Reviews

Best Engine Air Filters: Keep Your Engine Free Of Contaminants

These top air filters will keep dirt and debris away from your car’s life source

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BY Linsay Thomas , Noelle Talmon / LAST UPDATED ON June 16, 2021

Engine maintenance is critical if you want your vehicle to perform at its best. One way to ensure it's operating efficiently is by making sure you clean and/or replace all the necessary components. This includes the engine's air filter. The best engine air filters will protect your vehicle from dirt and debris. Check our car air filter guide to find the best products on the market for your Toyota, Honda, Volkswagen, and other types of vehicles.

Best Overall
FRAM Extra Guard Flexible Rectangular Panel Air Filter
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Summary
Summary

The FRAM filter improves airflow and prevents dirt and dust from entering the engine. The product comes with directions and illustrations that provide clear installation instructions.

Pros
Pros
  • This filter is excellent quality, easy to install, and it doesn't require any special tools or mechanical skills. 
  • It works great, is reliable, and fits perfectly in compatible vehicles.
Cons
Cons
  • It may be a tighter fit on certain makes and models, so it may be harder to insert. 
  • You may need to push down on the cover to attach the clips
Best Overall
FRAM Extra Guard Flexible Rectangular Panel Air Filter
Best Value
EPAuto GP013 Extra Guard Rigid Panel Engine Air Filter
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Summary
Summary

This particular model is designed to fit ideally with Acura MDX model years 2007-2009, Honda Pilot 2009-2015, and Honda Odyssey 2005-2010. It’s a budget-friendly option that still delivers good results.

Pros
Pros
  • Features more pleats than the OEM filter, hopefully removing more debris and contaminants
  • This economical filter is meant to be a comparable option that can easily compete with more expensive filters, like FRAM
Cons
Cons
  • Actual filter material seems slightly more porous than the Honda and Acura OEM filters, causing some concern over the long-term degree of filtration 
  • Some users report that the filter doesn’t fit as exactly and tightly as their OEM filter.
Best Value
EPAuto GP013 Extra Guard Rigid Panel Engine Air Filter
Honorable Mention
K&N Engine Air Filter
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Summary
Summary

This washable and reusable oil filter is designed to boost horsepower and rate of acceleration. It can be used throughout your vehicle’s lifespan and has high airflow with exceptional filtration.

Pros
Pros
  • Your car seems to breathe a bit better, and your vehicle doesn't feel restricted or choked up like it can with a stock filter. 
  • It makes shifting noticeably smoother and can increase horsepower.
Cons
Cons
  • You may not experience a noticeable increase in MPG or other performance gains with this filter despite its reputation. 
  • Also, it may emit a high-pitched sound.
Honorable Mention
K&N Engine Air Filter

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Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.

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Benefits of Engine Air Filters

  • Boost performance. Top car air filters support airflow and prevent contaminants from entering the valve train and intake manifold. Your car’s engine requires proper airflow in order to burn gas and perform efficiently. If you want more horsepower, purchase one of the best engine air filter brands.
  • Prolong engine life. If you do not have an air filter, dirt, debris, and other particles can enter the throttle body and combustion chambers. This can damage the engine's internal components, such as the cylinder walls, piston rings, and valve seats. The best engine air filters will provide engine protection. 
  • Save money. It's hard for air to get through a clogged engine filter. As a result, the engine must work harder. Eventually, this will affect the gas mileage, which will cost you more money.
  • Protect the environment. Clean or remove your dirty air filter to reduce pollution. When airflow is constricted, it can affect the emissions control in your vehicle, which will emit pollutants into the earth's atmosphere. This is one of the causes of climate change and global warming.

Types of Engine Air Filters

Paper

There's a good chance your vehicle came with this type of filter, which is the most common on the market. The best paper air filter is not very expensive, and it does an adequate job of filtering your engine. Paper filters typically need to be replaced every 15,000 to 30,000 miles, depending on where you drive. For example, if you frequently traverse dirt roads or live in a polluted area, you will have to replace it more often.

Reusable

Performance filters are usually custom-fit based on your vehicle's model and make. The best high-performance air filters are reusable as long as they are properly cleaned. These replacement air filters are designed to open up your engine to its fullest potential by increasing horsepower and fuel economy. While they are superior to paper filters, they are also more expensive.

Oil

This type of air filter is coated in oil. It traps dirt and debris and prevents it from passing through the oiled layer. An oiled filter provides more clean engine performance than other types of filters, and it is also reusable. These replacement filters require occasional cleaning and re-oiling but should last the lifespan of your vehicle.

Top Brands

Fram

Fram made its first easily replaceable oil filtering element over 85 years ago in Providence, R.I. The chemists, Frederick Franklin and T. Edward Aldham, combined their last names to form the company name. The company, now headquartered in Lake Forest, Ill., is a leading producer of oil filters in the United States. One top product is the FRAM Extra Guard Flexible Rectangular Panel Air Filter.

