Sports air filters for your car: function, advantages and disadvantages

Sports air filters have a reputation for improving engine performance. For this reason, more and more drivers are thinking about using such a component to replace the factory-fitted filter. But does the use of a sports air filter make sense at all? What advantages does a sports air filter offer and what disadvantages do you have to reckon with? Should a sports air filter always be combined with a sports exhaust? And what do you get out of it apart from a richer engine sound? We will discuss these and a few other questions in this article, so that by the end you will be fully informed about what a sports air filter actually does.

How does a sports air filter work and what does it even mean?

Paper filters are installed at the factory in most cars to remove dirt and other particles from the engine intake air. These must be renewed regularly to ensure proper function and performance. Due to their construction, they naturally generate a certain resistance in the intake. With the help of a sports air filter for your car, attempts are now being made to minimize this resistance in order to enable higher engine performance. Most sports air filters are made of foam or cotton fabric. Your flow resistance is significantly reduced, but the retention capacity is also significantly lower. Another option is to install an open sports air filter. With such a system, there is no longer a real filter installed, so all dirt particles go directly into the engine combustion chambers. If you want to optimize the sound of your engine with the sports air filter, you can hardly avoid such an open, filter-free system.

Installation of a universal sports filter for your car

If you are sure that the installation of a sports air filter in your car is permitted without registration, then we recommend a sports air filter kit. Because this includes everything you need to install the sports air filter. In addition to the various universal sports air filters, a whole range of manufacturers also offer model-specific sports air filter variants. With the latter, you can be on the safe side that the air filter you have purchased actually fits. If this is used in exchange for your normal air filter, you can also return to a classic air filter at any time with little effort. So-called replacement filters often offer the advantage that these sports air filters do not have to be entered in the vehicle documents. This always applies if the purchased component has a so-called ABE (general operating permit). If acceptance by a testing company such as the TÜV is necessary, you have to reckon with costs of 30-50 €, with vehicles with special sports air filters often being denied approval due to the noise they generate.

What do you mean by a open sports air filter?

The manufacturers of sports air filters not only use cotton or foam for their own filters, but also produce so-called open sports air filters. You have to clean the classic sports air filters with a matrix regularly. In addition, you may have to oil your sports air filter, with more and more sports air filters being offered without oil.

Open sports air filters are offered for both diesel and petrol engines. Strictly speaking, such components are not actually a filter at all. These components were designed in such a way that they allow maximum air flow to your engine. However, no dirt particles are retained. This in turn should make it possible to burn more fuel and thus generate more torque. In general, such open sports air filters always require a parts certificate, which you can have created by the TÜV, for example. Also keep in mind that the increase in noise level can be significant and you could lose a lot of driving comfort in this way.

What increases in performance are possible with a sports air filter?

It is often claimed that by installing a sports air filter, engine performance can be increased easily and in no time at all. In our experience, however, this is not the case in most cases. On the other hand, it is true that the sound of your engine can be significantly improved with a sports air filter. In particular, this should apply to the open systems already described. Viewed soberly, an open sports air filter can even reduce engine performance. This is due to the fact that, due to its design, it does not exclusively draw in cold air from the outside. In this way, a significant proportion of the warm air from the engine compartment reaches the combustion chambers. In the end, this can lead to the actual engine performance being reduced even further.


There are now some independent studies, for example by the recognized testing organizations DEKRA and TÜV, on performance enhancement with the help of sports air filters. These have clearly shown that they do not require higher engine performance. Under certain circumstances, it can even happen that this is reduced. An effect that an open sports air filter still produces is a richer sound. So you could get a certain racing feeling in your own car. Nevertheless, the question remains whether it is legal to install a sports air filter. There is no general answer to this, it can only be checked as part of a general inspection. However, always bear in mind that the volume of your vehicle must never exceed 80 dB.

A tip from CarTipsandmore:

  • Don't let empty promises lure you. Despite many customers and vendors claiming this, there are no reliable studies that show engine performance gains from other engine air filter alternatives. At best, the engine sound can certainly benefit from an open sports air filter. However, be sure to note the volume coefficient, which should not exceed the 80 dB limit.
  • If you use a sports air filter that has an ABE, you do not have to have the corresponding replacement by the TÜV or another approved by a recognized test center. In such a case, however, remember that you must always carry the ABE with you in the vehicle. This is the only way you can prove during a vehicle inspection that the use of this special air filter is permitted.

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