Does a Better Air Filter Improve Performance?

Replacing an old clogged up air filter with a high flow one can increase fuel efficiency and improve acceleration in cars. Learn how this basic yet effective modification works.

Does a Better Air Filter Improve Performance?

Replacing a clogged air filter can increase fuel efficiency and improve acceleration, depending on the make and model of your car. When you understand the potential benefits, it makes sense to replace your air filters regularly. Yes, aftermarket air filters do work. But, don't expect a dramatic increase in power when you hit the accelerator.

Watch the video above for more information. One of the advantages of a high flow air filter is that unlike standard filters, it doesn't need to be changed every year. All you have to do is clean it approximately every two years. This is because they don't clog as quickly or as easily, but they offer better airflow and better filtration of the air entering the engine. And if your engine gets more air, then it can perform better.

In fact, a high flow air filter can increase your horsepower by about 3 to 5 HP and also increase your torque. At the same time, this can lead to higher fuel efficiency. How? In some of the more expensive units, the filter comes with a cold air intake unit. It is installed to extract air from outside of the car instead of the hot air used inside the engine compartment. Going back to science class, cold air is denser and therefore will burn better, thus improving your engine performance.

The numbers are small and you may not feel the extra power. However, they will still improve your performance. If your engine gets more air, then it can perform better. A question often asked by skeptics is whether cone air filters actually work, and the simple answer is yes. In fact, the best sports air filters can increase your horsepower between 3 and 5 HP and also increase your torque.

The idea is to allow more air to enter the engine to produce greater combustion and, therefore, more horsepower. However, this also means that high-performance air filters are not as good as standard air filters when it comes to trapping dirt and impurities in the air. If you don't have the budget and still want the sound of air entering your engine, then you could look to drill holes in your airbox. Cars rely on a mixture of air and fuel to drive the engine, and the cleaner the air, the better it is for the engine. The cooler air outside the engine compartment is denser than the warm air inside the engine compartment, which is heated by the internal combustion of the engine and other movement mechanisms that generate heat through friction. What Fenske doesn't prove is how well each aftermarket filter actually filters the air entering the engine compared to the original unit. The filter element may simply be paper, but it is often cellular foam and is designed to draw more air from colder places than the factory air filter, thus keeping the engine cooler and helping to achieve optimal performance.

You'd have to weigh up the pros and cons against what you're willing to pay for a quality filter. If your vehicle doesn't come standard with a high-flow air filter, replacing it isn't part of your regular maintenance routine. But there are still a few reasons why people decide to spend money on this basic yet effective modification. This acts to extract air from outside of the car rather than replacing used hot air inside the engine compartment. Fenske also tests filters in a real environment, testing acceleration times between four candidates. If you have a high-performance cone-shaped air filter, you may need to use screws to lock it in place.

Fenske tested each filter with a dynamometer and then measured acceleration with a VBox to see if any data learned from test bench translated into real world. For some people, adding a high-performance air filter isn't essential but something worth buying simply because they are interested in modifying their vehicle. But being so cheap and easy to install, it's hard to believe that these filters actually produce observable gains.

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