What Are The Best Engine Air Filters? (2020 Reviews)
If you’re like most people, you probably don’t think about your engine filter all too often. Rather unremarkable in appearance, an air filter often resembles a small accordion made from white paper.
But the air filter actually plays a vital role in safe, reliable driving. They protect your engine from all types of road debris. In fact, without a properly working air filter, your engine could stop running entirely!
Even though all air filter options look basically the same, they can actually be pretty different from brand to brand. We’ve created a complete guide to help you buy the best filter for your vehicle and driving habits. Plus, we took a look at all of the top-selling air filter options on the market in order to find the top five.
Here’s a look at what you need to know:
Compare Our Picks For Best Engine Air Filters of 2020
- 1. FRAM CA10677 Extra Guard Panel Car Air Filters
- 2. ECOGARD XA10007 Premium Engine Air Filter
- 3. Purolator PurolatorONE Engine Air Filter
- 4. EPAuto GP741 Extra Guard Rigid Panel Engine Air Filter
- 5. Toyota Genuine Parts Engine Air Filter Element
- 6. K&N High-Performance Replacement Air Filter
- 7. FRAM CA9482 Air Filter
- 8. Mann C43 102 Replacement Air Filter
- 9. ACDelco A3181C Professional Air Filter
- 10. Ecogard XA10304 Engine Air Filter
- Frequently Asked Questions about Engine Air Filters
- What are Engine Air Filters?
- Can I Change My Own Filter?
- How Often Do I Change an Engine Air Filter?
- Slow Acceleration
- High Vehicle RPMs
- Visual Filter Inspection
- Environmental Influence
- What’s the Best Type of Filter to Buy?
- Vehicle Manufacturer and Model
- Surface Area
- High-Temperature Resistance
- Are OEM Parts the Best Choice?
- How Important are Clean Engine Air Filters?
- Final Thoughts
1. FRAM CA10677 Extra Guard Panel Car Air Filters
Unique design features allow for maximum surface area and up to twice as much filtering ability compared to the competition.
- Twice as strong as similar filters
- Unique design prevents pleats from bunching up
- Flexible rubber seal allows easy installation
- Orange edge is thick and can be seen outside the filter housing
FRAM is a trusted name in engine air filters and their CA10677 with an Extra Guard Panel offers twice as much engine protection as most filters you’ll find in retail stores – without any increase in price. The filter is a direct fit for over 50 car makes including Toyota, Lexus and more.
If you’ve used FRAM filters before, you’re already familiar with the unique orange rubber seal, which is flexible but also provides a secure bond. A bead of glue down the middle of the filter keeps the pleats from bunching up, maximizing the surface area at all times. FRAM recommends replacing these filters every 12,000 miles.
2. ECOGARD XA10007 Premium Engine Air Filter
ECOGARD has long been an engine air filter innovator and their Premium Engine Filter offers total engine protection for a variety of vehicles.
- Trusted manufacturer with 25 years of experience
- Affordable way to protect your car’s engine
- Designed for Hyundai, Hyundai OE, Kia and more
- Does not properly fit 2017 Hyundai Santa Fe Sport
For over 25 years, ECOGARD has been a pioneering presence in developing long-lasting and effective engine air filter options. Changing your filter every 12,000 miles as recommended helps improve acceleration and power both today and over the entire life of the car.
Specifically engineered and tested for Hyundai and Kia, but also compatible with a variety of other makes and models. This is also one of the few engine air filter options designed for Hyundai Original Equipment.
3. Purolator PurolatorONE Engine Air Filter
The PurolatorONE Engine Air Filter combines high volume with efficient particle blockage to deliver a consistent rush of air for peak engine performance.
- Sends high volume of clean air into engine
- Secure gasket seal around intake chamber
- Multi-fiber filter traps 99% of incoming contaminants
- Difficulty fitting Ford Edge
Purolator is a lesser-known name in filters, but they’re certainly not lacking in high quality. These filters use multi-fiber, high-density paper filters to trap up to 99% of harmful contaminants before they can reach the engine. A gasket surrounding the filter ensures a tight seal within the intake chamber.
