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What is an Air Inlet?

By Christy Bieber
Updated May 17, 2024
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An air inlet is a useful element in many different applications, especially those incorporating engines. Essentially, an air inlet allows for fresh air to enter a given area or location. This becomes vitally important in machinery that requires fresh air.

Most home and industrial furnaces, as well as air conditioning systems, utilize air inlets, as they need fresh air intake to be able to provide service. Even newer indoor plumbing schematics include the use of air intakes to ensure the plumbing system does not become air locked or to prevent the sewage vent pipe from becoming air locked. Air inlets are also a vital part of combustion engines, as these engines require oxygen to enter the combustion chamber just prior to the combustion taking place.

Usually in the form of a vent, air inlets in heating or air conditioning systems such as a central air unit are a vital element to either heating or cooling the air in the building they are located in. In furnaces, the air inlet pulls new fresh air from the outside into the unit to be heated and dispersed through the building. The same function takes place in cooling units, as all of these units require a flow of new or fresh air to function efficiently.

In newer construction, an air intake pipe is utilized in the plumbing schematic for the building to allow the plumbing system an escape route for air bubbles or trapped air that could possibly create an air lock within the plumbing system. These air inlet pipes are set between the main trap outside the house and the exterior wall of the house, but far enough away from the sewage exhaust that the harmful fumes are not brought back into the house. Older plumbing systems that include a sewage exhaust which runs out of the roof don’t typically require the use of an air inlet.

Air inlets, or air intakes, are essential to the function of combustion engines because for the combustion to take place and power to be generated, the combustion cylinder must be given a measured dose of fresh air. If either the timing or the measurement of the air introduced to the cylinder is miscalculated, the engine will not perform properly or efficiently. The fuel will not ignite inside the cylinder when the spark plug fires, leaving that particular cylinder to accumulate a surplus of fuel, causing a “backfire” effect.

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Discussion Comments

By Charred — On Feb 21, 2012

@SkyWhisperer - I agree. Air inflow is important in a lot of ways for your car, and the air filter is just one place to look for. Another thing to watch out for is mass airflow sensors.

The mass airflow sensor monitors the amount of air going into the engine and it uses that information to regulate how much fuel your engine needs to run efficiently.

I found one easy way to check if the mass airflow sensor is working right – I just tap on the engine hose. If the engine stumbles, that means that there is a hiccup with the air inflow sensor. That’s the simplest method.

Of course mechanics have their meters and computers; that’s more precise, but this is the method I use before I ever take the car to a mechanic.

By SkyWhisperer — On Feb 20, 2012

I think It’s important to make sure that you have clear air running into your engine if you want good combustion. One of the ways to keep your engine running clean is to change the car's inlet air filter from time to time.

I usually check my owner’s manual for the recommended maintenance schedule and follow that religiously. It’s not expensive and if you don’t want to do it yourself, you can usually request to have it done with your next oil change for a nominal fee.

A clean air filter will ensure that you get maximum mileage from your car, ensuring that it runs with peak efficiency for many years to come.

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