The metal screen i think is a silencer but it also serves probably as a screen to protect the huge objects that MAYBE (Im not saying its possible or impossible) break through your paper filter and enter your intake track. I took mine out and I noticed a definite change in sound. MAF sensor measures the amount of air flowing into the engine. With this sensor and several other sensors help your car determine the right air/fuel mixture for the driving conditions
This sensor measures the temperature of the airflow passing through the intake and can calculate how much air is passing through the intake. This sensor is critical in determining the correct final fuek+air mix that is injected into the cylenders. The MAF sensor works by measuring the temperature drop from a small heating element in the airflow tube. A larger temperature drop = more airflow or at least colder air which would result in a larger combustion either way.
Removing the screen would allow a little more airflow through, but remember, that screen is there to prevent turbulance through the tubes (as best as I can figure) If there's turbulance through the intake, the MAF can't get a correct reading, resulting in an incorrect fuel+air mix.
Try debaffeling the airbox first. You might get 1/2 - 1 hp increase or so in your top end since the airbox is a little restrictive. Not by much, but just a little. The baffels will create more resistance and it's fairly easy to get one of them out
EDIT: It's definately not there for sound :P The airbox muffles most of the intake sound, if you get a cone filter or a CAI, you'll notice a HUGE difference in sound, even more-so for the MAF screen. I do agree that the MAF screen is a last ditch effort to prevent CRAP from entering your engine should the filter get a puncture or be so cloged that stuff gets through around the edges or something...
Whatever you want. I might do it if I had an M3 and a manual transmission, but it's not worth it with a little 323 with restrictive engine components and an automatic tranny.
ok so if the maf help determine the right air/fuel mixture, then could removing the metal screen affect the reading of the maf? thus causing you to run too lean/rich? I removed mine too, (well i didn't but my brother did, without asking me if he could, that is why im asking) and i noticed a big difference in sound as well, more than the change from when i de-baffled. Also i have a K&N so i shouldn't have to worry about HUGE objects from getting in the the engine
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I do not know how bad removing the screen will affect turbulance, if it will even prevent turbulance being there in the first place.
Turbulance won't REALLY alter the fuel+air mixture unless it's really bad, you will just have decreased power because the mix will be a little off from optimum. It wont hurt your engine if this happens, unless it's happening really badly.
To do a preformance engine, you do have to sacrifice certain things such as engine longevity. I don't think this is a bad thing to do, personally, as long as you keep fresh, high quality filters in there, you'll be OK.
K&N is a "rechargeable" filter, you rinse it off, and re-apply oil to recharge it. If any water gets sucked into the intake (IE: during highway driving in the rain & mist from other cars could be sucked up in there) ESP with a CAI, then it'l get the filter misty and could remove some of that oil. This filter isn't designed to filter out as much particulate matter from reaching the engine... like dirt-dust... Most other crap will just be burnt in the engine but I dont like the idea of having my engine sandblasted from the inside. Even though the K&N filters most likely filter that crap out anyways, I still like the idea of REPLACING a dirty air filter.
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