The Ford 6.4 Powerstroke diesel engine delivers 350 horsepower and 650 lb-ft of torque. That’s solid performance for an engine introduced 15 years ago. However, it’s also fair to call it lackluster by modern diesel standards. Worry not, though. A few simple bolt-on upgrades can take the 6.4L PowerStroke to the next level. Among the best upgrades is a simple cold air intake kit. In this guide, we discuss 6.4 Powerstroke intake upgrades, benefits, hp gains, and recommend some of the best intake systems.
6.4 PowerStroke Intake Upgrade Benefits
A 6.4 Powerstroke cold air intake in a great upgrade for many reasons. Power and torque gains are the primary reasons owners look for aftermarket intake systems. However, the benefits don’t stop there. Some notable benefits to 6.4 Powerstroke intake upgrade kits include:
- 20-30%+ increase in airflow
- Quicker throttle response & turbo spool
- Potential MPG improvements
- Awesome turbo/induction sounds
- Cleaner engine bay
Horsepower gains with a 6.4 Powerstroke intake can vary a lot depending on tuning and other mods. A bone stock truck will likely see minimal to no gains with an intake. The stock intake is effective around stock power levels. However, start increasing boost and power and a 6.4 cold air intake can offer 5-10+whp and 10-20+wtq. The higher-end is typically seen with more serious mods like a turbo upgrade.
Intakes can also lead to better throttle response and quicker turbo spool. This is possible due to the increase in airflow and a more efficient intake design overall. Some 6.4L PS owners also see small improvement in fuel economy.
Cold air intakes can also provide noticeable increases in turbo and induction noise. Some of this depends on the design of the intake, which we discuss in a couple sections. Lastly, they can allow for a cleaner engine bay and make maintenance and repairs easier (certain aftermarket intakes are much easier to remove and re-install).
6.4 Powerstroke Cold Air Intake vs Others
Thus far, we have been referring to 6.4 Powerstroke intake upgrades as cold air intakes. It’s a common term for intake mods, but it’s actually an incorrect term for most 6.4L diesel intake systems. A cold air intake generally re-routes the intake piping to pull air from a cooler area. This allows the engine to pull in cooler air thereby improving power and performance.
You may also see some refer to intake upgrades as intake systems, ram intakes, performance intakes, etc. These are all synonymous terms in many ways, but there are a few key differences in intake design. For example, ram intakes use vehicle motion to increase air pressure in the intake and manifold.
Ultimately, these intake designs don’t matter on the Ford 6.4 turbodiesel engine. Let’s use the cold air intake as an example. Air passes thru the filter and into an incredibly hot turbocharger. The air is compressed which generates even more heat in the process. It then travels thru the 6.4 Powerstrokes intercooler where the air is cooled. Air temperature at the intake filter has little to no affect on the intercoolers ability to cool the charge air.
Open vs Closed Intake Systems
That brings us to only truly important difference between Ford 6.4 intake systems – open vs closed. These names indicate exactly how they sound. A closed air intake system utilizes an air-box to shield the filter from heat within the engine bay. A 6.4 Powerstroke open intake means the filter is exposed within the engine bay. You may also see some intake kits that take a middle ground; they use heat shielding but the intake isn’t fully enclosed.
We believe an open intake is the superior design on turbo engines. Removing the air-box ensures the filter receives maximum airflow without any restrictions. Yes, it will pull in ever so slightly warmer air from the engine bay. Again, this has little to not affect on the intercoolers ability to do its job.
That said, closed intake systems do exist for a reason. The airbox acts as a muffler and helps reduce intake and turbo sounds. It’s best to stick with this design if you don’t want more noise. On the other hand, open intakes free up a lot of sounds. We think it’s awesome but not everyone will appreciate the added noise. Still, if power and performance are the ultimate goal then a 6.4 Powerstroke open air intake system is the way to go.
Best 6.4 PowerStroke Cold Air Intake Mods
With the benefits and types of intake kits out of the way it’s time to dive into some of the best 6.4 Powerstroke cold air intake kits. As discussed above, we really like the open intake design and believe they provide superior performance. However, it’s not the right design for everyone so we list a couple options for each design.
