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Best clamp-on air filter

For the engine to perform, not only fuel is needed, but also oxygen. In addition to the air filters installed in the engine compartment of new cars, you can also use special sports air filters. These promise more power and a richer engine sound.

From replaceable cotton filters to open filters, we present the best sports air filters. Find out now in our comparison table which sports air filters pass the test by air particles and heat.

When choosing a Performance Sport Air Filter for your car, consider the K&N 57S-4000 Performance Intake Kit Universal Filter

Best Universal Cold Air Intake Kit:

Best choice


The K&N 57S-4000 Performance Airbox replaces the restrictive factory air filter and air box lid.

  • 5,0 Rating
  • Air Filter Material: Cotton Gauze
  • Air Filter Outlet Shape: Round
  • Product Style: 57i Series International Kits
  • Street Legal In All US States: No
  • California Restricted: Not legal for sale or use in California
  • Mounting Hardware Included: Yes
  • Warranty: 1,000,000 Miles/10 Year

Best High Performance Air Filters:

K&N Universal Clamp-On Air Filter RG-1001RDMore information
High Performance Parts Cold Air Intake Red 2.5 AF-25-RDMore information
Spectre Universal Clamp-On Air Filter 8132More information
Airaid 353-210 Intake System with SynthaMax Blue Dry FilterMore information
Mopar 77070045AB Cold Air IntakeMore information

Sports Air Filter Buying Guide:

How to choose the right product from the above sports air filter test or comparison.

  • You can choose between replaceable sports air filters, whose material you can clean, and open sports air filters, which retain fewer dirt particles but produce a louder engine sound.
  • Sports air filters are available for cars as well as for motorcycles and mopeds. The diameter of the filter determines what type of vehicle you can use it for.
  • Not all sports air filters are approved for road use. Some open filters are therefore only suitable for special purposes such as tuning meetings.

Do you want to buy the best sports air filter, we recommend a replaceable filter with cotton material?

Do sports air filters replace the factory paper air filters?

Replacement filters have good filtering performance and allow up to 20 hp more engine power.

Of the two types of sport air filters, the replacement filter with cotton material, also called a “foam dry filter,” is the most efficient filtering method. Dirt particles are captured from the air inside the engine before they enter the engine.

As a result, the engine lasts longer and can reach a higher RPM, which can mean an increase of up to 20 horsepower for you, depending on the engine. The advantage over traditional air filters that have paper in them is the nature of the cotton, which allows more air to pass through, but also traps more dirt.

We recommend a replaceable sport air filter such as those made by K&N, Spectre Performance, Airaid, or Mopar if you want to get more power out of your engine but don’t want it to sound louder. The cotton of the filter attenuates the engine noise in contrast to the open sports air filter, so that an increase of maximum 10 dB.

Another advantage of replaceable sports air filters: You can clean the material yourself with compressed air spray, while conventional paper air filters have to be completely replaced. Cleaning, or replacement, is due after approx. 30,000 to 50,000 ml.

Open filters are particularly suitable for tuning purposes and produce a much louder engine noise

Unlike the replaceable foam dry filter, the open sports air filter does not trap dirt particles in a layer of fabric, so more air can be drawn in much faster by the engine. Because of the greater air intake, there is a rich engine noise that is up to 30 dB louder than conventional filters.

Open sports air filters do supply the engine with more air and make it work faster, but an increase in engine power does not necessarily occur for you in the process. Since the air is drawn in very quickly from the engine’s interior, it is hardly cooled down at all. The hot air in the engine in turn heats it up and the power is reduced. You should therefore not expect more than a 5 hp increase in performance.

We recommend an open sports air filter for tuning purposes. If you value an increase in engine noise, the open sports air filter represents the appropriate choice. Note, however, that the reduced filtration can cause more dirt particles to enter the engine and the engine may wear out more quickly.

Attention: Many engines are too loud after the installation of an open sports air filter and therefore not approved for public road traffic. The filters of some brands are therefore only suitable for special purposes such as tuning meetings or for motor sports. Pay attention to the manufacturer’s instructions here before buying.

In the sports air filter comparison you will find the right category for your needs:

Replaceable sports air filterOpen sports air filter
Good filter performanceModerately strong filter performance
Up to 20 HP power increaseUp to 5 hp power increase
Up to 5 dB louder engine noiseUp to 20 dB louder engine noise
Cleaning possibleCleaning not necessary
For cars, motorcycles, and mopedsFor cars, motorcycles, and mopeds
Approved for road trafficPartially approved for road traffic

When buying, pay attention to the material and approval of the sports air filter

Replaceable cotton sports air filters have different filtering capacities

While the material is less important for open sports air filters because it only directs the airflow but does not filter it, the nature of the cotton is crucial for replaceable sports air filters.

