Why Aren’t Cheap Factory Air Filters Worth it?

5 min readJan 10, 2022

The truck’s engine, cabin, and fuel system all have something in common — air filters. Many vehicle owners overlook the condition of their engine’s air filters. Whether you replace them regularly or not, they have measurable effects on your truck.

Cheap vs. Premium

Engine air filters have been a never-ending discussion to many auto enthusiasts and car owners. They argue on which type is better and suitable to use. Some say the premium ones are bang for your buck and worth spending a little extra than the cheap filters.

Here are the types you can choose from:

  • Paper: This is the most affordable but not as economical as the other types. Since the filter is made using paper, you must replace it once it gets too dirty with dust and muck.
  • Gauze: This is made of cotton and comes in two types — synthetic dry and oiled. The synthetic dry version requires occasional cleaning using a proprietary solution, while the oiled version needs maintenance at certain miles (depending on the manufacturer). You can wash these gauze types and reuse them.
  • Foam: This type is used in various high-performance vehicles, including race cars. The foam filter allows much airflow and does an excellent job trapping debris, dirt, and other pollutants entering the engine. It also provides increased airflow intake, which works well for gas-engine-based trucks.

Factory air filters are affordable since they are made of lower-priced materials. However, they cannot sustain the engine for a long time. On the other hand, the premium performance filters can be very expensive as they are made of high-quality materials that are more economical.

Advantage of Performance Filters

The cost of high-performance air filters varies considerably on the type, vehicle model, and brand. If you’re interested in modifying your vehicle, a high-performance air filter is much preferred.

aFe Power is one of the popular aftermarket performance filters in the market. Unlike low-priced ones, you don’t have to change high-performance (also called high-flow) filters every year. You can easily clean and reuse them, and they don’t get clogged as quickly as the paper-made type. It also provides a better flow of air going into the truck’s engine.

Putting a high-performance (also called high-flow) air filter is considered a modification. Better think twice before doing this mod because it might invalidate the warranty of your brand-new vehicle. If the car is still under warranty, some dealers request their clients to use their suggested parts.

The performance air filters are categorized as “vehicle-specific” or “universal-fit” to indicate their fitment. It would be best to input a precise make, model, and year for vehicle-specific products because they are tailor-made to match the needs of a specific truck.

Universal fit is another fitment category, which is designed for any application. However, you must select the correct dimension to ensure that it will fit correctly. Some products may specify the inner and outer diameter and height measurements (especially the round ones). For flat or square-shaped products, manufacturers show the length, width, and height.

Several aftermarket products claim to improve the airflow and boost the vehicle’s horsepower and acceleration. Some car owners who prefer performance filters say that it’s better to use high-flow filters than poor-quality ones.


Did you know that dust particles from unkempt and deteriorated air filters cause frequent replacements of automotive parts and other costly repairs?

The air filter serves as the first line of defense that prevents dust particles from entering the engine system. It plays a significant role so that it will run properly.

Without the filter, the particles will potentially damage the engine eventually. As they say, a clean machine operates more efficiently than a dirty one. The filter impacts the acceleration and performance of the vehicle, so keeping it clean is one of the keys to an efficient-running engine.

The air filter is positioned near the air intake system. These components catch the dirt and other particles before they can damage other internal engine parts. The standard air filters are typically made of paper, while some are made of different materials like cotton and foam.

Drawbacks of old air filters

Air filters are among the car and truck parts that require replacement at some point — just like tires and automotive fluids. If left unchanged, especially for paper-type filters, it may cause the engine to have a tough time getting air in.

Since the filter blocks dust and other impurities going into the engine, it will eventually get clogged. When you prolong the old unclean filter, it might start running erratically and result in loss of engine power.

According to a study conducted by the U.S. Department of Energy in 2009, clogged air filters do not affect the fuel economy of modern fuel-injected engines. However, prolonged use can gradually decline the performance.

The study shows that the average acceleration times for the vehicles running on clean air filters improved by 6 to 11 percent. Periodically inspect their condition to guarantee that the air filter is free from dirt and contaminants that can harm the engine parts.

How do they benefit the exhaust system?

All motorized vehicles are engineered with a particular exhaust system and air filter. However, these components are limited by legislation or cost when manufactured.

Installing an aftermarket air filter adds some gain to the truck exhaust system. Since the filter purifies the air and catches the particle before being sucked by the engine, it smoothens the flow of air. Having a better airflow and larger air volume (through the intake and exhaust) will result in additional horsepower.


One of the most straightforward routine maintenance tasks for pickup trucks and other vehicles is changing the air filter. Using only a few basic tools, the filters can be changed even by people who are not savvy with the engine components. If it’s difficult for you to change the filters, you may consult a mechanic to check them.

Selecting the appropriate type is one of the most significant maintenance tasks you can perform for your truck. As part of maintenance, car owners must regularly examine the filter to see if it’s in good shape or needs replacement. The condition of this engine component can influence the performance of your vehicle.

Whenever you get the car’s oil changed, inspect how much dirt the filter has accumulated. Doing preventive maintenance can significantly help avoid problems that could end up costing more if left unfixed.

Filter worth using

In conclusion, there’s nothing wrong with using cheap air filters. All the filter types have the same purpose — to help strain particles before entering the engine system. What’s wrong is not replacing the worn-out air filters.

If you want to replace the old factory filter and switch to an aftermarket air filter, the initial cost will be higher, but it can save you more dollars in the long run. Since performance air filters are reusable, you’re also helping to reduce waste, even in a small way.

With so many air filters on the market, picking out the right one can be challenging. Before buying an air filter, you must understand how it benefits your vehicle and consider which works best. It will also help your truck run at its full potential.

Originally published at https://blog.4wheelonline.com/ on December 9, 2021




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