This comparison guide provides a deeper look into OEM and aftermarket engine air filters. We’ll discuss the three most important factors of engine air filters and then see how OEM and aftermarket engine air filters stack up against each other.
The Importance of Having a Good Quality Engine Air Filter in Your Car
Since engine air filters are inexpensive disposable parts, some people believe that just any old air filter would do. It’s actually a dangerous belief. When it comes to engine air filters, quality matters a whole lot.
If unfiltered air gets into the engine, dust is also getting into the engine. Over time, that will damage a lot of the internal components. Replacing those worn components is not cost effective, so most people end up replacing the entire engine.
Engine air filters trap the dust and particles in the air that gets sucked into the engine. A low-quality engine air filter won't do the job well. How do you tell a high-quality air filter from a low-quality one, though? Easy. Just look at three different factors that make or break an engine air filter:
1. Filter Material Surface Area
Surface area is important in an engine air filter. What you want to look for are deep, tightly packed pleats. The more surface area the filter material has, the more debris it can trap over a long period of time.
OEM Toyota air filters have a lot of surface area. If you look at one, you'll easily spot deep, tightly packed pleats. Aftermarket air filters usually have shallow, loosely packed pleats. It's a part of the reason why aftermarket air filters are cheap.
2. Filter Material Quality
Even if you find an aftermarket engine air filter with a large surface area, there's still the possibility that the filter material quality itself isn't good.
Some aftermarket brands boast that their air filters let more air in than OEM air filters do. It’s actually not a good thing because the more air a filter lets in, the more dirt gets into your engine.
You want an engine air filter with filter material that's porous enough to allow an adequate amount of airflow into the engine, but not too porous to allow dirt and debris into the engine. Toyota spent a lot of time and money researching and developing engine air filters with filter material that has just the right amount of pores.
Aftermarket air filters are a hit or miss, but generally they need to be replaced more often due to their low-quality filter material not holding up quite as long as OEM air filters.
When you have an engine air filter that doesn't fit the air intake box perfectly, some dust and particles will enter the engine through the gap(s) around the filter seal. If you install an air filter that's a little too big for the air intake box, then it'll get crushed or a little banged up, rendering it unable to perform as well as it should.
OEM air filters are built to OEM specs, making them direct fits. There are no gaps.
Aftermarket engine air filters have a track record of not fitting perfectly, even those that come with claims that they're designed just for your Toyota model. If you look online, you'll see a lot of reviews from disgruntled car owners who were disappointed to see that their aftermarket engine air filters didn't fit their cars like they should.
For example, an Amazon user ordered an aftermarket air filter for their 2002 Tacoma pickup. They wrote in their Amazon review that their filter ended up being too small and not a direct replacement. Another Amazon user ordered an aftermarket engine air filter for their 1998 4Runner, and the filter ended up being too big. "The casing is too big and you won't be able to latch the lid shut. Be warned," they wrote.
Where to Find a Genuine OEM Engine Air Filter at a Reasonable Price
OEM engine air filters may be a bit more expensive, but it pays off in the long run to have one in your Toyota instead of an aftermarket air filter. OEM air filters don't necessarily have to cost more, though. We're an authorized seller of genuine OEM Toyota parts, and we offer deeply discounted prices for OEM Toyota engine air filters. In fact, our prices might beat aftermarket prices! Look up your Toyota model in the catalog to see if there's an engine air filter that's specific to your model.