Tony Hsieh

Steeda Parts Holiday Spotlight

The holiday season is fast approaching, and us car guys and gals know exactly what we’re asking Santa for, right? Car parts and more car parts, of course. As it stands, I have just the stuff for you if you happen to own a newer S550 Mustang. Steeda Autosports has long been a leader in aftermarket Mustang parts, and this holiday season, Santa has been quite generous. Today, we will review Steeda Autosport’s no-tune cold air intake, front chin splitter for performance pack models, and heel/toe pedal.

The Steeda no-tune CAI has been a source of many an argument in the many forums that I’m a member of. People are willing to fight to the death to support one of two views: 1) there is no way AT ALL that no tune can net the claimed 22 hp gains stated on Steeda’s site, or 2) the CAI absolutely adds more power; I can feel it and my dyno results prove it. Honestly, this argument, which has spawned countless threads across many forums, is almost as bad as Apple vs Microsoft, Ford vs Chevy, Republican vs Democrat, etc.

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However, I am not here to look into the dyno numbers with Steeda’s CAI. I don’t have access to a dyno, and without a dyno, any “gains” I may or may not receive are pointless. I can sit here all day and claim that after putting the CAI in, I am now tearing about with greater power than I ever imagined, but without hard data, none of you should take my word for it. Instead, I’ll outline the quality of the product, the installation procedure, and my non-data based impressions on how the car performs after the install. If numbers are what you want, there are plenty of threads you can find online that have that data.

Hard performance data aside, there is one thing that is absolutely not up for debate: Steeda doesn’t skimp when it comes to quality. I was originally running the stock airbox, then another one we’ll refer to as Brand X (No, not JLT so put your pitchforks down, I’m not here to feed fuel to that fire), and Steeda’s box is significantly better in quality than both the others. The stock airbox was fine; it did exactly what it was supposed to do, and honestly, it is a quality piece of equipment. I’m aware that the stock airbox is more than capable and is, in essence, a cold air intake. Many people will tell you that Ford has perfected the stock intake to the point where aftermarket CAI’s are basically useless. While I wouldn’t go THAT far, I will be more than happy to admit that the stock intake is fantastic, except for the aesthetics.

Now granted, I did not originally upgrade my stock intake to Brand X simply for the aesthetics. Yes, I was looking for something that looked a bit “cooler;” I have always been a fan of cone filters and simply liked the way they looked, so Brand X caught my attention. I don’t have a tune on my car yet, so I was aware that any gains were going to be minimal at best, if any at all. I intend to get a tune later on down the road, so any intake I install for the time being will serve the purpose of 1) looking cooler, and 2) opening up the airflow in the intake tube. With no way to determine what gains will be had by having a larger flow without a dyno, all I could bet on was SOME sort of improvement.

Brand X was fine; I’m certainly not going to bad mouth it. It was what was affordable to me at the time, and for the price, it served its purpose. It had a nicer looking cone filter and gave a nice little grunt when revving at lower RPMs. Driving around town (safely, within the speed limit of course *wink*) felt about the same, so I certainly wouldn’t say that Brand X would be the one to go with if you wanted to feel something significantly different.

Steeda’s CAI, on the other hand, is immediately noticeable both in appearance and function. The elbow tubing is made from a dense, molded ABS plastic, and the velocity stack is a billet aluminum that just screams quality and durability. The included restrictor tube is also a high quality aluminum (and also a pain to insert, I might add). Nothing is cheap and flimsy in this kit, not even the included caps for sound tube removal if you choose to remove it. The cone filter itself is a beautiful Steeda blue and is HUGE; I remember reading on a forum that you could probably fit a Burger King king sized drink in there, and while I didn’t actually test this theory out, I’m inclined to believe that you probably could…with room to spare.
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Installation was fairly simple and quick, with the hardest part being the poking around to line up the air duct inlet to the front of the car. Disassembling the stock airbox is pretty self explanatory; a couple of hose clamps to remove and a bolt, and you’re good to go. Pop the stock assembly out, and assemble the Steeda kit. The restrictor is a bit of a pain to insert into the velocity stack because it is SUCH a tight fit. A forum user suggested lubricating the rubber rings with some motor oil to aid in insertion, but even doing that still require me to bust out a small rubber mallet to pound it in snug. The only other part of the assembly process that cause me to curse out loud was fitting the rubber weatherstripping around the top edge of the open box. It’s also an extremely tight fit, and after a cut finger and some rather violent pounding with the mallet, I was finally able to get that thing on there nice and snug with a couple of extra inches to spare.

