You’re in for a treat if you’re looking for a new air filter. You can perform this modification in the convenience of your own driveway or garage, and you’ll notice an immediate improvement in horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency. Performance filters are built from better materials, perform better, and last longer than the flimsy paper filter that came with your car, truck, or SUV.
For this reason, we took the time to find and evaluate ten of the top air filter manufacturers. After reading the reviews, you can quickly identify the precise air filter company you need and install the proper air filter in your car.
And if you need some assistance locating the proper filter number, cross-referencing it, or just have some general inquiries about air filters, we have you covered in our in-depth buyer’s guide.
Best Engine Air Filters for Cars Overview
- K&N Air Filter
- Bosch Workshop Air Filter
- AEM DryFlow
- EPAuto Air Filter
- Injen High-Performance Engine Air Filter
- Volant Primo ProGuard 7 Car Air Filter
- aFe Engine Air Filter
- Volant Engine PreFilter
- ACDelco Air Filters
- Motorcraft Engine Air Filter
10 Best Engine Air Filters for Cars
K&N Air Filter
- Million-mile warranty means it’s a lifetime purchase for your car
- With tens of thousands of applications, K&N has filters for almost all cars built
- Easily washable filter is better for the environment
- Oiled filter catches small particles a paper filter may not
- Upfront purchase price is significantly higher than paper
- Your required fit probably won’t be on the shelf at your local parts store
Two motorcycle racers’ dissatisfaction with the then-current particulate abatement technology led to the founding of K&N Air Filters in 1969. The majority of the aftermarket now always opts for its oiled cotton washable filter. Any aftermarket air filter will come with claims of increased power and fuel efficiency, and the majority even include free stickers. In the best case scenario, performance improvements will be so negligible that they cannot be detected without special measuring tools. However, you will notice a marginally improved filtering performance because small particles will adhere to the oiled filtering material, and you will only need to purchase one filter once for the duration of your car. Take out the K&N, spray it with cleaner, hose it off, re-oil it, and you’re ready to go instead of throwing a paper filter in the trash. Although there are many other oiled media filters available, stick with the original because it has spent countless sums on research and development over the course of the last 50 years. The myth that oiled filters harm mass airflow sensors has been thoroughly disproved, according to a portion of that research.
Bosch Workshop Air Filter
- One of the leading parts manufacturers assures a good fit
- Seal is made of polyurethane to stop leaks
- Minimized frame design maximizes filtration area
- Only warrantied for the car’s original air filter service interval
- One-time use, then throw away
Bosch’s Workshop air filter is going to be your best option if you’re looking for the best air filter that will perform identically to the factory paper filter. Let’s face it: whether or not an issue with your car is caused by aftermarket parts, some dealerships will try to attribute it to it. If you’re unlucky enough to live near one of those dealerships, you might want to steer clear of any filter that isn’t an OEM replacement. Bosch does not require you to pay the dealership additional funds in exchange for the high-quality, innocent-appearing pleated paper they provide. One of these may already be present in your airbox if your vehicle is made in Germany. If not, you can purchase a frame made of less expensive, higher-quality polyurethane. Even though this may be a step up from your factory filter, you must still follow the manufacturer’s suggested replacement schedule.
- Lifetime filter for car owners who don’t want to have to deal with oiling after every cleaning
- Lifetime warranty
- Made in the USA
- Dry filters aren’t as likely to capture particulates through interception and diffusion methods
- AEM is more expensive than competitors in some applications
Some car owners prefer not to take the additional step of re-oiling an air filter after washing it. AEM has created DryFlow Filters that only need to be washed. Although they won’t need to use it frequently, users will still need to buy filter cleaner spray. According to AEM, its filters have a 50,000-mile wash-free range. The type of driving you do and the types of conditions you typically drive in are clearly mentioned in the fine print. It seems like a reasonable service interval since many cars only need an oil change every 10,000 miles. The filter’s frame, which serves as a seal as well, is made of molded rubber, just like other aftermarket filters. These have a tendency to maintain a seal longer than the foam frames present on inexpensive paper filters. Having said that, installation can occasionally be a little more challenging due to tighter tolerances.
