Material is everything when purchasing a new air filter for our vehicle. Automotive air filters are created in many different materials including foam, paper and cotton. They all serve the same purpose to prevent harmful contaminants from entering the intake manifold, but some do it better than others. Some contaminants can escape past cheap material and severely damage the engine. Other air filters need to be replaced in a few thousand miles because they build up with dirt so fast.
The most popular and best air filters are the ones made from cotton. These air filters have several layers of cotton-gauze media which traps and contains harmful contaminants better than any other material. It is the latest technology and companies like K&N and AEM use these automotive air filters. Older air filters were made from paper but are still used today. They are cheap and mass made for quick production. Paper air filters are found on nearly every vehicle that rolls off the assembly line.
There are several reasons why paper air filters are no good. First, the many layers of paper create air flow restrictions. If you’ve ever stacked sheets of paper, you know air cannot flow through them. When these layers are stacked in the filter, air has trouble finding its way through. Aside from air restrictions, the paper material does not handle dirt and debris very well. Dirt builds up and clogs the holes, which make for even more air restrictions.
Foam air filters have better breathing ability over cotton, but do not keep contaminants away as good as the K&N air filter. Since foam itself is about 97% air, it makes for optimum air flow with its numerous pockets. Air filters made from foam can also tear easily. Foam is not designed for daily abuse and longevity. It is designed to be used and thrown away. Every K&N air filter will outlast the lifetime of the car.
Continuing to replace your paper filter with another paper filter will only hurt you and your engine in the long run. You will spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars over the lifetime of owning your vehicle just on air filters. Performance automotive air filters are a one-time cost that can be washed and reused. Paper automotive air filters cannot be washed. Water will destroy the paper air filter and a new one would need to be purchased anyways.
Eco-friendly is the way of the world today. Paper air filters are constantly being thrown away and nearly 100 million are tossed each year. Performance automotive air filters will never be thrown away and can be used over and over again.
Since cotton filters have many layers, the dirt can be contained in some of these while the air flow is kept the same. When holes of the paper filter become clogged, the engine will bog down and performance will drop. Gas mileage also drops when this happens. When an engine is more efficient, the driver will see an increase in fuel mileage.
If you are concerned about not spending money every 10 or 15 thousand miles, then the cotton filter is the way to go. You will not have to worry about installing a new one and will only need to service it every so often. K&N products can last up to 100,000 miles before needing service.
Back when automobiles were first invented, the idea of protecting the engine wasn’t a concern. The biggest concern was getting the car or truck running. As technology advanced, companies realized how important automotive air filters were. Air filters are the essential piece to protect and allow the engine to run properly.
If you are in a high dust area like a desert, then the foam filter is better for you. The aFe air filter traps dust particles better than any other. Their air filters can keep the dust in certain areas while still allowing smooth air flow. Automotive air filters are the simplest, yet so complex in what they do for the engine. Without the proper one, our engine would suffer.