Do Performance Air Filters Make A Difference?

Do Performance Air Filters Make A Difference?
5 March 2020
Do Performance Air Filters Make A Difference?

What is an air filter and what does it do?

Just as humans need oxygen to breathe, a car needs air for the combustion process to work. It takes three things to make a car engine work: a spark, fuel and air. Spark Plugs ignite the fuel mixture and air is needed to burn the fuel. An air filter is the only thing that stands between your engine and the dirty air outside which is trying to steal some of those all-important horses. As bits of debris like dust, sap, leaves and even bugs can make it into the engine and can, therefore, cause damage and hinder performance, using an air filter can prevent these foreign particles from entering your engine and keep it out on the road for longer.

Automotive air filters are designed to prevent the bits of harmful debris from getting through to the engine. However, as the air filter collects the debris it can become clogged up and when this happens it will deprive the engine of just enough air to hinder the car’s performance. As modern technologies have advanced, it is now possible to purchase air filters that can be washed, reoiled and reused saving you money in the long run. For everything you need to know about automotive air filters, then keep reading this blog.

Different Types of Air Filters

There are a few different types of air filters on the market, and the most common is the OEM style paper filter which comes as standard on all MINIs. Other types of performance air filters on the market include Cotton Gauze filters manufactured by the popular brand K&N, foam filters manufactured by the likes of ITG and Pipercross and stainless steel mesh filters which tend to be used for race purposes where engines are regularly rebuilt.

Paper Air Filters

Used as the OEM filter in most cars including the MINI, the paper air filter is simple in its effectiveness but lacks in efficiency. For the air to flow through the filter, there either has to be a large number of microscopic holes in the filter, or the holes have to be open enough for the air to pass through. But, for the air filter to stop the dirt entering the engine, the holes cannot be too big or the containments will get through to the engine. OEM paper filters have to get this balance right, and because they use pleated paper in their construction they are limited in a lot of ways. As a paper air filter collects the dirt etc, it becomes full and its filtration properties drastically decrease, and therefore needs to be changed. Paper air filters are thrown away and replaced – this not only costs more money but creates more waste. Using a paper air filter in your MINI will restrict the airflow to your MINIs engine and thus hinder its performance.

Cotton Gauze Air Filters

Cotton gauze air filters are the next most common type of air filter on the market, and since 1969 K&N have been bringing these filters to the aftermarket world. Cotton gauze filters use a multi-layer design that is made up of usually around four or six layers of pleated cotton filter media, which acts as a physical barrier to containments and debris. The pleated design used by K&N is specifically engineered to provide a large capturing area, this and the addition of what they describe as their ‘Magic Sauce’ aka Filter Oil helps to create an air filter that is extremely popular in the performance car world. The increased surface area and additional tacky oil layer traps and holds dirt and debris and prevents it from getting into the engine. K&N bought the original red oiled air filter to the automotive market, and still to this day, they are innovating industry-leading filtration technology that offers outstanding protection from everything from top-fuel dragsters to commuter vehicles across the globe.

Millions of disposable air filters and their packaging waste end up in landfills each year, however, these washable air filters last the lifespan of the vehicle and help to reduce unnecessary waste. Cotton gauze air filters have several benefits, firstly these filters are washable and therefore don’t need to be thrown away, they last the lifetime of your vehicle. Instead, all that needs to be done is to clean and re-oil it. They can offer increased performance; their superior airflow properties can increase both horsepower and torque.

Foam Air Filters

Foam filters are mainly used in high-performance vehicles because compared to paper and other filter technologies; they do an excellent job of trapping dirt, debris and other containments. Foam filters like the ones produced by ITG maximise airflow without causing the corresponding drop in pressure. Their enhanced cleaning efficiency and their impressive dust load up tolerances mean that they are an ideal choice for anyone wanting an easy life. Often chosen for off-road rallying and other motorsport activities, foam air filters have a larger capacity for filtration over their aftermarket counterparts and can, therefore, flow stronger for longer. Both ITG and Pipercross manufacture foam filters using a Tri-Foam design, this uses varying thicknesses of coarser foam to create an air filter that can be utilised for different applications. A coarse outer layer is used to prevent large pieces of debris and foreign matter from penetrating further into the engine, a medium grade mid-layer is used to trap most of the harmful dirt that can lead to engine failure and a fine inner layer acts as the last line of defence between the debris and the engine, it continues to extract all the fine particles while giving the engine full airflow.

Foam air filters have been known to offer more performance gains over the standard OEM filters, and they are often easy to clean. Their high filtration capacity and dust load up tolerances make them and specifically the manufacturer ITG our air filter recommendation for the MINI. ITG manufacture foam air filters for all MINI generations, models and body shapes so there is something for everyone. We believe that all MINIs should be running a foam filter, but we specifically recommend them for those MINI owners running or opting for a remap. They deliver superior filtration, increase airflow and improve induction noise, so what’s not to love. We stock the whole MINI range of ITG air filters and they are all available for the UK next day delivery, to find out more about the full range of ITG air filters that we stock for the MINI or to order yours then contact our sales team.

ITG foam air filters offer the following benefits to a MINI:

  • Superior Filtration: Their Tri-Foam system combined with the dust retaining oil produces a high level of filtration and will protect your MINIs engine.
  • Better Fuel Economy: Fuel economy is increased due to the larger volume and more consistent flow of air into the engine – as a result, a smaller throttle opening will achieve the same performance.
  • More power: While a blocked up OEM paper air filter can cause a loss of pressure and engine power, an ITG performance foam filter will keep your MINI running at full power for much longer.
  • Longer, Easier Life: ITG profilters last at least 5 times longer than the standard OEM paper filters, meaning they require less maintenance, produce less waste and help the environment as well as your MINI.

Metal Air Filters

Stainless steel mesh is another example of an air filter medium used to produce an aftermarket exhaust. They are made of tightly woven stainless steel mesh and do not require oiling. The stainless steel mesh used to make these comes with different mesh counts, offering different filtration standards. While a stainless steel air filter might look awesome under your bonnet, the filtration properties are considerably less compared to their other aftermarket counterparts. Despite providing a good amount of airflow to the engine, they more often than not let a lot more dirt and debris through, the mesh design cannot catch the finer particles, these can get through to the engine and can create more trouble.

So which filter do you choose?

When it comes to air filters its clear see that the market is flooded with a range of different options, however, we recommend choosing a foam air filter for your MINI, and while these filters re not everyone’s first choice, their superior filtration, high dust tolerances and direct fitment means that they can improve both the bhp and torque of your MINI.

While ITG and foam air filters are our recommendation for the MINI, we do also stock a range of other filters; you can see our full air filter product offering by clicking hitting one of the buttons below.

If this blog post hasn’t helped you chose the perfect air filter for your MINI and you still require some further guidance, then please don’t hesitate to contact us. Our sales team will give you more information and guidance simply contact [email protected] or call 01785 859999.

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