Air Filter: What it is? What does it do and how to change it?

Air filters MotoPanda

Let’s talk about that part of our vehicle which is cheap, easy to install and is very important for our cars and bikes. However your car or bike is cheap or expensive but this little part is very important for smoother combustion of fuel within the engine, an optimum performance level and the longevity of the engine. Whatever may be the service count air filter is always checked or replaced without fail, so what’s the reason behind it? Let’s bounce then.

How does the air filter work?

Have you ever had a cold and felt that uneasiness to breathe? Once we clear that the breathing gets better so does your breathing feels better. The same is with the air filter, with a clogged air filter there can be n number of problems that can develop within the vehicle. The air is drawn into the engine via an air intake were fuel and air combustion happens, better is the combustion. So you might as why a filter for that? The air can come directly, wrong!!

The Air in its natural state even though it is invisible the dust particles, mud granules and whatnot are always present. If these particles enter the engine it might get into the engine bay and start forming a smudging or unwanted gunk. This, in turn, will increase the friction within the engine and deteriorate the performance. So the principle of the air filter is self-explanatory, it filters the air coming into the engine for a cleaner and leaner combustion which helps the engine breathe easy and keep the dirt and dust outside.

If you are having a sluggish performance or the drop in mileage, the first line of diagnosis would be checking the air filter. An old or dusty air filter needs to be changed or cleaned and there would be a difference in performance for sure, if not get it serviced and check for other problems.

Types of Air filter

  • Paper Filters

Most of the bikes which are used in daily commute etc. are having paper type of air filter. These are the cheapest type of air filter. People generally upgraded to performance filters as the credibility of the paper filter remains in jeopardy. These filters are cheap and easily available for replacement. Paper filters cannot be cleaned and must be disposed of.

  • Foam Filters

Foam filters might be costlier than paper filters but they are still fairly inexpensive and often used in vehicles as an OEM. Also, these can be reused after cleaning a number of times and hence are cost-effective. Although foam filter will not last forever, they certainly last much longer than paper filters. The filter when removed to be cleaned, we have to also clean the air intake box or the airbox. Once the filter is out it can be cleaned using the air filter cleaning kit which has a cleaner and oil, but first and foremost one should use an air blower. Before the procedure, one must check for any physical damage on the filter as well.

  • Cotton Filter

The cotton air filter is the most expensive of the lot and also known as performance air filters. These filters are made by stacking up cotton gauze layer by layer in a very tight construction. The filtration is the best because of such a construction; it is a pre-oiled filter hence whatever gunk enters its filter is very effectively filtered. Hence it provides the best filtration and cleanest air. Most of the performance air filters have their own cleaning kits which can be used, the life of these filters are also very long.

How to change an air filter

  • Engine air filters are generally easy to check and replace as the air filter container is usually located on the top of the engine. In most cars, no tools are required to access the air filter as the covers are only clipped on. In bikes as well once after a glance at the user manual and after location the air intake box the filter can be un-mounted with maximum a screwdriver. If you are not comfortable changing the engine air filter on your own, you can always take it to the dealership or a mechanic to get the job done. But if you want to take care of it yourself, changing your air filter is an easy procedure.
  • You obviously need to start by opening the hood in a car and the air intake box in a motorcycle and looking for the air filter housing. It usually resembles a large plastic breadbox-shaped container sitting above the engine.
  • If using a cotton-based air filter you can do the necessary servicing and cleaning by using the air filter cleaning kit. In case if you don’t have the kit you can use oil to clean the filter. But remember to blow out the filter and wash it if needed.
  • It is also very important to clean the area where the air filter is fixed, that is the air filter intake/ Airbox with a clean cloth. The airbox should be clean and dry. If the filter is washed proper drying and vacuuming is necessary.

Some of the best aftermarket Air filters available today:

  • K&N Air filters
  • BMC air filters
  • Pipercross
  • Green Filter
  • DNA
  • Cosworth Air filter
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