The Ultimate Air Filter Buying Guide
How To Shop The Perfect Air Filters?
You need clean air to breathe, and so does your engine. Air filters are the critical components of the vehicle as it prevents the dust, debris, and other particles from entering your engine. If inside, these particles can disturb the performance of the vehicle and may cause hefty repairs. Cleaning your air filter is a vital part of the vehicle maintenance process. Finding the perfect air filter can be a daunting task because of a wide-variety of options available. In this car air filter buying guide, you will see how to choose the air filter that fits your vehicles, their benefits, pros and cons, and much more.
Table Of Contents
Top Picks For Air Filters
1. Which Type Of Air Filter Should I Choose?
The air filters installed in your vehicle can make a huge difference in its performance. The job of keeping dirt and other unwanted material out of the engine falls to the humble engine air filter. A vehicle that has a clean and exact fit air filter enhances fuel economy, improvises engine health, boosts acceleration, and lowers emissions. Below are the different air filters used in vehicles
1.1. Paper Air Filters
The most common type of air filters used today are the paper air filter. This air filter is affordable and provides functional filtration. Manufacturers recommend replacing these filters after every 5-10 thousand miles as they collect an extensive amount of micro and macro particles. The cost of replacing paper air filters may increase over time though they are affordable in comparison with other designs. The cabin air filter is also a paper air filter designed specifically for the passenger’s compartment.
1.2. Gauze Air Filters
The chief advantage of gauze air filters over the other is, they are washable, free-flowing, and long-lasting. These air filters can outlive your vehicle with proper maintenance. There are two types of gauze filters: oiled gauze and synthetic dry. The oiled-gauze air filter is a popular design and reusable and only needs maintenance after about 5000 miles. The synthetic dry gauze air filters are used by some manufactures and they require occasional cleaning. They use these two styles of gauze air filters in air intake kits.
1.3. Foam Air Filters
Foam air filters are very rare and you can usually find them on small engines such as lawnmowers and also on off-road, dirt, and rally-racing vehicles. However, some manufacturers offer foam wraps around other air filters which creates an extra barrier between the dirt and the debris and the combustion system. Pollutants must pass through the foam before it hits the air filter. Foam pre-cleaner wrap can be a great upgrade if your vehicle has to endure dusty conditions as it protects the engine in the long run.
2. What Are The Factors I Should Consider When Buying An Air Filter?
2.1. Where You Drive
- Dusty Environments - If you are an off-road enthusiast looking for some extra protection from dusty environments, then foam air filters are an ideal choice. The only thing you will have to take care of is replacing the oil on a regular basis so it lasts the lifetime of the vehicle.
- Daily Commuters - If you are the one who takes your vehicle for regular servicing and drives back and forth from office daily, then paper air filters are a good and affordable choice. You don’t have to worry much as the servicing takes care of the air filter replacement. But if you want to save bucks in the long run and want to forget about replacing air filters on a regular basis then opt for cotton gauze air filters that last a very long time and provide enhanced engine performance as well but for a premium initial price.
Paper air filters are an affordable and cost-effective solution to air filters but the low cost comes at the expense of poorer performance and shorter lifespan compared to the other types. Foam and cotton air filters are quite expensive but their long-lasting nature means you will require much fewer replacements which can become more economical in the long run. Some foam air filters can even last the lifetime of the vehicle. Cotton air filters are washable and some performance cotton filters can significantly boost engine efficiency and horsepower by allowing a larger volume of air through to the engine.
So the price difference between expensive alternatives can be justified by their benefits but affordable filters provide a good bang for their buck.
Performance cotton gauze air filters are a great choice for spirited drivers who wish to to get the best for their vehicles. These filters can increase engine horsepower by as much as 10hp - that is enough to make your drive to the office way more enjoyable. Apart from the performance advantages, cotton filters are washable and reusable which makes them last much longer than standard paper filters. If you are in need of more performance from the vehicle or need hassle-free service from your air filter, then performance cotton air filters are an ideal option.
So the price difference between expensive alternatives can be justified by their benefits but affordable filters provide a good bang for their buck.
