What happens when dirt gets in your engine?

P​redictably, it's not good

1y ago

in partnership with

Modern engines can seem bulletproof most of the time. Big metallic lumps that contain mini explosions for thousands of miles, only needing servicing and some common sense to keep them running and in good condition.

But an engine does have an arsenal of safeguards to keep it chugging along, the first of which is the air filter. So what would your engine run like without this simple yet effective device?

What would happen if you ran a car without an air filter?

The air around us is full of little nasties – dirt, pollution, dust, pollen, and plenty of other things that you don’t want your engine breathing in. Without a filter to catch those unwanted particles, they would get deep into the engine and contaminate or even damage the pistons, cylinders and the mass airflow sensor.

Depending on the size of the particles, they could get caught between moving parts and grind against the pistons and cylinders, which could damage an engine severely if given the time to do so. If the piston rings were to be damaged, the seal in each cylinder would be breached, allowing combustion gases to leak into the crankcase (called blow-by) and reduce engine performance significantly.

The mass airflow sensor becoming contaminated would also be a potential nightmare, as the electronic engine management can go haywire and either run things too rich (too much fuel, not enough air) or too lean (too much air, not enough fuel), both of which can be engine killers.

A lack of air filter would leave the door open for these things to happen, often leading to hefty repair bills once the damage is done.

So, how do you stop any of these catastrophes from happening?

Keeping your air filter maintenance on point is a must for your engine to be able to breathe freely. You can go for a standard paper filter but you’ll need to replace it every 15,000 miles. Another way to go is a cotton high-flow filter which is washable and therefore reusable.

Being easy to maintain as well as helping engine performance due to an increase in volume and quality of airflow, cotton filters are a worthwhile modification. K&N cotton gauze filters have been known to increase airflow to the engine by up to 50 per cent, helping increase both power and torque to the wheels.

Another cool thing about these filters is that they are oiled. The oil helps grab dirt particles and then elevates them to become another layer of the filtration process, leaving the airways clear to supply the engine with cool, clean air. So follow the simple rules of induction system servicing and your engine should be good for many more miles, even in the most polluted of areas.

If you fancy checking out what filters you could get for your car, click the link below:

Have you ever had induction issues with your car before? How often do you change your air filter? Or maybe you have a cotton filter, in which case, how often do you clean it? Tell us in the comments!

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Comments (5)

  • Title should be

    What happens if you put a k and n air filter on your daily.

      1 year ago
  • A k&n sponsored article about dirt in your engine... holy crap, the irony!!!

      1 year ago
  • While there are some benefits from adding a K&N filter, they are minimal. Modern cars come with very efficient intakes from the factory, and HP gains from a direct replacement filter is negligible, and when a person cleans and re-oils the filter, care must be taken to not over oil, or you can gum up sensors with oil particles. To get any real hp increase you need to get a complete performance intake and a new tune, and then the increase is only a few percent. But I will admit, intake roar can be sweet.

      1 year ago
  • It gets dirty

      1 year ago
  • I like the k+n air filters but not the induction ones. I prefer the direct replacement filter that goes straight in the air box .

    I have used replacement paper filters and sprayed them with silicone spray to help catch all the fine particles and this does work as you will see all the muck the silicone spray has collected when changing the filter.

      1 year ago