EPAuto Air Filter
- Exotic car owners clearly have a lot of disposable income, so purchasing expensive parts helps subsidize the industry for normal car drivers
- Looks awesome and adds cool noises
- Manufacturer is very proud of the environmental benefits of air filters for super cars
- Nothing in the kit is gold plated
- Only a two-year warranty, but who keeps an exotic longer than that
Owners of exotic vehicles need exotic vehicle components. Despite your opinion that it would be excessive to spend $70 on a reusable air filter and service kit as opposed to $10 for a paper filter, Lamborghini owners are skeptical about the quality of a $800 car part. Similar to K&N, BMC also produces oiled cotton filters; however, EPAuto Air Filter is almost always used in BMC units. Italy’s Bologna, the birthplace of the supercar, is where BMC’s headquarters are situated. Everyone, from the engineer coming up with new performance products to the tech packaging filters to be sent to customers, is fueled on the best food and wine in the world, making them ideal artisans for quick filters that will carefully curate what your exotic engine inhales. In all seriousness, BMC produces excellent oiled cotton filters. You won’t be dissatisfied with the quality or performance of the product, despite the fact that some applications might cost more than rivals.
Injen High-Performance Engine Air Filter
- Large selection
- Provides great airflow
- Affordably priced
- Not always vehicle specific
- Not the longest-lasting
Excellent air flow is provided to your engine by Injen Air Intakes, which are also made to achieve the best air/fuel ratios possible for the most efficient combustion. Select from a number of styles, including the effective Injen Short Ram Air Intake and the Injen RD Cold Air Intake. Every Injen intake is made of lightweight T-6061 aluminum for maximum strength, and many of them are available in your choice of glossy Polished or Black finishes. Check out the Injen PowerFlow Intake for top-notch, custom-tuned performance. For your specific engine, this system’s sophisticated custom designs deliver the highest increases in torque and horsepower. The results are incredibly quick throttle response, lightning-quick acceleration, and significant power increases throughout the entire RPM range.
Injen Intakes are easy to install because of their unique designs and included hardware. A cotton-gauze, high-flow air filter that maintains excellent flow while cleaning your air supply is also included in every kit. You won’t ever need to buy another filter because these are reusable as well. Just a little maintenance is required. Additionally, because each system is covered by a lifetime warranty, you can depend on your Injen Intakes for as long as you drive your car.
Volant Primo ProGuard 7 Car Air Filter
- Affordably priced
- Reliable performance
- Large selection
- Not the best airflow
- It doesn’t last very long
The 8-layer Volant Primo Diesel air filters are made of the best materials and are made to fit heavy-duty trucks. They are pleated between top and bottom aluminum screens. Each filter is supplied pre-oiled and prepared for use. Depending on driving conditions, this design will enable the maximum air flow rate, a very long filter life, and service intervals of up to 40,000 miles. Primo Diesel air filters should only be cleaned when necessary, per our recommendation. To ensure optimal performance, check the filter every 12,000–15,000 miles.
The Volant Primo Pro-Guard 7 Filter cools the air that enters your engine, increasing horsepower. Because the special polyurethane used in the Pro-Guard doesn’t conduct heat, more oxygen molecules can be added per charge. More horsepower and better fuel economy result from this. Prior to being made available to the general public, all Volant filters are tested in a lab to ensure superior performance to the competition.
AFe Engine Air Filter
- Reusable filters
- Maximum airflow
- Tons of options
- More expensive upfront
- Not always vehicle specific
aFe, or Since 1999, Advanced Flow Engineering has created premium air filters and powerful intake systems. aFe delivers a huge lineup of premium air filters that provides the high performance you desire. All aFe air filters are additionally specifically made with your make and model in mind, guaranteeing a perfect fit and trouble-free installation. Since aFe air filters are washable and reusable, as well as lasting a lifetime when cleaned with the company’s proprietary cleaning kits, you won’t need to worry about finding replacements any time soon.