Purolator has been designing and manufacturing engine air filters since 1923. All filters are designed to maximize air flow. Aside from fitting a wide variety of cars, these filters are also strong enough for trucks and other heavy-duty vehicles.
4. EPAuto GP741 Extra Guard Rigid Panel Engine Air Filter
Aside from protecting your engine against dirt and debris, these filters also help improve overall fuel efficiency.
- Rigid pleats for increased durability
- Improves gas mileage for more economical driving
- Protects against harsh road debris of practically any size
- Doesn’t fit into 2012 Toyota Prius
Designed for a huge variety of cars including Lexus, Toyota and Prius, these filters help extend the life of your engine. Rigid panels in the pleats are able to withstand high wind speeds while blocking even tiny specks of dirt and debris.
Change your filters every 12,000 (or earlier if necessary) for maximum engine performance, which results in improved fuel economy. Filter is durable with a satisfying heaviness which is virtually indistinguishable from Toyota OEM components.
5. Toyota Genuine Parts Engine Air Filter Element
Maximum engine performance and protection according to the exact specifications of the vehicle manufacturer.
- Perfect, easy fit
- Built to exact manufacturer specification
- Regular use helps increase engine life
- Filter only orients in one direction, so pay attention during removal
While all of the filters above will work great in a variety of vehicles, many people prefer using Original Equipment Manufacturer parts. These are engine air filters made by the same people who made the vehicle, in this case Toyota.
The main benefit of OEM filters is that you know they’ll fit perfectly. Plus, they’re also available right at the dealership.
6. K&N High-Performance Replacement Air Filter
K&N’s air filter offers reliable, exceptional air filtration while ensuring your horsepower is preserved, and acceleration is increased. It’s washable and reusable, giving you the chance to save money in the long run provided you’re willing to maintain it.
- The washable and reusable design saves you money in the long run
- Could potentially increase your horsepower
- Includes a generous warranty, so you’re covered for a long time
- Doesn’t have rounded corners
- Washing the filter can be a huge job you must keep up with for best car performance
It uses a drop-in design, which is newbie-friendly, and depending on how and where you drive, it has the potential to last up to 50,000 miles. Add in a million mile, ten-year warranty, and you should be covered for a long time.
The make of the engine air filter ensures that your car’s system doesn’t get interrupted due to poor circulation. It may even add up to four horsepower because of cotton gauze materials between two sheets of wire mesh. It’s pleated and oiled to round out the design.
You may have to trim the square corners to fit into some of your housing, but this is a small detail. Washing the filter can be a big hassle, so be sure you know what you’re getting into when you decide to switch to reusable. It’s no small feat to wash it effectively.
7. FRAM CA9482 Air Filter
It’s a little thick for a filter, so you should measure your car’s filter casing to ensure that it fits.
- May reduce contaminants better than other filters
- Has a beginner-friendly design
- Suitable for up to 12,000 miles
- May be too deep for some filter boxes
- May slide in the box if not measured correctly
The Fram Engine Air filter provides an affordable option for your car’s engine air filter. It uses a scientifically engineered media to help reduce contaminants while ensuring a good air flow for performance’s sake. It has rounded corners and uses a convenient drop-in design.
It’s designed to provide double the protection of standard filters and lasts up to 12,000 miles depending on driving style and conditions. The installation instructions are easy to follow and make this a simple option for people who may not have much experience with these filters.
The shape may also cause it to slide a little in some cars. However, if you’ve measured correctly, it should be a suitable, affordable fit.
8. Mann C43 102 Replacement Air Filter
The Mann C43 102 Air Filter is a solid, reliable option with excellent mechanical stability.
