Ideally, when picking air inlet parts it is best to have each part slightly smaller than the other, to create a funnel effect and increase air velocity as the air approaches the intake manifold. Think of wind entering a canyon, it will speed up and become stronger as it passes through the channel between cliffs.
Letís begin by examining replacement performance options for the stock air intake.
Air Filters: The air filter is where everything begins. A dirty, clogged or otherwise deteriorated air filter can impact engine performance severely. A quick scrub of the old air filter can improve suction and throttle response. Yet better, a performance air intake is the preferred method to insure sufficient amount of air flow to the engine. Performance filters from K&N, BBK and Stack Racing use special materials in their filters to reduce resistance, turbulence, maximize flow but not sacrifice filtering ability. Thus, all the harmful debris remains out of the combustion chamber while youíll benefit from better throttle response and maybe even a few extra horses as well. Furthermore, many aftermarket performance filters are reusable, meaning you can clean them using a special cleaning agent and they will be as good as new. Buy once; use foreveródefinitely a worthwhile investment.
Cold Air Intakes: Another easy method to increase airflow and potentially horsepower is to replace the stock plastic air track with an aftermarket cold air version. Essentially, a cold air intake works by placing the air filter in a location where there the air is colder (typically the fender well). The chemistry behind this is simple. Cold air is denser than warm air, thus meaning there will be more O2 (oxygen) molecules per volumetric unit of air to react and combust with the gasoline. Therefore, there can be power made! Remember, bigger boom (combustion) is bigger power (High school chemistry can be useful! This surprised me tooÖ). Another factor that is often unconsidered is what the actual inlet tubing is made of. The stock one is plastic, an aftermarket unit is usually metal. The difference is heat transfer and absorption properties of each material. The stock plastic one will absorb heat and transfer some of it to the air flowing through it, thus warming it up. Metal has a much higher heat capacity and will not transfer much, if any, heat to the air passing through the inlet tract. This is just another reason to consider upgrading to an aftermarket cold air intake.
Mass Air Flow Meter & Sensor: This applies to Mustangs from 1989 and on. 1987-88 Mustangs (except California 88ís) utilized a different computer system called speed density. If you own a 87-88 (not from California), do not fret. Mass air conversions (converting a speed density car to mass air) are very common and not too hard to do. However, this is another subject entirely.
In 1989, Ford introduced a new computer system for its Mustang Ė the mass air flow system (MAF). Without going into too much detail, the MAF system places a hot-wire and temperature sensor in the air inlet tract (immediately after the air filter) that measures the amount of air coming in. Depending on how much air is detected, the computer reacts accordingly and adjusts fuel, timing and the likes. The older speed density was a pre-programmed system where the computer had a set table of lookup volumes and resulting fuel and timing values. MAF systems are great because they can adapt to almost any change made within the engine. Speed density, on the other hand, is a lot fussier when modifying the engine, particularly when it comes to replacing the stock camshaft.
The stock MAF unit is a puny 55mm unit. When selecting a new mass air meter, it is important not to go too big. Rather, it is always best to pick a part that suits your needs precisely. BBK, C&L and SCT all make very high quality replacement meters for your Pony -they slot right in place of the stocker. When selecting a new MAF meter, you must be careful of the sizing and calibration. Each meter comes factory tuned to work with a specific size fuel injector. Thus if you are still running stock 19 lb injectors with no plans to upgrade, donít pick a MAF unit calibrated for 24 lb injectors, it will not work well at all. Generally, MAF meters around 70-75mm are the norm for mild street cars. Units up to 90mm are available, but are generally run on very high performance engines or track cars only. If youíre seeking a stout street machine, any 70-75mm offering from C&L, BBK or SCT will definitely do the trick.
Replacing the worn stock air filter, intake tract and mass air meter are a good start to increase the 5.0Lís breathing ability. Although you canít expect changing these parts to produce a truckload of horsepower, they may add a few. Consider these parts to be supporting parts. They will support horsepower, but will not generate much on their own. More importantly, however, is they remove the bottleneck found within the stock parts and will support the engine as more serious modifications are made. Additionally, throttle response should experience a noticeable increase. Continue on to the next section, Air Induction Part II to learn how to make use of these foundation parts to really make some good horsepower gains.
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