The most common air filter found in cars and trucks alike is the paper air filter. Many automotive manufacturers use paper air filters as their stock OE filter because they are cheap to manufacture, simple to service and easy to replace. Most paper air filters consists of resin treated cellulose that has been compacted into a thin material that is porous enough to allow air to pass through it and still keep its form. The stiff paper material is then bent into pleats, compacted into a cartridge, and sealed together with a flexible cage normally made of a rubberized material. Chances are if you don't know what kind of air filter your vehicle has, it's a paper air filter.
If you walk into your local auto parts store you will see hundreds of paper air filters on the shelf offered by various manufactures. This is because most consumers do not want to spend much money on a product they are just going to throw away time and time again. Most paper air filters offer great engine protection at low cost, but they do come at another price. Typically paper air filters are more restrictive than cotton filters, synthetic performance air filters or synthetic/cotton air filter blends like AIRAID air filters. A restriction in airflow can reduce your engine's available power and torque. Faster engine response is often linked to better engine torque and that's why many car enthusiasts use performance air filters.
How often do I need to replace my paper air filter?
A paper replacement air filter is recommended to perform for around 12 to 15 thousand miles, depending on the driving environment. If you frequently drive on dirt roads or in a dusty environment, you may need to replace your paper air filter more often. It is important that you replace your paper air filter when it gets dirty and restrictive. If you don't replace your paper filter when it gets dirty and restrictive it can have a negative effect on vehicle performance.
What do I do when my paper air filter becomes clogged or dirty?
One of the down sides of using a disposable type paper air filter is that they cannot be cleaned and reused. Once a paper air filter reaches the end of it's service life, you will need to throw it away and purchase another one. Fortunately paper air filters are not very expensive if you install them yourself. If you get your paper air filter replaced at a vehicle dealership it might be much more expensive so avoid this if you are looking to cut costs.