Volant Engine PreFilter
- Affordably priced
- Reliable performance
- Good airflow
- Outstanding selection
- Not many OEM options
Sand, mud, and rain can seriously impair the performance of your engine. These substances can completely suffocate your oxygen flow, clog filtration, and soak up your air filter. Your Volant air filter is surrounded by Volant Pre-Filters, which provide an additional layer of defense against water, dirt, and dust. The strong polyester fabric of the Pre-Filter is treated with a proprietary hydrophobic process that causes water to roll right off and keeps out the elements. The best part is that your filter’s performance is unaffected. To reach your air filter and motor as usual, cold air simply passes through the pre-filter. A one-year warranty is provided for your Volant Pre-Filter.
ACDelco Air Filters
- Vehicle specific parts (GM only)
- OEM replacement part (GM only)
- Very effective and reliable
- Slightly more expensive
- Not the longest-lasting
ACDelco manufactures the original equipment manufacturer replacement air filters for GM vehicles, just as Motorcraft does for Fords. This includes a number of brands, such as Pontiac, Cadillac, Buick, and GMC. Due to the fact that GM uses ACDelco filters in all of their vehicles, ACDelco has a filter that will fit any GM vehicle you drive.
In addition to fitting your car, they deliver consistent, factory-spec performance every time you get in your car. The number of options you have for each vehicle is limited, just like with the majority of OEM replacement parts.
As a result, ACDelco isn’t the brand you want if you’re looking for a durable, cost-effective option or a high-performance option. On the other hand, ACDelco is a fantastic option if you’re looking for a trustworthy air filter for your GM vehicle.
They are still a bit more expensive than an equivalent aftermarket option, and they don’t last as long as most aftermarket options, like most OEM replacement parts. However, ACDelco is the way to go if your GM vehicle is still covered by warranty or if you simply want to stick with OEM parts.
Motorcraft Engine Air Filter
- Very effective and reliable
- OEM replacement part (Ford only)
- Vehicle specific parts (Ford only)
- Slightly more expensive
- Only offers Ford specific filters
One simple inquiry: Do you drive a Ford? will almost always tell you whether a Motorcraft air filter is the best fit for your car. That’s because Motorcraft is a Ford-specific brand and as a result, they produce air filters for every Ford vehicle on the road.
The filter you’re looking for might not be made by Motorcraft, and it might not even be the right brand for your car, if you don’t drive a Ford. The filters you buy from Motorcraft, however, are OEM replacement parts because they are a Ford brand and are made for Ford vehicles.
This is not only the best option if your car is still covered by the warranty, but it’s also a guaranteed product that is reliable and efficient for your car. They are, however, typically a little more expensive than equivalent aftermarket parts because they are OEM replacement parts for Ford vehicles.
Not only that, but Motorcraft won’t have the performance air filter you require if you want to upgrade your car. Additionally, they don’t offer a lower-end filter option. Instead, they only produce one OEM air filter for each vehicle, so that’s what you have to use.
Sure, it will do the job, and it will perform the same as it would at the factory, but you won’t have any more customization or options there.
Our Verdict on Air Filters
Air filters are an automotive product like any other, and like any automotive product, there is a lot more opinion than actual data from scientific testing. Or, as Facebook continues to demonstrate, there is a lot more bathroom data than lab data. Every do-it-yourself mechanic and dealership technician has a tale about a filter that destroyed a car in 100 miles and another that allowed the engine to run for 300,000.
