Best Air Filters for Cars: Keep Your Engine Performing at its Best
Keep your engine clean and running smoothly with a new air filter
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Air filters are your car’s first line of defense to keep dirt, dust, and other debris from entering the engine. Once inside, these particles can wreak havoc with vital components and cost you thousands of dollars in repairs. Check out our picks for the best performance air filters for cars to help keep your engine clean and running smoothly.
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Benefits of Air Filters for Cars
- Better fuel efficiency. Replacing the old air filter in your car will increase the amount of air that is flowing into the engine. More airflow into the engine means the fuel will combust more efficiently saving you money at the pump.
- Engine longevity. Having a properly working filter is essential for keeping the engine air cleaner. Filters increase engine life by protecting them from particles that can damage the pistons, fuel system, and other key components.
- Low cost. Unlike many of the other parts that your engine needs to run properly, air filters are inexpensive to buy and simple to install. For a relatively small amount of money, you can purchase one of the best air filter replacements on the market.
- Reduced emissions. Keeping the air flowing into the engine clean means that dirt, dust, and debris are not getting caught up in the combustion process. This means the engine will burn cleaner, which in turn means cleaner exhaust.
Types of Air Filters for Cars
These are the most common type of car air filters that is available. They are made from a paper-like material that is fibrous and accordion-shaped to provide as much surface area as possible. Replaceable air filters collect a large amount of micro- and macro-sized particles and should be changed regularly.
The other main type of air filter features a cloth-like material that can be cleaned and reused throughout the life of a car. These washable car air filters are not only great in terms of their ability to collect micro- and macro-sized particles, but they are also great for the environment. The upfront cost is higher, but it pays off in the long run.
Since 2001, an increasing number of car manufacturers have included cabin air filters to keep the air you’re breathing fresh and clean. They are designed and work in the same way as the replaceable air filters described above.
Operating out of Lake Forest, Ill., Fram air filters have guided the way as one of the industry's leaders since its formation in 1932. Much of the company's success came after receiving the Army-Navy “E” Award in 1945 for patriotic service during WWII, which also gave it exclusive rights to produce filters for the military. Among its popular products available is the CF10134 Cabin Air Filter.
Originally started as a motorcycle parts store in Riverside, Calif. back in 1969, the company quickly focused on producing air filters and other filtration-based products. Today, K&N is one of the best car air filter brands in the world with factories in the United States, England, the Netherlands, and China. K&N is known for some of the best high flow air filters, like the RG-1001RD Universal Clamp-On Air Filter.
AEM Induction Systems
In 1987, John Concialdi and Bob Sullivan started AEM as a high-performance automotive tuning shop in Compton, Calif. Since then, AEM has worked vigorously to create and innovate some of the best-performing air filters that are used both privately and on the racetrack. AEM is known for products such as the 28-20286 Dryflow Air Filter.
Air Filters for Cars Pricing
- $7-$20: At this price range, you can expect to find some of the best cheap air filters for cars on the market. There are no reusable air filters at this price point, but the replaceable filters that are available are made from high-quality filter media that offers excellent protection.
- $20-$60: The middle-of-the-road price range has filters that boast multiple layers of protection as well as more expensive synthetic filter media. You can also find many of the best reusable air filters for cars at this price point.
- $60 and up: These high-end filters are the choice for luxury car owners as well as professional drivers. In addition to carbon fiber filter media and multiple layers of protection, this price range also has specialty cabin filters as well as package deal replaceable filters.
The biggest distinguishing feature amongst all the various air filters that are available is the media used to collect dirt and debris. Most commonly used are paper filters due to being inexpensive to produce. Other media types include foam, cotton, steel mesh, and carbon fiber.
High-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters are used exclusively to clean the air in the cabin. They use microscopic mesh to trap pollen and other tiny particles that can cause allergies, asthma, and other breathing-related health conditions.
Air filters come in many different shapes and sizes to accommodate all the different car manufacturers out there. There are also high-performance filters that use a cyclonic shape to force air through at a quicker pace, which will increase horsepower. Make sure you know the dimensions you need prior to clicking on the purchase button.
Many filters come with multiple layers of media that give your engine extra protection. These air filters can be found throughout all of the price ranges, so don’t think that you have to spend top-dollar on a quality air filter.
- Reusable vs. Replaceable: At the end of the day, there are very good filters of both types that will keep your engine clean. The choice between them boils down to which kind of new filter is more convenient for you.
Best Air Filter for Cars Reviews & Recommendations 2020
- It can be easy to forget exactly when you’re supposed to change out a dirty air filter. To help yourself to remember, jot down the mileage due date and keep it handy with your car’s paperwork.
- If you’re thinking about using a high-performance air filter, do some research first to see what the benefits for your car would be. In some cases, it really won’t make much of a difference.
- To get the most out of replacement air filters, make sure to use a higher-octane fuel as well. This will help ensure your engine’s combustion is clean and powerful.
Q: How many miles can I go between air filter changes?
A: As a general rule, you don’t want to drive more than 12,000 to 15,000 miles without changing or cleaning your air filter. For the best results, consult your owner’s manual for manufacturer specifications.
Q: If I cut an air filter to fit into my car’s filter cabin, will it still work?
A: Air filters are designed to consistently handle a lot of air running through them. If you breach the design, it will weaken the structural integrity, which will reduce the life of the product.
Q: How do I wash reusable air filters?
A: You can use soap and water to clean a dirty air filter. If your filter is especially dirty, try using a degreaser. Once you have cleaned your filter, give it a few good shakes and then let it air dry.
The K&N 33-2031-2 High-Performance Air Filter will deliver clean air and get a few extra horses from the car engine.
If you are looking for an engine air filter that is easy on the pocketbook, check out the FRAM CA4309 Extra Guard Air Filter.