- Filters lots of different particles
- Offers excellent mechanical stability
- May improve the mileage of your car by up to 10%
- Slightly bigger investment
- Be sure to measure carefully
Mann’s air filters are highly efficient with the optimum airflow and fuel composition. It ensures your vehicle continues to run smoothly with German-made cars. The company makes other types of filters as well for other car makers.
It offers the chance to improve the mileage of your car by up to 10%, depending on your driving habits and environment. It filters out all potentially harmful particles, including water, pollen, and sand – a huge relief if you drive in environments heavy in these materials.
It reduces intake noise but may be a more significant expense than some other types of filters. Be sure to check that it’s compatible with your particular make and model before investing and measure to ensure it fits the filter box correctly. Otherwise, this is a suitable option for beach environments or outdoors where contaminants are heavy.
9. ACDelco A3181C Professional Air Filter
Installation can be a little tricky the first time you ever do it, but it’s not too difficult to get the hang of. It’s also a little more expensive, but it is a suitable alternative to most stock filters.
- Efficient aftermarket option
- Could improve fuel efficiency
- Tight seal to prevent unfiltered air from getting into the combustion chamber
- May be tricky to install for the first time
- May not fit your particular vehicle
ACDelco’s professional filter is an aftermarket option primarily for GM vehicles. If you measure carefully, you can undoubtedly use this filter for many other types of vehicles. It’s a good option for high efficiency and performance-oriented engines with a low airflow restriction. It also has a tight seal to help prevent unfiltered air from getting into the combustion chamber.
It’s a high quality alternative to stock filters and takes just a few minutes to install. It’s a suitable option for both beginners and those looking to upgrade parts to aftermarket, performance-oriented pieces. The piece itself is unbranded, but it is owned by GM overall. Your best bet is using these for GM, but again, if you do the research, you can expand usage to many other vehicles.
10. Ecogard XA10304 Engine Air Filter
The Ecogard option has been tested extensively for Jeep, but can work for others if you do your research and measure carefully.
- High standards help ensure you don’t void a new vehicle warranty
- Efficient performance for acceleration and gas mileage
- Little to no tools required for installation
- Can take longer than some models to install
- Built and tested specifically for Jeep. Other models are not verified.
The Ecogard is a good option for many people because it allows consumers to maintain the warranty of new vehicles due to its many standards. It’s closest to the types of filters found in the Jeep Cherokee. It features efficient performance and the ability to upgrade your engine’s performance as well.
It provides excellent airflow while maintaining a tight seal to prevent engine contaminants from filtering in. It also has an excellent fit and shouldn’t take you very long to get the right position. However, it will take a little bit longer than some other types of filters on the market. It may not be suitable for you if you’ve never changed the engine air filter before.
It does help provide better acceleration and better gas mileage, so it could be a suitable option, particularly for Jeep models.
Frequently Asked Questions about Engine Air Filters
For such an important part of any vehicle, not many people understand how the engine air filter works. Here are the answers to the most common questions:
What are Engine Air Filters?
Take a deep breath. Feel the cold air passing through your nose. The hair in your nostrils acts as a natural filter, trapping dirt and dust before it can enter your lungs.
Engine air filters perform a similar function. Cold air enters your car’s engine through ports. The filter captures all the dirt and dust from the road. If all of that debris were allowed into the engine, performance would slow and the engine would eventually stop.
Can I Change My Own Filter?
Absolutely! Changing a filter is usually pretty simple even if you’re a car maintenance noobie. The air filter will be contained in a housing, which will be secured by either clips or a few screws. You simply open the housing, pull out the dirty air filter and replace it with a new filter.
Location of the housing and specifics of the changing procedure will vary based on vehicle make and model, so be sure and consult your owner’s manual for all the details.
How Often Do I Change an Engine Air Filter?
The general rule is to change your engine air filter every 15,000 miles. But that’s a very general estimate. Your owner’s manual will have more specific maintenance information. Also watch for any of these common signs your engine air filter is getting dirty:
If your car seems to be slower off the start, the engine might not be getting enough clear air. Sluggish acceleration is often a sign the engine air filter needs to be changed. Even slight slowdown is worth a quick filter inspection.