The K&N Air Filter is my choice for the best filter overall. After using and testing countless different brands in everything from daily drivers to race cars, I am confident that oiled filters have no negative effects on the parts of the car. Data has persuaded me that the filtration efficiency is worth the additional cost, even though I haven’t conducted any filtration testing myself and, to be honest, wouldn’t be qualified to do so.
What to Consider When Buying An Air Filter
For many years, vehicle manufacturers and the Society of Automotive Engineers have struggled with the incredibly difficult task of air filter testing. The amount of particulate matter that does not pass through the filter is one indicator of filter efficiency. Even that is more complicated than it appears to be. The size of the particulates you want to measure must first be decided. The majority of engine damage is thought to be caused by particles larger than 5 microns; a human hair is at least 50 microns in diameter. Most filters are rated between 95 to 99 percent efficient on particles greater than 5 microns, but most paper filters come with the caveat that they don’t meet that rating when brand new and require time to “load up” first.
No metal-to-metal contact occurs during typical operation if everything is functioning as it should. As you might expect, there is a thin layer of oil between bearing surfaces; the minimum expected layer is just over 5 microns. If this is the case, small particles—those smaller than 5 microns—cannot cause surface damage by being sandwiched between two surfaces. However, the most recent data shows that many oil-film thicknesses are frequently in the 2- to 3-micron range, with tolerances getting tighter and oil viscosities constantly decreasing.
There are three different ways that air filters can stop particles. Impaction is the first and most blatant type of filtering; it occurs when an object’s inertia causes it to be carried into each component of the filter medium and then stops it, much like pasta in a strainer. The second is interception, where a particle passes close enough to the medium to stick to it despite being small enough to be directed by the air stream and normally pass by it. Obviously, this captures smaller particulates than the holes in the filter are intended for, but only a certain amount will get close enough to stick. The last option is diffusion, which is used to describe the Brownian Motion of tiny particles. Particles that are impaction-incapable hit the filter medium and stick, which is similar to interception. Particle motion that has been intercepted by interception and diffusion may be slowed but not stopped if there is no mechanism in place to cause the particle to stick to the medium, as might be the case in an oiled filter.
Flow is the second air filter measurement that primarily interests aftermarket tuners. Airboxes are built into vehicles with more than enough airflow to supply your engine in any situation. Tuners will try to convince you that engineers are either stupid or have some evil scheme to reduce your car’s power, but neither of these claims is true. I’ve seen some incredible claims for power increases from air filters and modified induction systems; while you might gain one or two horsepower at a single, precise RPM, they never provide power throughout the entire RPM range.
On a dyno, I’ve observed modest increases in power for naturally aspirated vehicles that, when tested on a track, rarely, if ever, translated into noticeable improvements in performance. The ECU monitors the boost pressure in the intake manifold of modern turbocharged engines, in particular. Your car will keep the wastegate closed until it receives the desired 15 pounds of boost. When the intake manifold reaches 15 pounds of boost, it would still open the wastegate and produce the same amount of power, even if an intake suddenly made it possible to move the same air more quickly, easily, or in any other way.
In conclusion, don’t believe any claims about filtration that have a particle size smaller than 5 microns. Depending on how fully loaded the filter is and how only ideal particulate size is used during testing, what companies advertise may be the best case scenario. Take the flow rates and horsepower increases for the entire salt shaker next. Pressure and density, which go into determining those numbers, are rarely provided along with flow rates. Data suggests that oiled filters likely capture more particles of smaller sizes than dry filters, but are those particles so small that they won’t harm anything at all?
Types of Air Filters
Oiled Media Filter
Nearly since the beginning of internal combustion engines, oil has been used to trap dust in air filters. In contrast to the oil bath technique, which was created decades earlier, K&N was the first to make using oiled cotton popular in the 1960s. The most common material is cotton medium from K&N and other brands, but oiled foam is also widely used.
Because these particles are, for lack of a better word, sticky, experimental data has shown that these types of filters are more effective for smaller particles. They are at least predictable because the filtering efficiency is present from installation to servicing. Most oiled cotton filters are regarded as lifetime components, which is always a good thing.
