Intake upgrades are an easy mod to unleash extra power, sound, and efficiency on the Ford 7.3 Powerstroke. Many refer to intakes as cold air intakes or performance intakes. They’re without question one of the best cost effective upgrades for the 7.3L Powerstroke turbodiesel. However, making a decision can be tough with so many options on the market. In this article, we discuss the benefits of Ford 7.3 intakes and some of the best options.
If you’re looking for bigger power gains than just an intake, check out our Best 7.3 Powerstroke Mods article which covers tuners, exhaust, and turbo upgrades. It’s easy to add over 100whp to a 7.3 and our article will teach you just how to do that.
7.3 Powerstroke Intake Upgrade Benefits
A few of the benefits in running cold air performance intakes on the 7.3 Powerstroke include:
- 8-15whp gains
- 15-25wtq gains
- Quicker throttle response
- Increased fuel economy
- Lower EGTs
Performance benefits are likely among the top reasons most upgrade their 7.3L intake. A free flowing system helps the engine breath in air more efficiently. HP gains with a performance intake come in around 8-15 horsepower. You’ll also likely notice slightly quicker turbo spool and engine response. Another added benefit is an improvement in fuel efficiency. Of course, you probably won’t notice this if you’re using the newfound power on the 7.3 turbodiesel.
Lastly, intake mods generally help lower exhaust gas temperatures (EGT). It’s a great benefit as lower EGT’s help reduce back-pressure thereby making the turbo and engines jobs a bit easier. Oh yeah. We’re not done quite yet. A 7.3L Powerstroke intake upgrade will also improve engine sounds. There may be a few other things we’re forgetting. Point is – 7.3L intakes offer a number of benefits for a good price.
What is a Cold Air Intake?
It’s not uncommon to see intakes referenced as cold air intakes. A cold air intake technically is an intake that pulls air from outside the engine bay at a low point. However, many use it as a general term for any intake upgrades. It’s a fairly meaningless term on a turbodiesel with an intercooler. The air is running through a hot turbo before being cooled by the intercooler.
As such, pulling in colder air isn’t a big factor on the Ford 7.3 Powerstroke engine. What are we getting at here? Well, the volume of air flow is really all that matters when it comes to 7.3L intakes. Ignore the various names you may see for intakes. Cold air intakes, performance intakes, intake systems, etc. They’re all going to effectively offer the same benefits assuming air flow is the same. There is one notable difference though – open vs closed systems.
7.3 Powerstroke Open vs Closed Intakes
We’ll keep this short since it’s pretty basic. An open intake design leaves the filter open to the surrounding air. There is no airbox that encloses the filter. On the other hand, closed intakes are housed inside a box. How does this affect flow?
An open intake will generally flow slightly better, all else equal. However, both systems will function the same on a lightly modded 7.3 Powerstroke engine. If you’re opting for an upgraded turbo or aggressive tunes then you may notice ever so slightly better results with an open intake. That said, let’s move onto a few of the best Ford 7.3L Powerstroke intakes.
Best 7.3 Powerstroke Intake Mods
The above is all there really is to intakes. It’s pretty simple stuff. Nonetheless, intake mods are a popular choice on the 7.3 Powerstroke for good reason. They’re a simple bolt-on mod that are easy to install and come in at a good price for the benefits. Below we’ll list a few of our favorite 7.3L intakes on the market. Please note – this is far from an exhaustive list. There are tons of great options out there and we don’t have time to name them all.
**Most 98-03 models with the 7.3 Powerstroke use a slightly different intake design than earlier models. Ensure fitment prior to purchasing anything.
1) 7.3 Powerstroke S&B Cold Air Intake
S&B Filters is one of the top choices for a lot of 7.3L Powerstroke owners. We use S&B filters on a few of our own cars with great results. They have offerings for 1994-1997 models as well as 98+ 7.3L diesel engines. Both come in at $329.00 and use a closed airbox design with their own in house S&B filters.
This is a proven product that offers excellent quality and results. It’s also a solid price for an airbox design. According to S&B their intake improves airflow by 53% (98-03) and 42% (94-97). If you’re looking for a 7.3 Powerstroke intake the S&B option should definitely be in the cards.
Buy Here: 1994-1997 S&B Cold Air Intake
2) K&N 4″ Intake Kit
K&N offers some intake kits of their own, and their filters are well known. However, here we’re focusing on an option from Advance Diesel. It’s somewhat of a DIY intake kit for the 7.3 Powerstroke that uses a K&N air filter. This option is a true open intake with a large 4″ K&N filter, so the airflow improvements will be great.
It is a cut to fit intake kit, however they offer pre-cutting for stock turbos for only $9.99. Add that onto the price of the 7.3L diesel intake kit which is $139.99. It’s tough to beat that price without opting for a true DIY solution. Great choice for 7.3 owners looking for a quality K&N kit at a solid price.
Price: $139.99 ($149.98 with pre-cut)
Buy Here: 7.3L PowerStroke K&N Intake Kit
3) 7.3 AEM Brute Force Intake System
The AEM Brute Force intake is another solid system for the Ford 7.3L diesel. This kit uses a large AEM Dryflow washable air filter and is a semi-open intake design. The intake is open, however there is a small shield around the bottom and side of the intake.
We’re not quite as familiar with AEM products as we are with S&B and K&N. However, this looks to be a great choice for a fair price. Check it out if you’re looking for a 7.3 Powerstroke intake.
Buy Here: AEM Ford 7.3L Diesel Intake System
Ford 7.3 Diesel Intake Upgrade Summary
The 7.3 Powerstroke is known for it’s superior reliability, however, by today’s standards it certainly isn’t known for its power. Bolt-on mods like intakes are great ways to extract more power and efficiency from the 7.3 Powerstroke. We believe intake mods should be towards the top of the list if you’re looking to mod your truck and bring it a bit closer to the performance of the diesels being produced today. They offer considerable benefits like 8-15 horsepower gains, quicker spool and response, lower EGT’s, and better fuel economy. All of that for only about $140-400 depending on which intake system you opt for. Intakes are also easy to install, so it’s tough to find any downsides.
We prefer open intake systems due to the increased air flow. Look for an intake kit with a quality, high-flowing filter from companies such as S&B or K&N. Otherwise, most options will offer similar benefits so it can’t hurt to shop based on price and looks.
What intake do you have on your 7.3 Powerstroke? Which are you considering?
Drop a comment and let us know!