High Vehicle RPMs
If you can feel or hear your car revving more aggressively than usual, a dirty engine air filter is a likely culprit. When airflow is obstructed, each engine revolution produces less power, which means the engine has to work harder than normal. Your tachometer will often reveal the condition of your engine air filter.
Visual Filter Inspection
Opening the house and checking the air filter only takes a few minutes. If either of the two above conditions occur, go ahead and give your air filter a visual inspection. But know that filters often look fairly dirty, even when brand new.
To inspect the filter, hold it up to a bright light such as the sun or a bare bulb. If light shines through the filter, it can continue to be used. If light is partially or completely obscured, the filter should be replaced.
Where you live will also influence how often you’ll need to change the filter. Hot, dry and desert climates result in your engine filter being bombarded by grains of sand and other tiny debris, which means your filter will typically wear out quickly.
Humid climates are also rough on filters. The damp weather can degrade even the sturdiest fiber filters over time. You’ll need to change your filter frequently if you live in coastal climates.
What’s the Best Type of Filter to Buy?
There’s no one best type of air filter. Instead, the best one is the one which matches your vehicle type, driving conditions, price range and other factors.
Air filters aren’t particularly complicated. For the most part, they’re all the same color and are made from the same few materials. However, there are many different model designs. You’ll need to find the specific design which fits your car. Here are the four factors to look for when selecting an engine air filter:
Vehicle Manufacturer and Model
Air filters are not one size fits all. You need to buy the exact filter size recommended in your owner’s manual. If you’re not sure, remove your existing filter and take it into the auto parts store with you.
Generally, the more surface area the filter has, the more efficient it will clean the incoming air. In order to increase surface area, filters are designed with pleats. More pleats create a larger surface area, which acts as a more efficient barrier between dirty outside air and the inside of the engine.
If you live in an area with consistently high temperatures, you’ll want an air filter designed with high-temperature resistance. While this isn’t incredibly important, a temperature-resistant filter will typically last longer than a standard one in warmer climates.
Air filters are usually very affordable. At the highest end, expect to spend no more than $20 to $30. Plus, by replacing your filter yourself, you can avoid any maintenance fees from a mechanic or dealership.
Are OEM Parts the Best Choice?
OEM stands for Original Equipment Manufacturer. This means the filter is made by the same manufacturer who made the vehicle. Instead of buying a filter from an auto parts brands like FRAM or ECOGUARD, you’re buying them from a car maker like Toyota or Kia.
The main benefit of OEM is that you know the filter will match perfectly. However, other brands can also fit just as well. Usually, there’s no particular need for OEM filters unless you happen to have a very rare car design such as a super high-end car or a classic car.
A proper fit is far more important whether the filter is OEM or not. Never use a filter which is too small or large for the housing. Doing so will result in poor protection and reduced airflow and could even be a serious safety hazard.
How Important are Clean Engine Air Filters?
If you’re looking for the easiest and most effective way to improve your vehicle’s overall performance, replace the spark plugs and engine air filter. Both are small and relatively inexpensive items. But if either are worn down or dirty, your vehicle’s acceleration, top speed, fuel efficiency and more can all be negatively affected.
Changing your air filter helps both short and long-term performance. Always swap in a new filter before selling your car, taking a road trip or undergoing any important type of driving. Plus, keep a clean air filter in your car helps avoid any major engine repairs due to excessive buildup. After all, changing an air filter is much easier and cheaper than deep cleaning a clogged engine.
The engine air filter is the unsung hero of your vehicle. Regularly changing it keeps your car performing at the highest, most efficient level. Don’t let small amounts of dirt and grim turn into big problems.
Use our guide above to find the best engine air filter for your needs. Watch for any signs that your filter is dirty or clogged, and change it as often as needed. A clean air filter can breathe new life into your car!