How Well Do You Look After Your Air Filters?

Every 4WD owner wants to enhance the lifespan of their engine as much as possible and one of the most overlooked components that contribute to a well-functioning engine are air filters. The longevity of your engine is dependent on three things – clean fuel, fresh oil, and clean air, and your air filters play a vital role in this holy trinity. In essence, the air filter in your 4WD uses air from outside, removes any particles and contaminants, and sends clean air to your motor for combustion.

Along with changing your oil regularly, checking your air filters should be part of your regular maintenance schedule. While driving around the city won’t affect your air filters too much, they’ll certainly get a work-out when traveling along dusty rural roads in the bush. It’s vital that 4WD owners ensure they take proper care of their air filters to prevent unnecessary damage and there’s a couple of points which must be noted.


When owners take proper care of their 4WD’s by supplying clean fuel, fresh oil, and clean air, their engines can last for 500,000kms or more and crucial components such as gearboxes and diffs need to be replaced well before their engine. If, for whatever reason, your air filter has a leak or dust somehow manages to enter your engine, the dust particles essentially act like sand paper rubbing up and down your engine.

When driving on dirt or gravel roads in the bush or when off-roading, the air sucked in by your 4WD contains massive amounts of dust and contaminated particles that can damage your motor. To minimise the amount of dust sucked into your engine, a snorkel is highly recommended because it elevates the air intake from just below the bonnet to roof height where there is substantially less dust. If you’re traveling through the outback in a convey, it’s best to stay at least a kilometre behind the vehicle in front of you. This not only reduces the amount of dust your engine ingests, but it’s also much safer as well.


Most 4WDs have a cartridge type disposable paper air filter from factory, however newer vehicles are being supplied with a ‘washable’ type of filter to minimise maintenance costs. Most manufacturers advise owners to change the air filter every 15,000 to 20,000 kms and there are quite a few types of air filters on the market. Foam filters are a good alternative as they generally have better airflow, however they require regular cleaning and re-oiling and it’s vital that the correct amount of oil is added or it can cause major problems.

Alternatively, disposable paper air filters are still used by large earthmoving manufacturers like Caterpillar which are exposed to huge amounts of dust on a daily basis. This just highlights that the type of filter is not the issue here, it’s the quality of the maintenance that ensures dust and other contaminants stay out of your engine.


It’s highly encouraged that you regularly check the sealing points of your air intake system, starting with the snorkel or air intake line then working to the airbox and filter itself. Any leaks or damaged seals will essentially render your air filter useless and applying some grease on the bottom and top seals of the air filter will ensure a tight vacuum. If you regularly travel on dusty outback roads then it’s best to check your air filter every couple of thousand kilometres by inspecting the internal throat of the airbox to see if any dust is penetrating the filter. This also gives you the chance to tap out any dust trapped in the filter.

Maintenance schedules

Generally speaking, the manufacture’s guidelines as to when your air filter should be changed is based on bitumen driving and should be considered the upmost limit (normally between 15,000 and 20,000 kms). Keep in mind that if you drive regularly in dusty conditions then you’ll need to change it much more often. If you find dirt in the throat of the airbox then you should reduce the timeframe between maintenance cycles. Always remember that cheap aftermarket filters are available at much lower prices, however if you use any non-genuine air filters then you will likely void any dust related warranty claim.

4WD owners should be aware of the damages that dust inhalation can cause engines. Rather than trying to prolong the life of your engine through regular maintenance, think of it as trying to avoid disaster!

If you’re interested in purchasing an air intake snorkel for your 4WD, get in touch with the professionals at TJM Australia. For more information or just some friendly advice, speak with

their team directly by phoning 07 3865 9999.

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