K&N Air Filter vs Paper Air Filter – Which To Choose?

When it comes to air filters, consumers are faced with several options. Two of the most popular types of air filters are the standard paper-based ones and the reusable performance filters manufactured by K&N. Which one is best? We researched both types of air filters from multiple professional sources so that you'll be able to determine which one is right for you.

A paper filter is a disposable air filter meant to be changed every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. These are low-cost and require no maintenance.

A K&N air filter will cost a lot more money but is reusable if maintained. Which one is right for you will depend on your budget and if you want to clean and maintain a filter.

Now that we know the differences between these two types of air filters, we'll explore how these differences might make an impact on your decision. You might also be wondering if K&N filters will damage your engine or if a performance filter will increase your fuel economy.

For the answers to these questions and more, read ahead in this post to see what our research has uncovered.

Two types of air filter for your car dispossable and reusable, K&N Air Filter Vs Paper: Which To Choose?

The differences between a K&N air filter and a paper filter

The differences between a standard paper air filter and one from K&N are vast. Both block dirt, bugs, and other debris from entering the intake and getting inside your vehicle's engine. But that's where the similarities stop between these two styles. 

The K&N air filter is a performance air filter.

Car Open Air Intake Filter with DIY Heat Shield

Many experts will point out that a standard paper air filter will keep too much air from entering your vehicle's engine. An internal combustion engine needs a spark, fuel, and air to run. Reducing the amount of oxygen the engine receives can impede its performance. 

A K&N performance air filter will let more oxygen into the engine, thus improving how it runs. It will increase the horsepower of the engine. It will also slightly increase the fuel economy of most vehicles.

Paper filters are cheap and disposable.

worn cabin air conditioner filter of car

A standard paper air filter is very inexpensive. Being light on your wallet, you can hardly notice the cost when it's time to replace yours. But they don't last very long. Depending on how you drive, the age of your engine, and where you drive, your air filter might not make it more than 15,000 miles. 

The need to replace this part once or twice a year can add up over time. Of course, they also have the added benefit of being disposable and requiring zero maintenance. A performance air filter from K&N will require a bit of love and labor on your part.

You'll need to take care of a performance air filter

If you are thinking of getting a K&N performance air filter, it will last. Many feel that this is worth the investment, but you'll find that they require some work. A paper filter is just removed, discarded, and replaced. But a K&N filter needs some care.

Every 50,000 miles or so, the K&N air filter will need to be removed and cleaned. In this post, we'll discuss the easiest way to do this. So long as you take care of this maintenance item, your K&N air filter will last as long as your vehicle. 

These filters will also need to be lubricated before they are installed in your vehicle. Air filter oil is formulated to help keep the air filter in place so that it can do its job. The oil also serves as a barrier that will help trap bugs and dirt before it comes into contact with the filter.

Will a K&N air filter damage my engine?

If you scour the internet, you might find tales of how a performance air filter has damaged a person's engine. While this can technically be true, it's essential to understand that it won't harm your engine if you use it correctly.

After all, almost any part of your car can be damaging if it's misused, right?

To use your K&N performance air filter in the right way, it will need to be cleaned every so often. Just as important, this filter needs to have air filter oil slathered on it before reinstalling it. This lubricant serves two purposes. 

First, the lubricant works to seat the air filter into place. Without the oil, the air filter will move and expose gaps, allowing debris to get sucked into the engine. Second, the oil will help trap unwanted particles from traveling to the engine, forming a protective barrier.

Old dirty diesel engine

Will a K&N air filter increase my gas mileage?

A performance air filter like the one designed by K&N is known to increase the output of a vehicle's engine. Additionally, these filters will have the added benefit of giving you more miles per gallon.

The harder an engine has to work, the more fuel it will burn. The more fuel it burns, the more the fuel economy suffers. By letting in more oxygen, the engine performs at a more optimum level and works a bit less complicated. 

This increases the engine's efficiency, thus slightly increasing the miles per gallon. As a bonus, a performance filter will also add a bit more horsepower to the engine.

Refuel fill up with petrol gasoline

How many miles will a K&N air filter last?

A K&N air filter is built to last. One of these filters will likely last as long [or longer] as the vehicle you are equipping it with. Of course, you'll need to take good care of the K&N filter for it to make it that long.

The filter will need to be removed and carefully cleaned every 50,000 miles or so. This might mean cleaning it more often if you drive on a lot of dirt or gravel roads.

But if you clean it right and have it installed as directed, you'll find that this is one part you never have to replace.

Automotive Replacement High Performance Air Filters

How often does a K&N filter need to be cleaned?

Unlike a paper filter that will be thrown away, a K&N air filter is meant to be reused. This means that you will have to pull it out of the chamber every so often and give it a thorough cleaning so it can work to keep your engine free of contaminants.

Generally, a cleaning every 50,000 miles is in order. But how you drive and where you drive will influence this. The more dirt your vehicle is exposed to, the more often your performance air filter will need to be cleaned. 

High Performance Air Filters in Air Intake Box

How do you clean a K&N air filter?

While you can find branded cleaners to maintain your K&N air filter, you can tackle this chore with warm water and dish soap. Cleaning it is simple and can be done in no time at all.

Use a small amount of soap and get a basin sudsy with warm tap water. Put the air filter inside the solution and let it sit for five minutes. This will loosen the particles. Remove it and let it sit outside the solution for another five minutes.

Rinse the air filter under a gentle stream of warm water. Do NOT use a power sprayer or garden hose for this. That will damage the filter.

After it dries, apply the air filter oil and reinstall. You'll be fine for another 50,000 miles or so!

dishwashing sponge

Final thoughts

Two types of air filter for your car dispossable and reusable

The K&N air filter has many advantages over the standard paper brands but will require a higher upfront cost and a bit of labor on your part. These performance filters will increase your gas mileage and have also given your engine more horsepower. Take care of this filter; it will last even longer than your vehicle. Drive safe!

We hope this post answered all your questions about the K&N air filter. For additional information, we suggest reading the following posts:

11 Toyota Camry Cabin Air Filters That Will Make Your Car Smell Fresh

Are K&N Filters Bad For Your Engine?

Car Sounds Like Air Escaping? Here's What Hissing Sounds Could Mean

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