5.4 triton cold air intake S&B

Ford 5.4 Triton Cold Air Intake Upgrade Guide

Chandler Stark

Meet Chandler

Chandler is an automotive expert with over a decade of experience working on and modifying cars. A couple of his favorites were his heavily modded 2016 Subaru WRX and his current 2020 VW Golf GTI. He’s also a big fan of American Muscle and automotive history. Chandler’s passion and knowledge of the automotive industry help him deliver high-quality, insightful content to TuningPro readers.

For many years in the late-’90s and early-’00s, the 5.4 Triton V8 engine was one of Ford’s top power plants. Many owners choose to upgrade the 5.4 Triton for more horsepower, and a cold air intake is often one of the first mods. Read on to learn about 5.4 Triton cold air intake upgrades including benefits, power gains, cost, and more.

Ford 5.4 Triton Cold Air Intake Basics

While Ford may have put the 5.4 Triton V8 into a variety of different makes and models, the principle of a 5.4 Triton cold air intake applies the same to all of them. The air intake is the very first part of a car’s intake system. Most (non-Shelby) OEM intakes consist of a panel filter, an airbox, a snorkel, a silencer, and tubing that connects the airbox to the throttle body. The throttle body is what connects the air intake to the intake manifold (or supercharger on some of the Shelbys), which feeds the air into the engine. 

On the OEM air intake, the most restrictive part is the airbox. While they are not all the same, most of them consist of a plastic box that encloses the panel air filter. They also have a silencer, which insulates the airbox and reduces sound, and a snorkel which draws in air from the fender or from behind the radiator. The snorkel is helpful because it allows for fresher and cooler air to enter the intake. However, the silencer reduces airflow in order to reduce sound, which makes the engine work harder. 

In general, the stock intake is decently well designed, but compared with aftermarket versions it’s considered restrictive. Upgrading to a 5.4 Triton cold air intake will add some power, efficiency, look good, and reduce weight. The performance gains are around ~5-15 horsepower and ~5-15 lb-ft of torque. When combined with other mods, like upgrading the intake manifold or exhaust, they can be even more beneficial. 

5.4 triton cold air intake
5.4 triton cold air intake S&B

Why Upgrade My Intake?

The main ways that performance intakes increase power on the 5.4 Triton is by having an intake filter that is larger than stock coupled with a less restrictive airbox and intake piping. The larger filter allows for more air to be sucked in, and the less restrictive airbox and smoother piping increases airflow and reduces air turbulence. 

All of these combine to increase both the volume and velocity of airflow through the intake system. The way to increase power in an engine is by adding fuel and air, and performance intakes are a good way to start this.

To be fair, Ford did a pretty good job on most of their 5.4 Triton intakes. Most of the OEM intakes are capable of flowing well over 300 horsepower with other mods, and do a more than adequate job when stock. The main reasons for upgrading are if you are considering adding more intake or exhaust mods and/or if you prefer the look/sound of an aftermarket intake. By itself, a 5.4 Triton cold air intake will not add very much horsepower or torque. 

Cold Air Intakes vs Short Ram

There are two main kinds of 5.4 performance intakes: Either cold air intakes or short ram air intakes. The two are similar, with the main difference being the length of the intake piping and the location of the intake filter. 

Cold air intakes have more piping, locate the airbox away from the center of the engine bay, and draw in cold air from the fender/wheel well area. Short ram intakes have minimal piping to ensure the least amount of distance from filter to throttle body, and usually do not have airboxes. On short rams, the intake is located right in the hot engine bay, which most people don’t prefer. 

For most 5.4 Triton vehicles, the OEM intake is actually considered a cold air intake. They are called cold air intakes because the air from the fender is much colder than in the engine bay. Rerouting the filter away from the engine bay allows for colder, more oxygen-rich air, which increases horsepower. Most OEM intakes do this, and the main problems come from the piping and airbox being too restrictive. 

In general, on a naturally aspirated engine like the (non-Shelby) 5.4 Triton, a cold air intake will be preferable to a short ram intake. The colder air will be an advantage, and as long as the intake piping is well designed it won’t be a serious restriction. On Shelby 5.4 Tritons, the difference is less important. This is because they have also intercoolers that cool down the air before it enters the engine.