One thing that I should point out is that the Steeda kit DOES require permanently modifying a portion of the stock assembly. Steeda’s CAI re-uses the factory cold air feed duct, but in order for it to fit with the new kit in place, the resonator must be cut off and the resulting hole plugged up. I know cutting up a factory piece is a less than savory thought for most people, but if it makes you feel any better you can easily purchase a replacement OEM duct for about $50 should you ever need to go back to the stock assembly.

A few notes from my installation:

– Lining up the assembled unit with the inlet in the front of the car is damn near impossible with all the pieces in place. Do yourself a favor and leave the filter/velocity stack/restrictor off the open air box while you’re trying to line up the air duct to the inlet. Once it’s lined up and properly seated, it’s as simple as slipping the filter/velocity stack/restrictor back through the hole.

– Lining the entire assembled box up in the right place takes some jiggling around. I had to get a bit rough in order for the box to line up with the hole for the bolt that fixes the unit to the chassis.

– Reinstalling the MAF sensor wiring harness and PCV connectors to their respective hoses can be a bit scary, since there’s some stretching involved. The wiring harness for the MAF sensor is especially scary; it gets stretched a LOT. Just be careful when yanking it around.

– Some people have noted that the Steeda box doesn’t sit straight after all is said and done, and that it pushes up on one corner of the hood once it’s shut. I didn’t run into this issue, but if you do, it sounds like disassembling and reassembling everything to make sure everything is lined up correctly fixes the issue.

As far as performance goes, like I mentioned earlier, I do not have access to a dyno, so there’s not really any hard data that I can provide you folks. If you’re in the mood for something entertaining, jump on any of the major Mustangs forums and do a quick search. The war rages on to this day.

Since installing the Steeda CAI, I have done quite a bit of hard driving, both in terms of “spirited” driving through the hills and also some 2-3 hour trips. Being from California, the temperature rarely drops below the 60s, so I’m not really dealing with any extreme cold weather, and as far as hot weather goes; well, I guess we’ll have to wait for summer. My inlet air temp was consistently 5-8 degrees above ambient while driving, and while stopped, it often jumps significantly higher. Once I got moving along, thing went back to the 5-8 degrees above ambient.

As far as added power? Here’s where things get a bit tricky. Steeda states gains of up to 22hp in their testing without a tune. With no way to verify for sure, I’m left having to accept those numbers, and judging how everything feels based off the “butt dyno” instead. My thoughts:

– I love love LOVE the whistle I get when I stab at the throttle. It just sounds cool. No, it doesn’t affect performance numbers, but I just sounds so neat.

– Accelerating in the lower RPM range results in a nice grunt and a nice, strong pull. I like it; again, no way to tell WHAT I’m gaining, but as far as the way it feels? It’s good.

– Noise is a bit louder in the cabin (I left the sound tube in), but not by too much. My thinking is that added Mustang noises = good thing. Your miles may vary.

– Both my hard driving and long trips did not affect the inlet air temps. They stayed pretty consistently within that 5-8 degree range mentioned earlier (while moving), with only a handful of instances where it deviated

The best part about the Steeda CAI? Whenever I’m ready for a tune, I can simply pull the restrictor tube out, and I’m ready to go. It’s a high quality, beautiful looking, and great feeling unit that I would highly recommend for anyone looking to upgrade their stock intake.