3. Which Top Brand Air Filter Should I Choose?
3.1. Mann Air Filter
Soot, fine particles, pollen and many other contaminants are still available on buildings, on farms and, yes, every kilometre you travel. If the air filter is not in perfect shape or unconditional, dirt particles may penetrate the combustion chamber, develop markings on the pistons and cause early wear of the engine. In the case of insufficient filtration, even electrical components such as sensors on the track between the air intake and the combustion chamber could cause loss and could be lost in the worst condition. Naturally, all this is easy to overcome.
A. Tough Performer
Thanks to the excellent quality workmanship in original equipment, MANN-FILTER air filters are highly durable and preserve their form. Except for the heavy mechanical loads, for instance, in confined locations or areas that are difficult to enter, the filter elements are easy to fit. They effectively and accurately filter the air intake to ensure the optimal mixture of the air fuel–a critical requirement for sustained motor performance.
B. Clean Solution
Most air filters from MANN-FILTER can be totally incinerated and can thus be safely disposed of.
If the air filter is not handled with a flame retardant impregnation, glowing cigarettes may pose a grave danger. This special impregnation is insoluble in water and is already present in numerous MANN-FILTER air filters. If warm ash is consumed in the air intake, it reliably stops the air filter from exploding into flames. They are a valuable protection for commercial vehicles that are capital intensive.
D. In Top Shape
MANN-FILTER provides a range of items with hundreds of shapes that satisfy growing demands even in confined areas, whether trapezoidal, or oval-conic or stepped.
E. High Performance In A Compact Size
Micro-grade G reflects MANN-FILTER's desire for a more spatially efficient solution, greater dust capability and long operating intervals in the automotive industry. The gradient structure of the cellulose fibre filter medium is up to 20% higher than the paper filters comparable with the regular cellulose filter media.
F. Stable Performance
The stabilizing technology of a spiral wound strap eliminates not only weight, it also expands lifespan and increases water rigidity. The technology is being pioneered steadily by growing numbers of MANN-FILTER air filter
F. STABLE PERFORMANCE
The stabilising technology of a spiral wound strap eliminates not only weight, it also expands lifespan and increases water rigidity. The technology is being pioneered steadily by growing numbers of MANN-FILTER air filters.
Advantages of MANN-FILTER Air Filters
Functional reliability over the entire operation interval
High efficiency of dirt removal and low flow resistance
Low flow resistance
100 percent waterproofing in the long run
Special impregnation of paper produces very robust plates.
Engine, air flow metres and other critical sections are optimally secured.
Extreme resistance to flame due to certain impregnations
For more information and detailed product lines, visit our Mann Filter- Air filter Section.
3.2. Wix Air Filter
I. Standard Air Filters
An efficient air filter efficient air filter can avoid the absorption of microscopic airborne particles (such as pollen, spores or asphalt). Clean air quality is essential for the proper operation of the engine. It also promotes the efficiency of the engine, torque and promotes fuel consumption. The pollution also increases the harm caused to piston rings, bushings, and cylinders.
A. Flame Retardant Filter Medium
All WIX filters are in line with the F1 or S1, so the fire can not spread, rather it extinguishes the flames. They protect passengers against fire in case of sucking of the air supply system, e.g. ignition source.
B. Durable And Airtight Filter Seals
We use the polyurethane mixture to produce seals that is characterized by its unique elasticity and the compressive strength at high temperatures. WIX filters remain airtight except under certain working environments.
C. Pleats Stabilized By Ribs
Adjacent WIX Filters do not cling to each other, since special ribs stabilize them. Owing to its uniformly dispersed distribution, filtration occurs on the entire medium surface and maximizes cleanliness.
D. Modern Filter Media
The current filter media in WIX Filters air filter ensure a filtration quality of 99,9 percent for particles of only a few microns based on cellulose or synthetic fibre. Each filter has its media chosen and is consistent with the vehicle manufacturers' specifications.
E. Synthetic Non-Woven Panel Filters
Synthetic non-woven have exceptionally fine filtration characteristics. The absorption of cellulose is higher, but less rigid. Therefore, by placing the filter medium into a plastic frame developed by injection it solves the problem of rigidity. An external reinforcement is a special mesh that defends against damage during service. This approach provides a proper engine safety and does not distort the filter under tough operating conditions.