The filters of some manufacturers such as K&N have a special cotton structure, which on the one hand allows a lot of air through and on the other hand absorbs even very small dirt particles due to a microscopically fine arrangement of the fibers. Thus, a performance increase of up to 20 hp is possible.

The manufacturer’s instructions tell you whether the filter is approved for road use

Especially with open filters, which produce up to 30 dB louder engine noise, you should ensure the possibility of approval for road traffic if you want to use the sports air filter for motorcycle, moped, or car in everyday life.

With sport air filters is not possible to reduce fuel consumption

Since the installation of a sports air filter aims to increase the performance of the engine, saving fuel consumption is not possible. Especially open filters mean, because the engine works faster, that up to 10% more fuel is needed.

If you want to consume as little fuel as possible, we recommend a replaceable sports air filter in any case. Manufacturers such as K&N offer products that require little to no additional fuel consumption.

Paper filters significantly impede airflow compared to sport air filters

Paper filters installed in new cars not only trap dirt particles, but also air. As a result, your engine can draw in less air. The result is a loss of performance of up to 20 hp.

In terms of engine performance, replaceable sport air filters have the following advantages over factory-installed paper filters:


  • Air is drawn in faster through cotton material
  • Engine can work faster
  • Sport air filter can be cleaned


  • paper has on average the greatest filtering capacity
  • in any case approved for road traffic

Do you need wrenches and plastic gloves to install the sports air filter?

Allow the engine to cool down for at least 30 minutes before installation. Proceed as follows when installing in a car:

  • Open the hood and locate the cover of the air filter. This is usually easy, as a label such as “Air Filter” will indicate it. If in doubt, the location can be found described in the manual.
  • For diesel vehicles: unplug the mass airflow sensor from the side of the air filter box.
  • Remove the housing cover screws from your car’s air filter and remove the cover.
  • Remove the air filter from the box.
  • Now screw the sports air filter into the box. To do this, connect the connection ring of the sports air filter to the flange in the filter box.
  • Optional: If a filter box cover was supplied, now screw it onto the box.
  • For diesel vehicles: Attach the connector of the mass air flow sensor to the side of the air filter box.
  • To test, now start the engine with the hood open and do the sport air filter test to see if all parts are tight. However, do not touch any parts while the engine is running.
  • For moped and motorcycle: here, as with the car, the cover must be removed. Here, too, make sure that the filter’s sealing rings are screwed tightly to the flange.

Tip: It is very important that you clean the filter with a compressed air spray at least every 30,000 to 50,000 km. Otherwise, you will quickly suffer considerable losses in engine performance when the filter performance decreases. The filter can also wear out more quickly if it is dirty.

Should the filter be checked if the engine suddenly becomes very loud?

We reveal tips on how to deal with sports air filters.

By installing a sports air filter, you can significantly increase the performance of the engine, but there are other factors that you should consider. The higher temperature decreases the volume of the air and therefore the oxygen content, which is necessary for the engine to work. Therefore, we recommend that you consider buying a so-called airbox, which cools the air before it enters the engine.

Sport air filter dirt

Regularly check the cleanliness of the filter to save the engine and your wallet.

Dirty and clogged sport air filters can make a whistling noise on motorcycles, mopeds and passenger cars. If you notice an increased engine noise while driving, do the sport air filter test and clean the filter as soon as possible if necessary.

If you notice fluctuations in engine performance after the change on your diesel vehicle, this may be due to the mass air flow sensor connector not being plugged in correctly. Correct this error by plugging the connector in again firmly.

If you hear a rattling noise during the first ride after installing the sport air filter, this is an indication that the air filter box cover has not been installed correctly. Hand tighten all screws again.

It is possible that a warning for the air filter will appear in your vehicle’s display after the change. This will automatically reset when sufficient air can enter the engine combustion chamber. If the sports air filter is installed correctly and the warning does not go out, it must be cleared manually. To do this, consult your operating instructions.

Questions and answers about sports air filters

Do you need a special agent for cleaning the sports air filter?

You can clean the replaceable sports air filter with a compressed air spray. To do this, spray the pores of the cleaner from a distance of approx. 20 cm. If you don’t have a spray handy, you can also gently tap out the filter.

Some sports air filters, such as those from K&N, are additionally impregnated with a special oil that prevents heavy contamination of the filter by dirt particles. In this case, manufacturers provide special cleaning kits with which you can also renew the coating of the oil.

Is an open or a replaceable sports air filter the better choice?

Which product you should choose depends on whether you want to increase the engine noise for tuning purposes, or if you are interested in better filtered air. When choosing an open sports filter, approval for public road use is not guaranteed.

Car Owner Cleans K&N Filter

David Muench (Carnes Mechanical)

David Muench (Carnes Mechanical)

Hey, I’m David. I’ve worked in a cars store for 6 years. I write reviews and guides, helping people to choose the most suitable technicals and best product for them. I’m happy to finally share my knowledge of the industry here, on CarnesMechanical.

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