For the record, you shouldn’t drive without an air filter. It’s designed to keep dust, debris and anything else that can get sucked into the combustion chamber and cause problems from entering your engine.
Yes, rolling without an air filter can give you up to 2 more horsepower due to the fact that there’s absolutely no restriction for fresh air to pass through to the engine.
But the damage that can be afflicted to the engine makes it not worth it. Installing a cold air intake is a much better alternative for getting less restrictive air flowing into your engine.
Let’s look at some other aspects of this component to better understand why driving your car without an air filter isn’t such a good idea.
First, Let’s Look at the Reason Why Your Car Seems to Run Better Without an Air Filter
The role of an air filter is to keep impurities out of the engine.
The reason why your car seems to perform better without an air filter is because there’s no restriction for oxygen to pass into the engine. The net result is a marginal increase in horsepower.
This increase in performance is because more oxygen can pass into the engine creating a stronger combustion.
But what’s the point of a power gain – especially when it’s so nominal – if it’s going to cause eventual harm to your engine?
Keep reading for better ways to increase horsepower without removing the air filter.
Initially, You Won’t Notice any Issues with Your Car When You’re Driving Without an Air Filter
Acceleration will feel responsive at first. The car might even turn on more efficiently than it ever did with an air filter.
But the longer you drive without an air filter, the more trash is getting sucked into the combustion chamber which is where fuel and oxygen mix to give your car power.
And that horsepower you initially felt by removing the air filter will begin to diminish as the system gets clogged up.
What You Can Expect from Driving Without an Air Filter
Since there’s nothing stopping dust and debris from entering an engine without an air filter.
Once these contaminants make it into the engine, they will cause scratches within the piston walls eventually causing engine failure.
And if you have a turbocharged engine, that means air is being fed forcefully into the engine.
Without the air filter, debris and dust is being forcefully fed into the engine, which means engine failure will likely come sooner than later.
Driving for a Short While Without an Air Filter Shouldn’t Cause Harm to the Engine
A short trip to your local auto store without an air filter won’t cause damage to your car. But driving without an air filter for weeks will lead to eventual engine failure as dust, debris, insects and other contaminants cause havoc to the engine.
You Can Get More Horsepower Out of Your Engine Without Removing the Air Filter
The air filter is an often-unassociated part of the exhaust system. When you want more performance, good advice is to start from the beginning of the exhaust system.
The most northern part of the exhaust system allowing air to be fed into the engine is the air intake system which uses an air filter to keep contaminants out of the engine.
Instead of removing the air filter to get more air into your engine, you could invest in a cold air intake system. This replaces the box air filter that comes with your vehicle allowing more fresh air into the engine.
You can gain 5 to 20 horsepower by going this route rather than the paltry 1 to 2 horsepower you get from removing the air filter.
Not to mention side-stepping the attendant liability that comes with deleting the air filter.
Air Filters Come in Different Shapes Size and Materials
If you’ve been down the aisles of your local auto parts store, you’ll have no doubt seen that automotive air filters come in different shapes and sizes.
Drop in air filters are the most common. They’re panel shaped to drop right into your vehicle’s factory air filter box.
Aftermarket air filters can be panel shaped but are more often circular or cylindrical to fit on a cold air intake system.
Filters can be made of cotton, synthetic paper or foam.