F. Panel Filters With Cellulose Bloating Paper
Because of the various sizes and shape of these filters, significant consideration must be paid to ensuring that each filter is subject to the strain of regular driving conditions, so that the completeness of each filter is assured by means of chosen filters, stabilizers, or a retaining net for the metal, to stabilize the filters.
G. Round Filters
The filter may have the form of an oval ring or a cylindrical ring. But the space for the air intake system is considerably reduced in today's passenger cars. Big circular and complex-built filters are also primarily equipped for luxury high-capacity vehicles. Car makers use them rarely.
II. Heavy-Duty Filters
Machines with heavy duty rarely run in sterile conditions. In addition, they consume a great deal of environmental pollutants. WIX Filters offers efficient engine abrasion safety.
A. Pleats With Ribs
This technology guarantees that pleats are spread uniformly, thus ensuring an acceptable distribution of the air flow over the whole filter surface.
B. Pleat-Stabilizing Fingers
A stabilization that keeps the pleats from breaking down and lack of stability.
C. High Quality Filter Material
They stop up to 99.9 percent of the pollution and guarantee a full life of the engine under engine specifications..
D. Silicone Seals
Seals of this type are most commonly found in WIX filters and are resistant to external pressures (temperature and vibration); they will not crumble, will not get difficult over time and, above all, ensure right pressure. They don't deform because of their elasticity.
E. Metal Bottom Caps With A Handle
To remove and install the filters easily. They are used in specific models.
F. Air Flow Indicator
Difficult environments under which the machinery works (such as humidity, polluted atmosphere, air) can minimize air filter quality. The air flow indicator will determine whether the filter functions properly. The indicator guarantees optimized air filter maintenance.
For more information and detailed product lines, visit our WIX- Air filter Section.
3.3. K&N Engineering Air Filters
K&N® washable, reusable High-Flow Air Filters ™ use a state-of-the-art design of layered, oiled cotton media engineered to boost airflow and trap contaminants, and are built to provide a boost in horsepower. Each air filter is reusable, is planned for the entire lifetime and is supported in the K&N 10 / Million Mile Limited Warranty. K&N replacement filters are designed to conveniently fit into your airbox. Modify today and get superior airflow and top efficiency in the most successful product of K&N!
Original red air filter since 1969.
Easily washable and reusable.
Increases the performance of the vehicle.
Protects your vehicle’s engine.
Easy to install.
For more information and detailed product lines, visit our K & N Engineering - Air Filter Section.
3.4. Fram Air Filter
A. Extra Guard Air
If the air filter is clean, it avoids the dust and dirt from entering the engine and improves air flow.
The particles that could damage the engine can be prevented from entering in and the engine wear may be increased.
Dirty air filters limit airflow that contributes to reduced acceleration and horsepower and reduce overall efficiency.
B. Tough Guard
Planned and designed to catch and retain more dirt with advanced features.
Pre-oiled media engineered to attract and trap finer dirt and dust particles improve the potential for dirt preservation. Enhances the potential of holding dirt.
Due to the presence of a heavier filter screen that extends into the urethene you can achieve increased durability, provides greater integrity and minimizes the likelihood of collapse and tearing while driving through tough conditions.
For continuous airflow and less restriction, the pleat-lock glue bead feature permits the pleats to lock into position, so that it can help with the overall performance of the engine.
C. FRAM Uultra® Premium Air Filter
Protection from dust, dirt and other particles.
The proprietary filter media captures double the dirt, including small dirt particles which cannot be captured by regular air filters.
Due to the presence of a heavier filter screen you can achieve increased durability and provide greater filter integrity.
For continuous airflow and less restriction, the pleat-lock glue bead feature permits the pleats to lock into position, so that it can help with the overall performance of the filter.
A new FRAM Ultra Premium Air Filter will boost your vehicle's power and acceleration when a blocked engine air filter is replaced at recommended OE change intervals.
For more information and detailed product lines, visit our FRAM Filters - Air Filter Section.
3.5. Beck/Arnley Air Filters
Matches OE form, fit and function.