Pleated Paper Filter
The vast majority of filters in the automotive industry fall under this category. They are affordable, effective at removing particulates, and simple to replace. The last point is crucial for service centers where washing a filter and waiting for it to dry would cause a car to spend more time than necessary on a lift.
After initial installation, the filter’s maximum efficiency is reached, which means the first bit of work may involve inhaling potentially harmful particulates. This load-up phase could be irrelevant because it could only be a few hundred miles, depending on the filter. For the typical owner who doesn’t want to consider air filters, this is the best option.
Dry Media Filter
These work similarly to paper by utilizing anything from woven polymers to expanded foam. According to the size of the particles the medium is designed to stop, different sized holes are incorporated into it. These frequently need a loading phase before reaching their maximum efficiency, just like paper filters.
Dry filters of high quality are regarded as lifetime components. They travel tens of thousands of miles in a lifetime, at the very least. They are not a drop-in and go like a paper filter because the reusable models need to be washed and dried. Owners will avoid the occasionally messy task of re-oiling.
Air Filter Key Features
The frame is the term for the main framework of an air filter. It serves as a seal between the upstream and downstream parts of the airbox in addition to holding the media in place. These rely on the airbox to keep their shape and can be made from soft foam with very little stiffness. For longer-lasting filters, they can also be made of a stiffer rubber or polyurethane material that maintains the shape of the filter and is much more durable.
Higher quality filter producers will go to great lengths to optimize the frame design. The greater the material’s strength, the less overlap is required to mechanically hold onto the medium, increasing the amount of medium that is available for filtering. It will clamp into the airbox with less effort while still providing a tight seal because the size of the frame is also constructed with a higher tolerance.
The majority of lifetime filters need special cleaning supplies, which you must purchase. Naturally, oiled filters also need oil. Plan on spending an additional $15 to $20 on the service kit even though a reusable filter may cost you two to five times as much as a paper filter. They typically provide enough products for many years of servicing, so it sounds like a significant expense.
Not only are some oils incompatible with different brands of filters for optimum performance, but some will also dissolve a rival brand’s filters. It’s undoubtedly a total accident. Being brand loyal when purchasing air filters is advantageous for this reason.
Air Filter Pricing
Pricing for air filters varies widely, just like it does for many maintenance items. A cheap paper filter at your local auto parts store might cost less than $10, but I have heard of air filters from dealership service departments costing hundreds of dollars. Something like a K&N panel filter costs about $40 to $50 for the majority of part numbers. The reusable air filter service kits, as was already mentioned, will cost between $10 and $20.
A reusable filter is an excellent investment that will pay for itself if you intend to keep your car for a long time. However, if you only plan to lease your car for a short period of time, you won’t be able to recoup that cost by paying for more engine upkeep or disposable filters. Keep with the paper and rent a car.
It can be challenging to find the precise right air filter brand for your vehicle with so many on the market. Just be sure to check the warranty again and stick with OEM replacement filters until the warranty has expired.
What Air Filter Fits My Car?
While many automakers use similar filter sizes across models, filters are anything but standard. Look up the part number for your vehicle on the manufacturer of the filter’s website. The year, make, model, trim, and powertrain details may be necessary.
When Should I Change My Air Filter?
Checking the owner’s manual for your car is the simplest solution. There will be a service interval listed, and in some cases, there will also be a list of intervals for vehicles used in harsh environments.
Air Paper Air Filters Recyclable?
Most paper automotive filters cannot be recycled. There would need to be a separation between the frame and the medium because the paper is frequently coated.
Can An Air Filter Void My Warranty?
The Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act places the burden of proving that an aftermarket part was the cause of a failure on the warranty provider, just like it would with any other product.
Will I Get More Power from a Better Air Filter?
In some circumstances, you might get a little bit more power, but not enough to notice it when driving normally.