Maintaining and improving your engine performance requires 3 components: Spark, fuel and air. The easiest way to get more performance out of your engine is by helping it breathe better with some simple bolt-ons like air filters and exhausts. A clean performance air filter or cold air intake system can improve the responsiveness, fuel efficiency and also peak horsepower and torque of your car or truck. Vehicle air filters come in different configurations and price points - so research and talk with an air filter specialist to find one that suits your needs. Modern truck and car air filters come with dozens of accessories to improve and maintain your air filter - read on below for in-depth review of car and truck air filters. Check out our Air Filter Car Buying Guide
A vehicle air filter is designed to keep dirt and other contaminants out of your engine, improving the performance and long-term durability of your car or truck. They are typically made from disposable waxy paper or reusable aluminum wire-wrapped cotton. These designs find a compromise of performance and filtration to find the sweet spot between flow and safety. Depending on the environment and type of driving you do, most filters should be changed every 15 to 30 thousand miles.
For truck air filters that are often on dirt roads or in dusty work environments, it’s best to change the filter early and often. If you have a car air filter that you take to the track, maximize performance with a high-flow air filter but keep current on cleaning and oiling your filter (if it requires oil like a K&N).
Drop-in Air Filters vs. Cold Air Intakes vs. Air Cleaners
When you think of an air filter, chances are you are thinking of a cold air or high flow intake system typically seen in modified cars. These are long tubes with a cone filter attachment to scoop up air away from the engine in a spot that receives a lot of cool, clean airflow. Cold air is more dense and combustible, improving performance and reliability in high-stress environments.
If you are an old school hot-rodder, an air filter is the flat circular piece that sits on top of the carburetor. Sometimes you’ll see these “air cleaners” coupled with a hood scoop or blower to scoop air outside, above the hood.
Vehicle air filters on modern cars typically sit in an enclosed plastic housing and can be easily accessed for cleaning or replacement. They use a drop-in panel air filter that has a rubber edge to guarantee a good seal. Replacing an OEM car air filter can be done in as little has 5 minutes with the proper know-how and tools.
Types of Air Filters & Accessories
Late model, unmodified, car and truck air filters come in two shapes, cone or drop-in panel. A cone filter has a hollowed-out center and is cone shaped, attaching to an air filter housing that feeds into the intake manifold or, if equipped, the turbo. A drop-in panel air filter is typically a rectangular piece about 1-2” thick made from paper or cotton. Panel air filters can flow just as well, if not better, that cone filters, depending on application. Keep in mind that manufacturers invest thousands of research dollars into engine design, and that includes the air filter! Improper installation or unsafe modification of air filters can hurt the engine, throw engine codes, cause it to run improperly or even void the warranty - so always use an approved air filter replacement or reputable cold air intake system.
If you have an aftermarket air filter, sometimes you can clean and maintain them with specific air filter cleaners and special air filter oils. Other accessories include pre-filters and water shields to further protect your air filter and engine.
Whichever you choose, we want you to be satisfied with your selection. That's why our experts at AutoAnything are here to answer all your questions about car air filters.