K&N

K&N has been a leader in automotive filtration and technology for over 50 years. Two motorcycle racers, Ken Johnson and Norm McDonald (K&N), from Riverside, Calif. created an oiled cotton filter in the early '60s that was washable and reusable. The company continues to produce excellent products for everything from top-fuel dragsters to commuter vehicles. We recommend its washable and reusable K&N Engine Air Filter.

MANN-FILTER

Application Associates is a factory-authorized dealer and distributor of MANN-Filters as well as low-pressure air vacuum and filtration equipment and has been serving the public for nearly 40 years. The company is located in Middlesex, N.J. One of its popular products is the Mann Filter C 35 154 Air Filter.

Purolator

Ernest Sweetland and George H. Greenhalgh patented the first automotive oil filtration system in 1923. They called it “Purolator”, short for “pure oil later." In 1946, Purolator introduced a pleated paper oil filter—a technology still in use today. The company is headquartered in Mississauga, Canada. One top product is the Purolator Single Air Filter.

Wix Filters

Wix Filters, based in Gastonia, N.C., has been an innovator in filtration products since 1939. WIX designs manufactures and distributes products for automotive, diesel, agricultural, industrial, and specialty filter markets. One of its top filters is the WIX Filters Air Filter Panel.

Engine Air Filters Pricing

  • $10-15: Most disposable engine air filters fall within this price range. You can find a good-quality product online or at an auto parts store without spending a lot of money, but you need to replace these filters frequently.
  • $50-$60: Reusable air filters cost a little bit of money, but they last as long as the lifespan of your vehicle.

Key Features

Compatibility

It's essential that you make an automotive air filter comparison to ensure that the product you select is designed for your vehicle's make and model. You may simply use the stock size filter that comes with your car or truck. If you modify your engine, i.e., add a turbo or supercharger, you will need a performance filter. These are often cone-shaped and are referred to as cold air intakes or induction kits.

Durability

Pay attention to the overall construction of the air filter. This includes the material used in the construction of the product. Look at the filter and see if it will hold up under general wear and tear. Good air filter brands will be made of high-quality materials and be longer-lasting.

Surface Area

The best engine air filters have more grooves in their designs. This allows them to trap more contaminants. Air filters with flatter surface areas are less effective in filtering out dirt and debris. If you want the best air filter replacement, find one with multiple pleats or folds.

Other Considerations

  • Temperature Resistance: The best OEM air filters and top aftermarket brands vary when it comes to temperature resistance. This is particularly important if you live in a very warm climate. It's a good idea to use an air filter with a higher temperature resistance if you are constantly exposing your vehicle to the heat.
  • Warranty: When you're trying to determine who makes the best auto air filter, you also want to consider whether the manufacturer provides a warranty. Most companies have one-year warranties. During this time, they may repair or replace the filter for free if it is defected or exhibits any issues.
  • Easy Installation: Fortunately, it is fairly easy to install most engine air filters. You don't usually need a mechanic to get the job done. However, you need to make sure that the air filter manufacturer provides clear and easy-to-follow directions to ensure that you install it correctly.

Best Engine Air Filters Reviews & Recommendations 2021

Best Overall
FRAM Extra Guard Flexible Rectangular Panel Air Filter

The FRAM filter provides two-times normal protection by improving airflow and preventing dirt and dust from entering the engine. The product comes with directions and illustrations that provide clear installation instructions. To prevent decreased acceleration and horsepower and improve overall performance, the company recommends changing the filter every 12,000 miles.


This filter is excellent quality, easy to install (it takes less than five minutes), and it doesn't require any special tools or mechanical skills. It works great, is reliable, and fits perfectly in compatible vehicles. It is significantly cheaper to install yourself versus taking your vehicle to a dealership for service. Also, the orange border allows you to write the install date and mileage on it for future reference.


There have been some comments that this is a tighter fit than your OEM filter, so it may be harder to insert. It seems a bit thicker than the original filter, so you may need to push down a bit on the cover to attach the clips or use pliers to pull the locking tab into place on the cover.

Best Value
EPAuto GP013 Extra Guard Rigid Panel Engine Air Filter

For a budget-friendly pick that still delivers great filtering performance, consider the EPAuto GP013Extra Guard Rigid Panel Engine Air Filter. This particular model is designed to fit ideally with Acura MDX model years 2007-2009, Honda Pilot 2009-2015, and Honda Odyssey 2005-2010. It’s meant to replace your Honda or Acura OEM air filter, but features more pleats than the OEM filter, hopefully removing more debris and contaminants.