To regulate proper air flow, they are made from high-quality fiber materials.
Constructed for durability.
Designed to withstand under-hood conditions.
Application is designed for specific vehicles.
For more information and detailed product lines, visit our Beck/Arnley Air Filter Section.
3.6. Purezone Air Filters
Give good motor protection throughout the traditional air filter change interval to normal everyday driving conditions.
Designed in the media area to match the OES.
Air Filter Laboratory Tests of 97.5% Minimum efficiency according to ISO 5011.
For more information and detailed product lines, visit our Purezone - Air Filter Section.
4. Why Do I Need An Air Filter?
For maximum vehicle power and better fuel economy, the vehicle owner has to keep a close eye on the conditions of the air filter and replace them as needed. Here are a few benefits of air filters:
A. Better Fuel Efficiency
A dirty or damaged air filter limits the amount of air flowing into your car’s engine, making it work harder and, therefore, using more fuel. The amount of air that flows through the engine will eventually increase when you replace the old air filter. You can also save money at the pump, if there is more airflow into the engine as the fuel will combust more efficiently.
B. Longevity Of The Engine
To keep the engine air cleaner, you need an air filter that is functioning properly. A particle as small as a grain of salt can get through a damaged air filter and do a lot of damage to internal engine parts, such as cylinders and pistons, which can be very expensive to repair. That’s why regularly replacing your air filter is very important as it considerably increases the life of the engine.
C. Fewer Emissions
Dirty or damaged air filters reduce the airflow to the engine, changing your car’s air-fuel balance. This imbalance can pollute spark plugs, causing the engine to miss or rough idle; increase engine depositions, and cause the ‘Service Engine’ light to turn on. If the airflow into the engine is clean, then the dust, dirt, mud, and other particles will not get caught in the combustion process resulting in the cleaner exhaust.
5. When Should I Replace My Air Filter?
To achieve maximum performance and optimal gas mileage, air filters have to be cleaned and changed annually. Most auto-manufacturers will recommend changing the air filters after every 19,000kms (approximately) or 1 year depending on the vehicle make, model, and how you drive. But if you are driving in dusty areas, or if your car faces a lot of stress, then get them checked with a professional mechanic more often.
6. What Are The Warning Signs Of A Bad Air Filter?
As the air filters have a massive impact on the proper functioning of the vehicle, it is highly essential that you replace them in a timely manner. A dirty or clogged air filter can even lead to driveability issues. Following are some symptoms that you may notice if you don’t replace your air filter at the suggested intervals.
A. Reduced Fuel Economy A very clear sign of a dirty or damaged air filter is the decrease in fuel economy. If the air filter is damaged or clogged, it will restrict the airflow which lowers the oxygen in the mixture. Your engine makes up for this by using more fuel to generate enough power to drive the same distance or speed as you do with a clean filter. B. Misfiring Of The Engine An insufficient flow of oxygen from a clogged air filter allows unburnt fuel to leave the engine in the form of soot. This soot covers the spark plugs which makes it impossible to deliver the necessary spark to combust the air fuel mixture. The engine will find it hard to start, resulting in misfiring or rough jerks. C. Strange Engine Noise Are you hearing unusual noises than smooth vibrations of the engine? Then your engine may not be getting sufficient air flow which means the air filter needs replacement. The engine air filter might have been dirty or clogged reducing the air flow and altering the air-fuel mixture. This air-fuel mixture creates a black soot over the spark plugs. This strange noise usually arises as the soot covers the spark plugs and it does not fire properly. D. Check Engine Light Comes On Carbon deposits accumulate in the engine if the supply of air is inadequate which triggers the check engine light. If the light comes on, check the air filter if they need replacement before you run any other diagnostics. And this is one reason, most manufacturers recommend changing the air filter after every 15,000 kms to 25,000 kms. E. Dirty Air Filter A brand new air filter will be in white or off-white color. But as days go by, because of the accumulation of dust, dirt and other particles, they will appear darker. The dust particles on the inner layer of the air filter will not be visible even in bright light. So every time you take your car in for maintenance, make sure your mechanic visually inspects the air filter as it is highly essential. F. Decreased Performance Is your car sluggish? Does it respond normally or jerks as you press the accelerator button? If these are the reasons, then there are good chances that the air filter is dirty and is preventing your engine from receiving clean air to function properly. To eliminate this issue, all you have to do is replace the dirty air filter. G. Black Smoke/Flames From The Exhaust Some fuel may not burn completely in the combustion cycle, if the air supply is insufficient. This fuel exits through the exhaust pipe. If you see a black smoke from your exhaust pipe, get your air filter replaced by the mechanic. You may also see a flame at the end of the tailpipe or hear popping sound. This condition is hazardous and needs to be diagnosed immediately. H. Gasoline Smell In The Exhaust Do you smell petrol as you start your car? This can happen if there is insufficient oxygen in your fuel injection system and the excess un-burnt fuel leaves your car through the exhaust pipe. Instead of black smoke in the exhaust pipe you will smell gasoline. This is a clear sign that your air filter needs replacement.
