Air Filters: To Clean or Replace?

Cleaning engine air filters is a hot topic of debate, with some of our customers happy to blow out their engine air filters with compressed air to 'prolong their life'.  Our recommendation is to never clean engine air filters with compressed air, and it is the same opinion of most engine, filter and machinery manufacturers.

Cleaning air filters with compressed air can cause a multitude of problems. 

Most commonly we have seen filters damaged due to high pressure air guns being used.  Air filters are not designed to withstand 100 psi.  Using a blow gun at 100 psi very close to the filter paper will blow holes in the filter paper.  These holes will then allow dust to enter the engine.  To reduce this risk, the blow gun should be held at least 100mm from the filter paper, with the pressure reduced significantly.

The next problem associated from cleaning air filters with compressed air is that it is not possible to stop contamination from entering the inside of the filter during cleaning.  Anyone who has cleaned a very dirty filter will see that dust will go everywhere, and that includes the inside.  When the filter is refitted, that dust will go straight into the engine.

Air filters can be easily cleaned but this shout be done by professionals at a filter cleaning facility.  When cleaned by professionals, the filter will be tested and marked with the date it was cleaned at the facility.  This way it is easy to keep track of how many times the filter has been cleaned.  This is an economical alternative to replacement of large and expensive filters. 

For smaller filters it is generally more economical to replace the filter.  This is the only way that longevity of the engine can be guaranteed.  Even very small engines can be very expensive to repair from damage of faulty air filters, and the small cost of a few extra replacement filters is generally not worth the risk.