How To Get Cold Air Intake In California: A Comprehensive Guide

August 4, 2023

Engine performance is a priority for many car enthusiasts, and one popular method for enhancing performance is through the installation of a cold air intake system. In California, the land of smog checks and strict emissions standards, it is essential to understand how to get cold air intake in California without running afoul of the law. This comprehensive guide will cover the benefits of cold air intakes, California-specific regulations, how to choose a CARB compliant system, and the installation process.

As a car enthusiast, you know that engine performance is a top priority. And one popular way to boost performance is by installing a cold air intake system. But in California, where smog checks and emissions standards are strict, you need to be careful. Luckily, we're here to help you understand how to get a cold air intake in California without getting in trouble. This guide covers everything you need to know, from the benefits of cold air intakes to how to pick a CARB compliant system and install it.

Cold air intakes are a great way to enhance your car's performance. By increasing the amount of cool air that flows into your engine, you can improve combustion and get more power.

CARB Compliant Cold Air Intakes

For a cold air intake system to be legally installed and used in California, it must be CARB compliant. This means that the system has been tested and certified to not increase emissions or negatively impact the vehicle's emission control system. CARB approved cold air intake systems will have an Executive Order (EO) number, which serves as proof of compliance.

How to Find a CARBCompliant Cold Air Intake System

To ensure you purchase a CARBcompliant cold air intake system, follow these steps:

1. Research the cold air intake systems available for your specific vehicle make and model.

2. Verify that the system has a CARB EO number by checking the manufacturer's website or contacting their customer service department.

3. Once you have confirmed the system is CARB compliant, purchase from a reputable retailer, and ensure the EO number is included with the product.

Why Cold Air Intake Systems Matter

Cold air intake systems work by drawing cooler, denser air into the engine, which can result in increased horsepower and torque. This improved performance is due to the fact that cold air is denser, containing more oxygen molecules per volume than warm air. This higher oxygen concentration allows for more efficient fuel combustion, ultimately leading to:

  • Improved throttle response
  • Enhanced horsepower and torque
  • Increased fuel efficiency
  • A more aggressive engine sound

Additionally, aftermarket cold air intake systems often feature more streamlined designs and better air filter materials than stock intake systems. This can lead to improved airflow and filtration, further boosting engine performance.

Navigating California's Emission Standards

As California is known for its stringent emission regulations, it is crucial to understand the legalities surrounding cold air intake systems before installation. The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is the governing body responsible for setting and enforcing emission standards in the state.

Installing a Cold Air Intake System in California

Now that you understand the benefits of cold air intake systems and the legalities surrounding their installation in California, it's time to dive into the installation process.

Required Tools and Materials

Before beginning the installation, gather the following tools and materials:

  • CARBcompliant cold air intake system (including EO number)
  • Basic hand tools (such as a ratchet, socket set, and screwdrivers)
  • Work gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Flashlight (optional, but helpful for improved visibility)
  • Vehicle owner's manual

Step by Step Installation Instructions

1. Park your vehicle on a level surface and allow the engine to cool completely.

2. Consult your owner's manual to locate the stock intake system and the battery (if applicable).

3. Disconnect the negative battery terminal to ensure your safety during the installation process.

4. Remove the stock intake system, including the air filter, intake tube, and any additional components. Be careful not to damage any sensors or electrical connections.

5. Assemble the new cold air intake system according to the manufacturer's instructions.

6. Install the new cold air intake system, ensuring a secure fit and proper alignment with any sensors or electrical connections.

7. Reconnect the negative battery terminal.

8. Start your engine and listen for any unusual sounds or indications of air leaks. If any issues are detected, turn off the engine immediately and recheck the installation.

9. Enjoy the benefits of your newly installed cold air intake system and the improved performance it provides!


Will installing a cold air intake system void my vehicle's warranty?

A: As long as the cold air intake system is CARB compliant and installed correctly, it should not void your vehicle's warranty. However, it's always a good idea to consult your specific warranty agreement and consult with your dealership if you have concerns.

Can I install a cold air intake system myself, or do I need a professional?

A: While many car enthusiasts choose to install cold air intake systems themselves, it is essential to have a good understanding of your vehicle's engine and feel comfortable working with the necessary tools. If you are unsure or uncomfortable with the installation process, it's best to consult a professional automotive technician.

Do I need to inform the California DMV about my cold air intake installation?

A: No, there is no requirement to inform the DMV about your cold air intake installation. However, it is essential to keep the CARB EO number handy in case you are asked to provide proof of compliance during a smog check.


Understanding how to get cold air intake in California and install it correctly is key to enjoying the performance benefits without running afoul of the state's strict emission regulations. By choosing a CARB compliant system and following the proper installation steps, you can experience improved horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency while remaining compliant with California law. Now that you have the knowledge and tools you need, it's time to get started on enhancing your engine's performance in the Golden State.



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