Here's the Difference Between a Regular and a Performance Air Filter

Illustration for article titled Here's the Difference Between a Regular and a Performance Air Filter
Screenshot: Engineering Explained (YouTube)

While I’ve never been the type of person to be particularly stressed about getting every possible power gain out of my car (when I owned a car), I’ve always been skeptical that a performance air filter would actually have any significant difference over a standard one. But if you do some basic tests, it looks like I’m an idiot.


That’s what we have Jason from Engineering Explained for. Despite me still being skeptical about this video being sponsored by a company that wants you to buy more auto parts, it seems Jason’s dyno and real world testing actually was fairly legitimate with some good data. Check it out:

In the video, Jason starts with dyno tests of a dirty stock air filter, an identical filter that’s just clean, a cheap OEM-alternative filter, and then a K&N performance filter.

The clean filter was a marginal improvement over the dirty, the cheap was a marginal improvement over the clean OEM filter—though you’d run the risk that it’s because there’s maybe less material and thus less actual filtering—and finally the K&N performance filter actually showed the best improvement of almost eight horsepower over the dirty filter, and a 4.3 percent improvement over the cheap alternative filter.

Jason also ran a real world test measuring performance times from 20 to 60 mph, and then 45 to 60 mph for each filter. Interestingly, all of the results followed the same pattern of improvement from the dyno testing, with marginal gains all the way up to the performance filter, which offered the best, well, performance. It was 2.24 percent quicker from 20 to 60 mph than a clean, stock filter, and 3.24 percent quicker from 45 to 60 mph.

So who would have thought! The performance filter is actually a solid, if still marginal improvement over the stock sock protecting your engine. But it also appears to be nearly four times as expensive. I’m not sure eight horsepower is worth a 400 percent increase in price, but that’s up to you!

Reviews Editor, Jalopnik



What concerns me is the filtering, K&N’s have shown in quite a few test to allow more particulate matter into a motor than the OEM paper element.

8 hp on a 3,500 lbs car may not be worth it if it includes additional engine wear to more dirt particles getting past the filter.

The main issue with K&N filters isn’t just getting past the fabric oiled pleats, but on some filters, the rubber K&N filter body itself was too thin and it didn’t create an airtight seal around the filter housing, also allowing unfiltered air to enter the motor.