Air Filters 101: when to replace & how to choose

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When your air filter is significantly blocking airflow, it’s time to change it. If you don’t, you’re hurting your vehicle’s performance and fuel economy.

Some studies show that a clogged air filter can decrease your acceleration by up to 11%...!

But sometime before that point of zero air getting through, when your filter is only slightly dirty, you’re in the green. The reason is that little bit of dirt is working hard to block out tiny particles.

It’s not a good idea to replace your air filter too soon, either.

So, we’ve put together these helpful tips to clear up the confusion on when, and how often, you should be changing your air filter.

How Often Should I Change My Air Filter?


This really is a trick question.

You see, it really depends on where and how you drive, and the amount of dirt and contaminants your air filter has to deal with.

Some experts advise changing your air filter as often as every 5,000 km, along with changing the oil.

But if you find that excessive, stick with the standards:

If you drive in the city, you should be changing your air filter every 25,000 - 50,000 km or at least once a year.

If you drive in a rural area, you may need to replace your air filter more frequently. Surprised? Well, it’s those dirt roads that are really choking up your filter.

Keep in mind that the replacement cycle of an OEM air filter varies based on your make and model. Which means you should always consult your owner’s manual.

Whatever schedule you decide to go with, it won’t hurt you to inspect your air filter every 10,000 km. It could save you costly repairs down the road.

Choosing the Best Replacement Air Filter


And now that you know when to replace your air filter, it’s time to decide with what to replace your air filter.

You should only consider purchasing a product from a trust brand, like aFe Power, K&N, and Airaid. These companies are real heavyweights in the aftermarket industry, and they’ve been around long enough to know how to design and manufacture premium quality air filters for cars and trucks.

Premium air filters will increase horsepower, prolong your engine’s life, and improve your fuel economy.

But there are so many products to choose from… where should you start?

Not all air filters accomplish the same thing. Air filters are made from a variety of materials, including paper, cotton, reusable synthetic, and foam. Each media has a unique set of advantages and is designed for a specific application.

Other things to consider are the air filter’s efficiency, capacity, airflow, and price.

Air Filter Efficiency

A filter’s efficiency is a measurement of its filtration level. In other words, it’s how good the filter is at keeping contaminants out of your engine. When shopping for a replacement filter, always check that its efficiency meets or exceeds OEM specifications.

But don’t go looking for 100% efficiency. Why? Because your new filter will make it almost impossible for air to reach your engine. And that will kill your power without delivering a single benefit.

Air Filter Capacity

A filter’s capacity is a measurement of how much dirt, debris, and other contaminants it can hold before becoming too restrictive. A filter with a lower capacity will become clogged quicker and will end up restricting the airflow to your engine.

If you want to check a filter’s capacity, simply observe its recommended service interval. If it’s longer, the filter can hold more contaminants before it needs to be serviced. On the other hand, if the service interval is shorter, the filter can hold less contaminants, and service is needed more often.

Air Filter Airflow

One of the most valuable characteristics of a performance aftermarket air filter is airflow. The less restrictive a filter is, the better the engine will perform.

Restriction is not a friend to the combustion engine. It kills its power by thinning the oxygen in the air.

As a rule of thumb, the bigger the engine, the bigger the air filter -> more surface area delivers more airflow.

Air Filter Price

As consumers, you and I both consider price as a major factor in deciding what product to purchase. But in most cases, we only consider the initial cost, while overlooking the long term cost.

It’s not any different when buying a replacement air filter.

So, just bear in mind that a reusable air filter that costs more initially, may end up far cheaper compared to a disposable filter. And… quality also goes hand in hand with price.

Cotton Filters Synthetic Filters Paper Filters
Restriction Lowest Low High
Capacity 80,000 km 80,000 km 25,000 km
Price Reusable Reusable Disposable
Products cotton-1
Volant Primo Air Filters
Airaid SynthaMax Air Filters
Wix Paper Air Filters
From $142.61
Free shipping
From $134.07
Free shipping
From $32.35
Free shipping

K&N Industrial Air Filter

aFe Pro-Dry S Air Filters

Moroso Replacement Filters
From $65.93
Free shipping
From $64.79
Free shipping
From $46.05
Free shipping

Can't decide which air filter is best for you? Drop us a line in the comments below and we'll figure it out together!

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