A few quick housekeeping notes before jumping in. Please keep in mind – this is by no means an exhaustive list of the best Ford 6.4 Powerstroke intakes. Tons of great options exist and we can’t list all of them. Instead, the below are a few of our favorite intakes for their balance of price, quality, and performance.
1) Boosted Performance 6.4 PowerStroke Intake
Fits: All F-250 & F-350 6.4L diesel engines
The Boosted Performance 6.4 PowerStroke intake features an open-design with 4″ mandrel bent aluminum piping and an S&B filter. Quality is top-notch and the open intake delivers great air-flow and performance gains. The wrinkle black finish also looks clean and helps reduce heat transfer. Ultimately, there isn’t much to dislike about the Boosted Performance intake considering its very fair $299 price point – with free shipping.
What We Like: High-quality S&B filter and 4″ mandrel bent piping. Open design ensures maximum flow and power gains. Great price at $299.
What We Don’t Like: Nothing. It doesn’t look quite as fancy as intakes like Sinister Diesel, but unless looks are your top-priority the $$ savings are worthwhile.
2) Ford 6.4L Sinister Diesel Cold Air Intake
Fits: All F-250 & F-350 6.4 Powerstroke engines
Next up is the Sinister Diesel cold air intake kit for the Ford 6.4 Powerstroke diesel engine. Sinister Diesel has made a big name for themselves from their awesome diesel intake systems. The intake looks great under the hood and it’s sure to be an eye catcher. We also appreciate their quality cotton air filter, which is easy to wash and clean.
Overall, it’s tough to go wrong with this intake kit. It certainly earns high regards for the design and performance. However, the intake does come with a steep price of $448. That’s expensive for an aluminum pipe and air filter without an airbox. We typically like open intakes since they deliver better performance for a better price.
Buy Here: Ford 6.4 Powerstroke Sinister Diesel Kit
What We Like: The Sinister Diesel 6.4 Powerstroke intake is an awesome looking kit from top to bottom. An open intake design is sure to maximize airflow and performance gains.
What We Don’t Like: Pricey for an open intake design (eliminating the airbox should eliminate some cost).
3) 6.4 Powerstroke S&B Filters Intake Kit
Fits: All F-250 & F-350 6.4 Powerstrokes
S&B Filters is a huge player in the air intake and filter industry. A lot of aftermarket intakes actually source their filters from S&B, and they extend much further than just the diesel world. We run cone filters from S&B on all of our BMW’s, too. Anyways, if you’re looking for a proven brand and product then look no further than S&B.
Their 6.4 Powerstroke cold air intake system uses a closed design. You can, however, remove the top cover to increase airflow. According to S&B their intake kit will increase airflow by up to 23.1%. It’s a pretty simple and basic design but it gets the job done. The clear airbox top also spices things up in the engine bay.
What We Like: At $350 it’s a good price for a closed intake design. Big brand name with proven products and excellent quality.
What We Don’t Like: Airbox is large and clunky. Won’t offer as much flow as an open intake.
Ford 6.4 Powestroke CAI Upgrade Summary
The Ford 6.4L Powerstroke turbodiesel already offers good performance from the factory. However, diesel engines are almost too easy to extract extra power and torque. It’s hard to pass up especially when simple mods like tuning and an intake can offer so much potential.
Many refer to 6.4 intakes as cold air intakes – a term that isn’t totally accurate for most intake designs. We prefer to think of intakes as open air or closed intakes. An open intake has minimal restrictions and generally offers the best airflow and performance for a lower price. It can also increase turbo and induction noises, so some may avoid open intakes for that reason.
Sinister Diesel offers an incredible looking 6.4 Powerstoke intake kit. However, the $448 price-point feels too aggressive for an aluminum pipe and a filter. Those going the closed route should consider the S&B Filters 6.4 Powerstroke cold air intake. For $350 you get a quality intake from a proven, reputable company. Amazon has some budget options around $60, but be weary. Regardless of your choice, there’s no question an intake is an essential mod to push the 6.4L diesel to the next level.
What’s your experience with Ford 6.4 Powerstroke intake kits? Are you considering any?
Leave a comment and let us know!