Ford 5.4 Triton Cold Air Intake Benefits

  • + ~5-10 horsepower and torque
  • Improved throttle response
  • Improved engine bay aesthetics
  • Improved fuel economy
  • Increased air flow and volume
  • Increased engine sounds

We’ll get it out of the way now, but adding a 5.4 Triton cold air intake will not be a huge power increase. At the most, an intake by itself will add ~5-10 horsepower and torque. When combined with things like an upgraded intake manifold, long-tube headers, and forced induction, they will add more power. Still, you will notice a little bit of an increase from an intake and an ECU tune.

The engine will also feel more responsive after adding an intake. You’ll notice the throttle feels a bit more awake and it’s slightly easier to pass or get up to highway speeds. You may also see an increase of 0.5-1.5 miles per gallon due to the less restrictive system and colder air. 

A lot of the benefits of a 5.4 Triton cold air intake upgrade are aesthetic. Not only will the engine look much better, but you’ll definitely hear the intake vs the OEM airbox. The OEM airbox has a silencer for noise reduction and most aftermarket ones do not. Considering most intakes are not terribly expensive, it’s a very popular mod for many 5.4 Triton owners, and many F-series owners in general. 

5.4 Triton F-150 Gotts Mod

For those with a 5.4 Triton powered F-150, instead of getting a new intake you can always try the forum-famous Gotts Mod. You can view a guide here, but it’s a $15 alternative to buying a new intake. Essentially, you remove the stock intake snorkel and replace it with a piece of 3 inch PVC pipe. The stock snorkel is insulated, which reduces flow, and the PVC replaces it with a hollow 3 inch piece. This allows for optimal flow, and will net a roughly ~5 horsepower increase. 

Best 5.4 Triton Cold Air Intakes

Considering Ford put the 5.4 Triton in more than a dozen makes and models, there are a ton of 5.4 Triton cold air intakes on the market. We’ve narrowed it down to a few options that provide a good balance of price, quality, and performance.

1) K&N Intake Upgrade

First up we have the 5.4 Triton 1997–2002 F-150 K&N cold air intake. Over many years, K&N has established themselves as the go-to brand for performance cold air intake systems. Their filters are widely used by intake brands on just about every make and model of vehicle. In addition, they are known for being high flowing and doing an excellent job of catching debris. 

Their 5.4 Triton intake fits the 1997–2002 F-Series, Expedition, and 1997–1998 Lincoln Navigator. It is a pretty basic system that has a massive cone filter and no airbox. As you can see from the dyno graph below, the K&N intake showed gains of 13 horsepower and 15 lb-ft of torque on a DynoJet. Those are pretty significant upgrades from just an intake, and show how good the K&N system for the 5.4 Triton really is. 

The K&N costs $299.99–$349.99 (depending on sales), making it very moderately priced and cost effective. Part of the reduced costs comes from the lack of airbox, but as the dyno plot shows it’s not an issue on this system. This intake is CARB certified and 50 states legal. 

5.4 Triton Cold Air Intake Power Gains

2) S&B F-150 Intake Upgrade

Next up is another S&B intake, this time the 5.4 Triton 2005+ Ford F-150 cold air intake. The intake looks pretty similar to the above GT500 intake, but has a different filter style and a larger airbox. The airbox has two inlets to take in fresh air, and the top is transparent for easy viewing of the filter. This intake is designed for the 2005–2008 F-150, but reviews indicate it also fits same year 5.4L Lincolns. Make sure to double check all fitments before purchase. 

Compared with the OEM intake, the S&B unit flows 35% better and has a 99% efficiency rating. As you can see from their test results, the S&B 5.4 Triton intake flows exceptionally well and is a big improvement over stock. It is priced the same as the non-sale K&N intake, and probably has pretty similar dyno results. 

This is a solid intake that can be had with either a dry or oiled filter, and we recommend dry to cut down on potential MAF fouling issues. 

3) Volant Intake Upgrade

Our final suggestion is the 5.4 Triton Volant 2005+ Ford/Lincoln cold air intake. This intake looks very similar to the S&B intake, but it has a slightly more innovative airbox. In addition, the Volant intake uses a PowerCore air filter, which also flows exceptionally like the S&B. The PowerCore filter is a dry filter that can last up to 100,000 miles without maintenance. The intake also has a venturi filter adapter to provide the smoothest airflow possible. 

You can get an optional oiled filter, which performs fine, but we definitely recommend the PowerCore. The airbox looks very well designed and made, but it does not have a transparent top like the S&B. Still, it’s pretty easy to remove the top if you want within just a few minutes, so it’s not much of a big deal. The Volant is a bit more expensive than the other options, and it probably performs the same. The Volant 5.4 Triton intake fits the 2004–2008 F-150 and 2006–2008 Lincoln Mark LT.

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