Particles as small as dust, pollen, sand, and even soot are no problem for this filter. It’s also designed to help improve your fuel mileage when replaced every 12,000 miles. This economical filter is meant to be a comparable option that can easily compete with more expensive filters, like FRAM.


One downside seems to be that the actual filter material seems slightly more porous than the Honda and Acura OEM filters, causing some concern over the long-term degree of filtration. Also, some users report that the filter doesn’t fit as exactly and tightly as their OEM filter.

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Premium Pick
K and N Engine Air Filter

This washable and reusable oil filter is designed to boost horsepower and rate of acceleration. It can be used again and again and has high airflow with exceptional filtration. It lasts up to 50,000 miles before cleaning is required, depending on driving conditions. The filter works with original equipment manufacturer vehicle electronics.


After installing this high-quality filter in your vehicle, it seems to breathe a bit better, and your vehicle doesn't feel restricted or choked up like it can with a stock filter. Plus, you may experience a slight bump in acceleration and MPG. It makes shifting noticeably smoother and increases horsepower. It's a one-time purchase because it lasts the lifespan of your car, and it improves the health and performance of your engine.


Some owners have not seen a noticeable increase in MPG or other performance gains with this filter. In addition, you may hear a high-pitched sound or whistle when the engine is about to shift gears, but if you are talking or listening to music, you may not notice it.

Best for Performance
Purolator A36122 PurolatorONE Air Filter

If you’re looking for a premium, ultra dependable and high-performance air filter, check out the Purolator A36122 PurolatorONE Air Filter. This is one of the most popular engine air filters on the market. It improves the efficiency of your engine operation and helps prevent engine wear.


This model won’t void your new car warranty and actually helps to boost your car’s acceleration and engine performance. It allows for high volumes of air flow while removing even minuscule particles. This filter uses specially treated paper that achieves better filtration results than many other engine filters on the market. High-quality gaskets around the filer provide a super tight and confident seal that keeps out accidental unfiltered air flow. 


One thing to note: the package indicates that Purolator is an American Brand, but the filter is actually manufactured in China, so don’t be fooled into thinking it is made in America if that is an important factor for you.

Honorable Mention
ACDelco GM Original Equipment Air Filter

When it comes time to replace your GM engine air filter, you can’t go wrong with the ACDelco GM Original Equipment Air Filter. This filter is engineered and tested to some of the most rigorous standards in the automotive industry to ensure top-notch performance and reliability. It will not only enhance your engine’s performance, but also maximize its efficiency to help extend your engine life.


This filter, like most engine air filters, traps even the smallest particles before it reaches the engine, providing you with the cleanest air possible. It’s equipped with a durable and tight seal around the filter paper to prevent any unfiltered air from entering the combustion chamber. 


This particular air filter has been validated by GM engineers to be constructed from OE parts for your Chevrolet, Buick, Cadillac, or GMC vehicle. That, coupled with its super affordable price point, makes it difficult for us to find anything we don’t like about this air filter. 

Tips

  • It's essential that you regularly replace or clean your automotive air filter. If you don't, you can harm your Emissions Control System and cause problems with horsepower and fuel efficiency.
  • To make sure that you are using the right air filter for your vehicle's make and model, consult your owner's manual or look for a size chart online.
  • Check out filters that protect your engine from water as well as airborne particles. If there's heavy rainfall, you want to make sure your filter can prevent water from entering the engine.
  • If you use an oil-based filter, make sure the oil is dense. You don't want the oil to flow into the engine alongside the particles that it is supposed to keep from getting inside of it.

FAQs

Q: How often do I need to change my engine’s air filter?

A: If you have a paper filter, experts recommend changing it every 15,000 to 30,000 miles or every three years. Over time they will start to degrade. If you have a performance filter, you may be able to go as long as 50,000 or even more before you have to clean it.

Q: What are the signs that I need to change my air filter?

A: You may need to replace your engine’s air filter if you notice weaker acceleration, decreased throttle control, and ignition problems. You may also notice reduced gas mileage or horsepower. If the service light kicks on or black smoke comes out of the exhaust, you may need a new air filter.

Q: How do I change an engine air filter?

A: First, open your hood and find the air filter housing, which is next to the engine. Remove the old filter, and throw it away if it's paper. If it's a performance filter, clean it off and re-oil it, if required. Then insert the new or cleaned filter. If you want to replace a paper filter with a performance filter, make sure it’s compatible with your vehicle.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to our top pick for the best overall engine air filter, it’s got to be the FRAM Extra Guard Flexible Rectangular Panel Air Filter. This high-quality and dependable air filter is super easy to install and provides a secure and tight fit that will protect your engine and limit wear.

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly model that will still provide excellent protection and performance, try the EPAuto GP013 Extra Guard Rigid Panel Engine Air Filter.