We all know that breathing clean air contributes to a long and healthy life. But are you also aware that if your vehicle’s engine ‘breathes’ clean air it performs better over a longer period of time? Abrasive dust, dirt and other contaminants that can enter through the engine’s air intake ducts while you are driving can potentially damage a car’s internal engine components, increase wear and tear and ultimately reduce the engine’s power. In short, if dirt gets inside an engine it can adversely affect a vehicle’s overall performance and long life.
“The air filtration system in an automobile works much like the respiratory system in our bodies,” said Ramon Nuñez, spokesman for Purolator Filters, a leading supplier of automotive filters to the aftermarket in North America.
A vehicle ingests as much as 10,000 gallons of air to burn a single gallon of fuel and, air along roads and highways contains all manner of contaminants such as soot, dirt, leaves, straw, tiny bits of rubber, etc. Large quantities of unfiltered air entering the engine compartment can damage critical engine components and cause cylinder wear, said Nuñez.
So what really makes a quality air filter?
“'Capacity' and 'efficiency' in capturing the dirt before it enters the engine combustion chamber are two of the most important criteria that determine the quality of an air filter,” said Nuñez. “Capacity is the amount of dirt the filter can hold before it begins to restrict air flow and efficiency describes how well it performs its job.” Modern engines that are built to be more fuel-efficient and have smaller orifices and tighter tolerances call for engine air filters that can trap even the smallest particle of dirt threatening to enter the system.
For instance, Purolator’s PureONE air filter’s oil-wetted, high-capacity media offers twice the capacity of conventional filters to trap contaminants smaller than the size of a grain of sand and is 99.5% efficient over a range of 1-200 microns using A4 coarse test dust. This means it traps 99.5% of particles that size or larger. Likewise, Purolator Classic air filter’s multi-fiber, high-density media traps 96.5% of contaminants.
Why design and construction of an air filter are important
The design and construction of an air filter also determines how well it supplies an engine’s need for clean air. Today’s more sophisticated fuel-injected engines normally use a flat, rectangular panel-type air filter featuring a specially formulated paper or cellulose media that removes particulates while maintaining minimum resistance to air flow.
Air filters that claim to remove really small particles may have too much resistance to air flow. Other suppliers may claim to sell filters with very little resistance to air flow but actually achieve that by opening up the pores and allowing bigger particles to enter the engine. Either alternative may harm your car’s engine. The goal, therefore, is to use a filter that strikes the best balance between capturing contaminants and not restricting air flow.
Furthermore, the media in a panel-type filter is attached to a binding so it can hold its shape. If the adhesive used to attach the media to the binding framework is of inferior quality, it may melt or soften due to high under-hood temperatures. This may cause the media to pull away leaving a gap and allowing unfiltered air to enter the engine and do damage. Or, if the air filter begins to get clogged, the engine vacuum can suck in the media, once again allowing unfiltered air to bypass and enter the engine compartment.
Most people should change their vehicle’s engine air filter once a year or 12,000 miles unless you’re driving in unusually dirty or dusty conditions said Nuñez. Because of the long intervals between changes it’s important to install the best filter possible for reliable and efficient filtering.
“The good news is, changing your car’s air filter is quick, easy and inexpensive,” Nuñez said. Older cars often had a radial air filter resting in a round housing under a lid held in place by a wing nut. Today’s more advanced fuel-injected engines normally use a flat, rectangular panel-type air filter that resides in black plastic duct work in the engine compartment. Usually, all you need is to release several clamps, separate the housing halves, lift out the old filter, and install the new one. It’s that simple, Nuñez said.
What it finally boils down to ...
In the final analysis, it’s always best to opt for a name-brand filter whose quality and design features are reliable and well-documented, says Purolator’s Nuñez. “Experience and documented innovation are key considerations with a product like an engine air filter that can have a major influence on the life of a $4,000 automobile engine. Think about it, if you need surgery, you will certainly want an experienced surgeon who has performed many operations and who has a track record of successful outcomes.”
According to Nuñez, “that's where branding comes in, especially with products like filters where motorists – even technicians – don't have access to lab test results to properly assess the performance, durability, and value of a filter.” And Nuñez should know, since Purolator invented the very first automotive oil filter in 1923 and the first spin-on oil filter in 1955. You want a company that pioneered filtration, has been in the business for nearly a century and has both a track record and a reputation to sustain. You want a company that offers a brand with knowledge, experience, and reliability.
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