The 5.9 Cummins engine gained fame for being a beast. Still, you can always improve upon it with minor tweaks. One of the cheapest and easiest boosts to your engine can come from letting it breathe a bit easier.
That is why we have put together a list of the best cold air intake for 5.9 Cummins. We also provide a quick buyer’s guide, so you know what to look for.
Quick Overview: The 5 Best Cold Air Intake For 5.9 Cummins
S&B Filters 75-5094 Cold Air Intake
A QUALITY BUDGET CHOICE
Spectre Performance Air Intake Kit
Most Durable Cold Air Intake
K&N Cold Air Intake Kit
1. S&B Filters 75-5094 Cold Air Intake – Best Cold Air Intake For Dodge 5.9 Cummins
This means they have the focus to make sure that their products provide good results. This quality especially shows up with the build of the S&B. Their build makes the S&B Filters better than most of their competitors in many ways.
S&B Filters may not be the oldest or most experienced company on our list. But, they have still been around for close to 4 decades now with their founding in 1981. On top of that, S&B Filters does focus pretty much exclusively on-air or intake products.
This way, you do not have to worry about even a modest temperature increase that accompanies aluminum tubes. Even better, this is also one of the few cold air filters we saw which specifically focuses on ease. This starts by not triggering the check engine light due to a compromised airflow. You can note this with the 99.51-percent airflow efficiency rating that is ISO 5011 tested for complete transparency.
While the S&B Filters cold air intake does not necessarily provide the most airflow out of any product that we reviewed, it does offer plenty. This cold air intake provides 42-percent more airflow than your standard air intake. This is good for the second-best on our list.
This is actually one of the few cold air intakes in its class that comes with a secondary air inlet. The second inlet is in case you want even more airflow than normal. Of course, if you need a more controlled airflow, the S&B Filters cold air intake provides a plug. This is also part of the draw of the custom enclosure. It completely shields the intake from engine heat. S&B Filters then provides a transparent lid for easy eye tests and access.
The custom enclosure makes this one a tad more trouble to install. Still, the great airflow combined with the second inlet makes this a no-brainer. On top of that, this is one of the more durable, better constructed cold air intakes that we saw.
2. Spectre Performance Air Intake Kit – Best Budget Cold Air Intake
Spectre Performance is another company that has been around for over 30 years. Though, they are not quite as experienced as some of the other brands we reviewed. That said, they do still specialize in air and intake systems. As such, you do not have to worry about them making poor design choices. Still, this is definitely somewhat of cheaper cold air intake.
Spectre Performance could stand to improve a few things with its design. However, for the price, you are unlikely to find a better cold air intake than the Spectre Performance.
The Spectre Performance cold air intake differs from the other options on our list in its materials. For some of the components, this is not an issue, but it can present some snarls for other parts. For instance, they made the heat shield out of powder-coated stainless steel. This ensures that it is both durable and naturally water-resistant.
Though, you will still likely want to make sure that you keep it clean. On top of that, they made the tubes out of polished aluminum. This looks incredibly sleek next to your engine bay. That said, aluminum does have a tendency to get hotter than plastic. This can increase the temperature of the air feeding into your engine. On the other hand, you do not have to worry about the aluminum tubing suffering any kind of damage.
On top of that, the Spectre Performance filter is also washable. This means you do not have to worry about buying a new one anytime soon. Finally, the Spectre Performance cold air intake uses a solid urethane seal. Though, this will eventually wear out over time if not cared for. One issue that some report is difficulty installing the Spectre Performance. This is due to the heat shield, but the iffy instructions might be partially to blame.
This is one of the few cold air intakes we reviewed that does not publish the specific gain generated. Also, some people do not notice much of a power difference. That said, pretty much everyone notices that the Spectre Performance cold air intake provides more air. This helps your truck run smoother if not with more power
3. K&N Cold Air Intake Kit – Most Durable Cold Air Intake
Out of all the companies on our list, none of them have the kind of history that K&N does. This history stretches back over 50 years to its founding in 1969. They do not specialize in vehicular air and intake systems exclusively.
Still, their focus does not extend too terribly far beyond that either. On top of that, K&N developed a stellar reputation over its existence. It has partnered or affiliated itself with a wide range of automotive affiliations. These include NASCAR and other specialized associations.
