What's the best air filter for my car?

Our tech guru has the answer
by Ferman Lao | Jul 18, 2011

Hi, Ferman!

I'm looking to replace my car's air filter but there are so many types out there that I don't know which one I should buy.

HKS is a known aftermarket brand but its air filters don't look that pretty. K&N is popular but the periodic maintenance needed to wash and oil it sounds troublesome while Hurricane's stainless steel mesh-type filter sounds like it's easy to clean.

I hope you can help me out on which one I should purchase. Thanks.


Hi, Trick.

I've only been using K&N for almost the past 20 years.

I haven't tried nor plan to try the Hurricane or any similar type of stainless steel mesh filter.

Fabric and "oil bath" filters like K&N use the fabric as a medium to carry the oil. It's the oil that attracts, catches and keeps the dirt from getting into the engine, and not the fabric alone.


The wire mesh around the fabric keeps larger debris out as well as keep give the fabric its "shape."

K&N is also the only aftermarket performance air filter manufacturer I know of that makes and tests filters to SAE J726 and more recently ISO 5011 standards--the same standards that car manufacturers use.

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Typically, most K&N air filters are at 96 percent to 99 percent efficiency when it comes to filtration. This means they stop 96 percent to 99 percent of the dirt coming in. No air filter (that I know of) can make the same claims while achieving the amount of airflow volume that they do.

The paper type filters used by car manufacturers have many layers, and each layer has many, many tiny holes that catch dust and debris larger than the holes to achieve the same levels of filtration. This gets clogged quickly and needs replacement every so often. In current-model vehicles they are rated for about 10,000km. A good indicator of when to change them is fuel consumption, when air filters get clogged engine efficiency drops and consequently fuel consumption becomes poorer.


Foam type filters are similar to paper filters except they are thicker and may be re-used a number of times before the foam eventually disintegrates in the conditions found inside your engine bay. When foam degrades, you don't usually see it as the degradation happens from the inside out. Particles to tiny chunks of foam slowly break off from the filter over time. The tiny pieces of foam of course have no place to go except inside your engine!

Stainless steel mesh type dry filters like Hurricane function in the same manner but they have visibly larger holes that you can see light passing thru. Obviously without an "oil bath" that K&N filters have, the mesh will only catch debris larger than the holes. I've no knowledge if they test to the same filtration standards of the car manufacturers or not or how efficient they are at filtering the air going into the engines.


When you understand how each of the filtration process works, plus the fact that K&N air filters are reusable and have been dyno-proven to increase power and engine efficiency, it's hard to use anything else.

This may sound like an endorsement for K&N filters but it's THE air filter that other aftermarket air filter compare themselves to, and there are enough other aftermarket air filters that are manufactured to look like K&N air filters. And those two facts speak tons.

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