The next product that Santa (i.e. “the wife”) brought me is the Steeda front chin splitter for Performance Pack Mustangs. Steeda also sells one for non-PP models, for those that are curious. The chin splitter is another one of those products that causes a bit of controversy. The argument here is “Sure it’s functional, but how functional could it REALLY be without supporting rods?” Well, I’m here to lay that argument to rest: I 100% got it for its looks, so I have no clue how functional it is when compared to something like the APR splitter. In the entire lifetime I will have my car, I don’t see myself tracking it on a regular basis. Honestly, I would be surprised (pleasantly so) if I EVER found myself at a track day, to be honest. So as far as function goes, I couldn’t care less. I’m sure the Steeda splitter produces a degree of downforce that would come in handy if I were tearing down the Mulsanne Straight at Le Mans, but seeing as how I will probably never hit those speeds on the road (legally, anyway), the “function” of the chin splitter is a moot point to me. I bought it because it makes my car look more aggressive. I’m completely willing to believe that simply through its design, it will create high pressure downforce on top of the splitter; I’m just probably never going to be going fast enough to utilize it correctly.

However, if I ever find myself at a track one day, at least I’ll be ready.

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The installation of the splitter is extremely easy, but very tedious. There’s a lot of “busy work” that goes into the installation, most of which involves lining up holes. All the installation really involves is removing the stock belly pan (popping out some retaining clips and removing some 7mm bolts), and putting the Steeda splitter on using the existing holes for the retaining pins and bolts. Lining up the holes on the splitter with the existing holes in the bumper, however, takes a bit of trial and error, and it’s best to have a second person around to hold the splitter for you. In my case, I used a couple of Playskool chairs to hold up the ends, and my knees to prop the middle up while I poked around underneath trying to line up the holes. To make life a bit easier, I used a small drill bit to stick through the holes and find the correct place to line them up.

The only modification the Steeda splitter involves is two small holes that need to be drilled at the very edge of the stock splitter. Don’t worry, you can’t even see the holes. The very edge of the Steeda splitter requires two bolts that don’t have existing holes in the stock splitter, so after drilling the two holes, you’ll need to reach around over the Steeda splitter into the wheel well to bolt into a j-clip. Again, not “hard” to do, just time consuming and a pain in the butt. Once all is said and done, the car has a nice new aggressive look in the front end and a functioning wind splitter if the opportunity ever arises to do some really speedy driving.
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The final product in this review came from an little boo boo I had a few weeks ago. I was driving around town and went to downshift, and in the process of heel/toe-ing, my foot slipped off the brake and got stuck under the accelerator pedal. I’ve had the car since June, and this is the first time something like that happened. Luckily, there was no one around and nothing came out of the incident, but it certainly was something I would not want happening again. Yes, it was 100% driver error, but since day one, I always wanted the pedals to be wider so I could heel/toe easier.

Santa Wife came to the rescue with the Steeda heel/toe gas pedal. This super cheap billet aluminum pedal not only looks great, but has an extended lip on the left edge to make for a much wider surface area. The gap between the brake and gas pedal is now approx. 1.5 inches, perfect for blipping the gas pedal with the edge of my foot when downshifting. Some people have even put grip tape on the surface of the pedal, but I didn’t feel the need to do that.
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Installation was fairly simple; simply remove the three 10mm bolts holding the entire pedal assembly in place, and unplug the wire harness. The entire assembly then comes out, where you can put the new pedal on outside of the car. You will have to drill into the existing pedal to attach some nuts and bolts to hold the new pedal in place (since it goes directly on top of the existing pedal), but this is not difficult to do at all. The entire process took me less than an hour, and soon I had a shiny new WIDE gas pedal to drive around with. Heel/toe-ing has never been easier.

These product reviews have all been for the S550 model, but if you’re at all familiar with Steeda, then you know they offer a ton of parts going all the way back to the Foxbody model. What can I say, I’m a big Steeda fan!