The Long Haul
However, the body of the K&N cold air intake comes with a warranty of 1,000,000 miles or 10 years. This demonstrates the dedication and confidence that K&N has in this cold air intake system. As a cherry on top, the K&N cold air intake is also CARB compliant. This means that you do not have to worry about local emission standards.
There is one thing to remember with this K&N cold air intake, and pretty much all of their products. K&N designed them so you use them with a stock engine. K&N cannot guarantee the same quality or function of their cold air intake otherwise. This means you cannot add a lot of aftermarket kits with the K&N cold air intake.
However, the K&N will please you if you do stick with your stock engine settings. The K&N provides a solid 10.96 HP boost which is good for the second-best on our list. Part of this is likely due to the use of HDPE for the tubing. This works to keep the air cool while also maintaining good durability.
The K&N cold air intake may not be the least expensive product on our list. Still, the sheer length of its expected lifespan easily makes it one of the better values. Combine that long life with the second-largest horsepower boost we saw, and this is an all-around winner.
4. aFe Stage 2 Pro-5R Cold Air Intake System – Most Powerful Cold Air Intake
aFe is one of the newer companies on our list having hit its 20-year mark after its founding in 1999. They are also one of the few companies we reviewed that does not specialize in air and intake products.
However, aFe sets its sights on a different market altogether: performance. Specifically, this company makes a wide range of aftermarket parts and kits. Instead, they made all their products to get more performance and power out of your vehicle.
For example, this cold air intake will provide a healthy 14 HP boost. Even better, it also throws in an additional 27 lbs per foot of torque to boot. One of the big reasons for this comes from the monstrous airflow increase of 105-percent over the stock intake. None of the other intakes we reviewed come close to the aFe Stage 2 in terms of a power boost.
The aFe Stage 2 provides a good build with modest ways for improvement. But, it is still one of the better all-around builds we came across. The 16 gauge powder-coated stainless steel heat shield is solid. Though, it is not sealed as well as some of the other options we reviewed. That said, this heat shield is only enhanced with the use of high-temp silicone couplings.
This material extends the lifespan more than basic urethane. It is worth noting that it only has an oiled filter arrangement. But, at least it uses the top-notch Pro 5R filter. The Pro 5R filter uses a cotton gauze mesh with a high-flow conical shape to maximize airflow. On top of that, the thick pleats help extend its use longer than most. What is better is its washability limits your need to ever buy another one.
aFe Stage 2 is the clear winner when it comes to a power boost. But, you may not necessarily be as interested in that as you are a smooth performance at a lower cost. Still, all of the components are high-quality and well worth the cost of admittance.
5. Banks 42225 RAM Air Intake System – Best Ram Cold Air Intake
This is the youngest company and not quite as focused as some on-air and intake products exclusively. Still, they have a reputation for top-tier quality– and they know it. This self-awareness is exemplified by its high cost.
However, the ram intake style does allow for a massive air inlet. This allows the Banks cold air intake to provide 33-percent more airflow than your stock intake. On top of that, the Banks ram intake tube is CFD designed. This helps provide excellent airflow without variation. Still, this is unlikely to provide the kind of power boost you might see with other options. Though, your engine should still run smoother all the same.
One nicer quality of the Banks is the option of choice. The Banks ram intake gives you the option of choosing what type of filter you want. It is one of the few cold air intake systems to do so. You can go with the oiled filters or the cleaner dry filters. This is actually one of the few cold air intake systems we saw that comes with a lifetime filter.
As such, you do not have to worry about changing it anytime soon. Part of this is thanks to the completely covered enclosure. This not only protects the filter but also helps keep the air temperatures safe from your engine’s heat. On top of that, this is another cold air intake system that meets CARB-compliant standards. Though, considering their location in California, that only makes sense.
Banks is definitely a bit pricey compared to some of the other options we saw. But, its performance speaks for itself. It offers some of the largest air inlets and outlets as well as a completely covered enclosure. This accounts for the potentially higher temperatures due to a ram intake design.
Best Cold Air Intake For 5.9 Cummins – Buyer’s Guide
Technically, there is only one “true” type of cold air intake that is considered to be the standard model.
But, there are actually a few different types of intake which use different aspects of the design. That said, the different types of cold air intake do vary in terms of what benefits they provide your truck.