I. Reduced Horsepower If your car does not respond adequately or if you notice jerking movements when you press the accelerator, this could indicate that your engine is not receiving all the air it needs to perform. Since it improves airflow, replacing your air filter can improve acceleration or horsepower by up to 11%.
7. What Is The Cost Of Air Filters?
Once you have checked your air filters and know that it’s time for a replacement, now you must consider which air filter to choose and at what price. Prices vary from one brand to another.
7.1 Between $7-$20 - At this price point, you can find the best, affordable and quality air filters. They offer the best protection and you can also find a lot of competition in this price range.
7.2 Between $20- $60 - At this price-point you can find some of the best air filters that suit almost 80% of the vehicle. They have multiple layers of protection and offer excellent performance.
7.3 $60 and more: High-performance air filters are available at this price range. Unlike regular filters, you don’t have to replace them every year as they won’t get clogged quickly or easily. This means your engine will get better air and perform better, eventually increasing your horsepower, and torque.
When air flows through the filter, dust and contaminants are stuck within the filter. The filter becomes dulls over time. When this happens, the air can not flow as it should through the filter. Any of the wastes will burst in the engine or the motor will not provide the airflow it needs.
Q. How often should you replace an air filter?
The air filter in a car generally needs to be replaced every 15,000kms to 25,000kms (approximately). There are many factors that play a role in how frequently your car's filter will need to be replaced, including the type of car you drive, the type of filter in the car, the road conditions you drive in, and the weather elements your car is exposed to.
Q. What will happen if you don’t change the dirty air filter?
If the air filter gets extremely dirty, the air supply gets stuck and the engine cannot draw sufficient air into the combustion chamber. As this occurs the engine may use more gas and less air. This will result in poor performance and reduced fuel efficiency.
Q. What is the role of an air filter in a vehicle?
Your car's air filter helps to clean the air that enters the engine. It prohibits the entry of dust, debris, and other pollutants. Your engine will have to work harder if these pollutants enter your car. This will affect the fuel efficiency of your car and reduce your engine's lifespan.
Q. How do I know if I must change the air filter?
Some of the signs are:
The air filter will be dirty.
The check-engine light will turn on.
Horsepower will be reduced.
A visible black, sooty smoke leaving the exhaust pipe.
As you start the engine, you will smell gas.
Q. Can engine air filters be reused?
Performance air filters are long-lasting and re-usable. Regular air filters (paper air filters) cannot be washed, and they have limited lifespan. Hence you will have to replace them at the next service.
Q. Can I clean my air filters?
Only the reusable and washable air filter can be cleaned and reused. On the other hand disposable air filters cannot be cleaned and any attempt to clean them can actually clog them as well as cause mold.
Q. Will a dirty air filter affect the performance of a car?
A blocked or dirty air filter will significantly affect the fuel economy, and it will certainly steal your engine power. The engine requires a constant supply of oxygen to efficiently burn the fuel to accomplish this chemical reaction. If it is not, since the air filter is blocked, then, acceleration, power and torque will be affected.
Q. Can I drive without an air filter?
The engine can suck up dirt and waste without an air filter. Internal engine components such as valves, pistons and cylindrical walls could be affected. The effect is an excessive oil consumption, poor engine output and an engine breakdown.