How to Choose the Best Aftermarket Intake Manifold for Improved Engine Breathing?

February 8, 2024

As a car owner or auto mechanic, you are probably aware of the significance of the intake manifold in your engine. The intake manifold is a pivotal part of your engine’s air intake system, responsible for ensuring that the right amount of air reaches the engine cylinders at the right time. It plays a crucial role in your car’s overall performance, affecting elements like power, fuel efficiency, and torque. This article will provide an in-depth examination of what to consider when choosing an aftermarket intake manifold that will improve your engine’s breathing.

Understanding the Role of the Intake Manifold

Before diving into the selection process, it’s essential to understand the role of the intake manifold in your engine. The intake manifold is a series of runners (tubes) that directs air from the air filter to the engine’s cylinders. It performs in harmony with the throttle, which controls the amount of air that enters the engine, to maintain the correct air-fuel ratio needed for optimum combustion.

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When air is drawn into the engine’s intake system, it is distributed evenly across the cylinders through the manifold. This airflow process directly influences the engine’s power and torque, making it pivotal for your car’s overall performance. The intake manifold also contains a plenum, a large cavity through which the air enters before being directed to individual cylinders.

In simpler terms, think of the intake manifold as the lungs of your car’s engine. It ‘breathes’ in the air and ensures that each ‘cell’ (cylinder) receives an equal share for smooth and efficient functioning.

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Stock vs. Aftermarket Intake Manifolds

Now that you comprehend the purpose of the intake manifold, you might be wondering why you should consider an aftermarket intake manifold instead of sticking with the stock component that your vehicle manufacturer provided.

Stock intake manifolds are typically designed to be cost-effective and meet general performance expectations. However, they may not be optimized for high-performance conditions, such as high RPM (revolutions per minute) ranges or improved fuel efficiency.

On the other hand, aftermarket intake manifolds are designed to enhance the engine’s performance by improving airflow, power, and torque. They come in various designs and materials to cater to different performance requirements and fit specific engine types. This means that you can find an aftermarket intake manifold that matches your specific needs, whether you’re an everyday driver or a performance enthusiast.

Factors to Consider When Choosing an Aftermarket Intake Manifold

When selecting an aftermarket intake manifold, several factors will influence your choice. Here are the key elements you need to consider:


The material of the intake manifold can significantly affect its performance and durability. Popular materials include aluminum and composite plastic, with the former being the more performance-focused option due to its superior heat dissipation properties.


The design of the intake manifold, particularly the runner length and plenum volume, can influence how the engine performs at different RPM ranges. A manifold with long runners and a smaller plenum tends to enhance low-RPM torque, while a manifold with short runners and a large plenum will boost high-RPM power.


Not all aftermarket intake manifolds will fit your engine. Therefore, you should ensure that the manifold you choose is compatible with your engine type and size. It’s also crucial to ensure that the manifold will interface correctly with your throttle body and fuel delivery system.

Installation and Tuning

Once you’ve chosen your aftermarket intake manifold, it’s time to install and tune it for optimum performance. While the installation process may vary depending on the specific manifold and your vehicle, it generally involves removing the old manifold, installing the new one, and reconnecting all the associated components.

After installation, you might need to tune your engine to optimize the newfound performance. This includes adjusting the fuel delivery system and possibly reprogramming the engine management system to make the most of the improved airflow.

In conclusion, an aftermarket intake manifold can significantly improve your engine’s breathing, power, and torque. By understanding its role, recognizing the differences between stock and aftermarket manifolds, considering the right factors, and undertaking proper installation and tuning, you can enhance your vehicle’s overall performance. However, the manifold is just one component of the engine. To truly maximize your vehicle’s potential, consider other performance upgrades like high-flow air filters, performance exhaust systems, and more advanced engine management systems.

Different Types of Aftermarket Intake Manifolds

Just like most car parts, aftermarket intake manifolds come in various types, each designed to meet specific performance requirements. Understanding these types can help you pick a suitable manifold for your car.

Firstly, we have the Single-Plane Intake Manifold. This type has a single internal cavity that feeds all the engine cylinders. While it offers excellent top-end power, it might not be ideal for low-RPM driving because its open design can cause unequal air distribution to the cylinders.

Next, there’s the Dual-Plane Intake Manifold. It features two separate planes feeding the cylinders, which can result in better low-RPM torque due to more equal air distribution. However, it may not offer the same top-end power as a single-plane manifold.

The Hi-Ram Intake Manifold is specifically designed for high-performance applications, such as drag racing. It’s ideal for engines operating at high RPM ranges and those using forced induction systems.

Lastly, the Tunnel Ram Intake Manifold features two separate plenums feeding the cylinders, which can provide considerable power gains at high RPMs. Still, it might not be suitable for everyday driving due to its aggressive design.

When selecting the type, consider your engine’s operation range, your driving habits, and your performance objectives.

Choosing the Right Manufacturer

Just as important as the type and design of the intake manifold is the manufacturer you choose. There are numerous aftermarket intake manifold manufacturers, each with their unique strengths and weaknesses.

Renowned manufacturers like Edelbrock, Holley, and Skunk2 are known for their high-quality, performance-oriented intake manifolds. They offer a wide range of options for various engine types and performance requirements.

When considering a manufacturer, look at the quality of their products, the range of options they provide, and their reputation in the market. Customer reviews and professional evaluations can provide valuable insights into a manufacturer’s reliability and the performance of their products.

Finally, remember that a high price tag does not always equate to superior quality or performance. Therefore, balance your budget with your performance needs and choose a manufacturer that provides the best value for your money.


Choosing the best aftermarket intake manifold for improved engine breathing can be a complex task given the wide range of options available. It requires a thorough understanding of the role and operation of the intake manifold, as well as your specific vehicle and performance needs.

Remember to consider the manifold’s material and design, the type of manifold that suits your engine’s operation range, and the reliability of the manufacturer. Once installed, proper tuning will help you extract the maximum performance from your new intake manifold.

By making a well-informed decision, you can significantly enhance your vehicle’s power, torque, and overall performance. So, take your time, do your research, and choose an aftermarket intake manifold that will breathe new life into your engine.