Reusable air filters reduce waste

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Air Filter

A dirty air filter can reduce vehicle performance and mileage, but buying new filters can get expensive. Image: Flickr / arthritic_old_man / CC-BY-SA

Air filters are one of those small vehicle parts that can have a huge effect on vehicle performance. Generally, air filters should be replaced every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. All those disposable air filters add up, and some companies are now producing air filters that can be washed and re-used.

Reusable air filter basics

Reusable air filters are made of one of two materials. Oiled-gauze air filters must be washed and re-oiled when dirty and work best with flat-style air filter setups. Metal air filters can be simply rinsed out and dried, then re-used. These filters can work with both flat and cone shaped filter setups. These filters are designed to last for between 10 and 15 re-uses. In an average vehicle, that means these air filters last for 150,000 to 450,000 miles.

The dangers of reusable air filters

Reusable air filters can be very effective at doing their job and reducing waste. These filters, however, are not without their pitfalls. The oiled-gauze air filters require cleaning and “recharging,” which can be done with kits that contain cleaning solvent and recharging oil, both of which are separately packaged and must be purchased, used and thrown away. Over-oiling the air filter can get oil into the air system, which can cause a burning smell and gunk build-up. Metal air filters, on the other hand, must be carefully washed clean and dried every 15,000 to 30,000 miles.

Reusing stock air filters

Air filters that are not specifically created for reusing can, in a pinch, be re-used to an extent. Using hot, soapy water on a paper air filter and letting it dry thoroughly can extend the life of the filter by a few thousand miles. Most stock air filters are made with heavy-grade paper, which is not designed to withstand the pressure of much more than air flowing over it. Re-washing a stock air filter can reduce performance and vehicle mileage, so it is a trade-off decision that you should make carefully.


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