air Intakes
As we mentioned above, we prefer open air intakes since they are cheaper and provide better power gains. There are also some really good closed intakes available for the 6.0 Powerstroke, they just provide slightly less performance benefits and are more expensive.
At the end of the day, a closed intake will be just fine for your diesel unless you are shooting for crazy power levels to the point that you really need the extra airflow they provide. However, better performance and less expensive sounds like a win win to us for open intakes.
1. Sinister Diesel 6.0 Powerstroke Open Intake
I mentioned that open intakes are cheaper. Sinister Diesel is probably the only exception to this statement as their intake is about the same price as closed intake systems. However, they are top quality which is reflective in the price. And the striking blue color looks cooler in your engine bay.
While a pricier option on the list, Sinister’s open intake will provide peak performance gains and is legal in all 50 states, including California.
More affordable open air intakes:
- GDP (Gorilla Performance): $290
- WCFab: $387
- No Limit Fabrication: $349
2. Banks Power & S&B Closed 6.0 Intake
Our favorite closed intakes are Banks Power and S&B. Both intakes are pretty similar although the S&B option comes in about $100 cheaper and actually cheaper than the Sinister open intake as well. These 6.0 Powerstroke intake systems will provide less power and airflow than open systems but will also be slightly quieter. These two companies are some of the most trusted names in the diesel space and are the only two closed systems we would recommend.
Price: $349 S&B / $449 Banks Power
6.0 Powerstroke Intake Upgrade Summary
Whether your 6.0 Powerstroke is completely stock or tuned, an intake is one of the best performance modifications. It increases airflow to the engine which improves turbo efficiency and therefore increases horsepower. Power gains are modest on stock engines but will open the engine up and help it breathe better resulting in faster turbo spool and better throttle response. On tuned engines an intake will provide nice power gains and also help improve turbo reliability.
We recommend open air intake systems since they provide more airflow and therefore better power gains. The only time we recommend a closed system is when you really really care about noise and want something a bit quieter. The slightly lower intake temps from closed systems are outweighed by the increased airflow of open systems as intake temps aren’t meaningful. However, closed intakes will still provide enough improvement to airflow unless you are shooting for huge power levels.