While there is not a “best” type of cold air intake for every situation, there are some definite trends.
These have a tendency to hold fairly true across makes and models. The three primary types of cold air intake are the standard model, the ram intake, and the short ram intake.
Cold Air Intake
This is generally what you expect to find when you actually use the term “cold air intake”. It differs from the stock type of air intake in that the filter positioned at the front of the inlet. This filters the air away from the engine so that the heat of the engine does not heat the air. The air will then follow along pipe or tubing which feeds into the engine.
The air feeds at lower temperatures than a stock air intake. The colder air is denser and has a higher oxygen concentration. The higher the oxygen concentration, the better your engine will fire. This is the reason to get any kind of aftermarket intake system.
In fact, most cold air intakes will actually position the filter near the front of the vehicle. Cold air intakes position the filter as far away from the engine as possible, often above a front wheel. This ensures that the air is as cool as possible.
Many cold air intakes will also provide some kind of thermal shielding around the filter. This prevents the air from heating further. This shield can take the form of a completely sealed box. It can be a partial shield that then seals when you close the hood.
Of course, the partial shield will rarely be completely sealed in the same way as a box shielding will. That said, the unique position of the cold air intake box does present it with certain risks others do not.
Cold air intake can be a bit more susceptible to water getting into the filter. In order to combat this issue, some manufacturers will include a pre-filter. This makes sure that water is not introduced into the system. Of course, the pre-filter serves to protect the main filter from all kinds of obstructions.
Its primary purpose is to make sure water splashing up from the tires stays out. The pre-filter does a great job of keeping your air intake and engine free of debris or contaminants. It has the added bonus of keeping the actual air filter in good working order for longer.
The ram intake is not too different than the standard cold air intake in design, benefits, and issues. One major difference between the two is where the air filter sits. Cold air intake kits positioning the air filter away from the engine. Ram intake systems positioning the air filter at the back. Otherwise, both systems have longer tubes that pull in air from farther away from the engine.
This tubing arrangement allows the ram intake to provide cooler air than the stock intake. Positioning the filter next to the engine heats the air up more than with a standard cold air intake. Though, this may not affect the temperature of the air too terribly.
Still, the air temperature depends on your engine and the tweaks made to it. However, some engines run much hotter than others. These can see a fairly big drop in terms of the benefits that a ram intake should provide.
Regardless, a ram intake is generally not going to provide as cold of air as a standard cold air intake. The ram intake system also suffers from much the same potential issue that a cold air intake does. The position of the inlet opening means that the ram intake is at risk of introducing water into the system.
The primary solution for this is to use a pre-filter, which many manufacturers do. The pre-filter will also help keep out dust and other debris contaminants. This provides the additional benefit of generally extending the lifespan of your air filter too.
Short Ram Intake
As the name suggests, the short ram intake is fairly similar to the ram intake. The major difference is the length of the tubing. This difference may seem minor at first glance. However, it actually has some pretty important impacts on the function of the intake.
The short ram intake is still positioned much in the same way as your stock intake might be. This allows you to install the short ram intake much easier than the other two types of cold air intakes. You can also install it in much tighter quarters too.
Still, a short ram intake draws air from the engine bay. On top of that, the short ram intake also sees the filter positioned near the engine. This further increases the temperature of the air. The air fed to the engine is not as cold as with the other two types of intakes.
In fact, the short ram intake feeds the hottest air out of the three types. This means it will have the lowest oxygen concentration and provide the least benefits. This being the case, you might wonder what is the point of the short ram intake.
Basically, a short ram intake moderates the airflow more than cool it. This ensures that the airflow remains constant. However, it does not provide colder, denser air like a cold air intake. It accomplishes this by having a straighter tube with fewer twists or turns than the stock intake.
This helps maintain a steadier flow of air. Short ram intakes also often have larger air inlets. This lets them feed more total air to the engine. Short ram intakes are also generally the least expensive aftermarket intake systems as well.
The best cold air intake system for 5.9 Cummins engines will depend on what you want from it. The S&B Filters provide great materials, excellent airflow, and the best efficiency we found. Of course, if you want a big power boost, your best bet is going to be the aFe Stage 2. If sheer cost is your primary concern, Specter Performance solves this issue. The K&N provides the best long-term value. And, if you want a trusted product from a well-known, if a newer, company, Banks has you covered.