Monday, 19 December 2016

What is K&N air filter | TechTalk #1

I know all of you are used to reading my travel experiences and motorcycle riding blog posts. But being a mechanical engineer and an automotive fanatic, I get several questions from a lot of people related to bikes, cars and their modification. And I really enjoy talking to people about that as well. People are extremely curious to the things that go on inside an automobile. So I thought, why not discuss these topics here on the blog so that more people can know these things. So here I am, with the first post of the new series, TechTalk.

K&N sticker on Bajaj Pulsar 220
K&N sticker on my bike

All of us have seen the K&N sticker on several bikes or cars and wondered “what is that sticker about?” Many of you already know what I am talking about. But there are several people who still wonder what it is and are extremely curious to know. Well, let me tell you, it is the famous K&N air filters.

The stickers that you see on bikes are of the company K&N (also known as "kn air filters" or "k and n" air filters) and they manufacture performance air filter for all sorts of automobiles. And the sticker usually means that the vehicle with the sticker has one installed. Also, as a motorcyclist or an automotive enthusiast, changing their bike’s/car’s air filter is one of the first modification a person does to his/her ride. I get several questions regarding this. What are they? How to install them? Are they any good? I can go on all day. So let’s discuss all of that in detail, shall we?

Disclaimer – I am not being paid by K&N for their promotion. Though there are several performance air filter manufacturers out there that are equally good if not more, I am specifically mentioning K&N because I use it and it is the most popular brand among youngsters and budding automotive enthusiasts.

What is an air filter and why do you need one?

Air filter is a device used to filter the air of particulate matter and pollutants at various levels and is located right at the entry of the engine’s air intake. During the working of the engine, the required air for combustion is sucked inside during the suction stroke. The air is sucked via a pipe which has the air filter attached at its entrance. (If you have no idea what I am taking about, click here to know the working of an engine)

If the air filter is not used, dust, debris or other impurities will enter the engine causing premature wear of the engine. If larger particles enter the engine, then consider your engine gone for good.

OEM/stock air filter vs K&N air filter

The OEM air filter or the stock air filter that is used by the manufacturers restricts the air flow to an optimized level which is useful for the average customer. Generally it is made of sponge or paper and is quite cheap.

The performance air filters like K&N are made of a special filter material which pressurizes the air into the combustion chamber. In short, they provide the same amount of the filtration as the stock filter but in quicker time allowing the air to give that extra rush to the engine. This makes the engine a bit peppier.

stock or oem air filters used in indian bikes
OEM air filters
K&N performance air filter
K&N air filter

Does it actually make any difference?

Now comes the million dollar question. Does it actually make any difference? Well of course it does. I have been using a K&N on my Bajaj Pulsar 220 for the past 2 years and even though I may not have a dynamometer data sheet to prove it, I have observed a noticeable bump in the bike’s performance.

You may have to make arrangements for increased air flow for the K&N performance filter, by keeping your air filter box partially or completely open depending on your requirements. As a by-product of this, the exhaust note of several motorbikes improves (improves only if you are into that sort of thing. Otherwise can be very annoying).

I have also seen many people removing the air filer box entirely and fitting the K&N directly on the carburettor. This is not advisable for regular use bikes.

If they are so good, why don’t manufacturers use K&N air filters?

Any mass production vehicle is designed to meet the needs of the average customer while complying with government regulations. It is also made robust to cater to the extreme customers in the best possible manner. While doing this, apart from performance, the automobile manufacturers also have to consider cost, fuel economy, serviceability, durability and overall packaging. Since K&N are “performance” air filters, they fail to make the cut on one or more of these factors. As an individual you might be OK to trade off one of these points for performance. So you can get it fitted aftermarket. Also, these performance air filters are much costlier than the OEM air filters.

Other brands any good?

As I mentioned earlier, there are several brands manufacturing performance air filters that are equally good to K&N if not better. Some of the other renowned companies like BMC air filters and HKS are also used widely worldwide. But in India, K&N is more popular among the common people than any other brand.


I personally like my bike’s sound and the marginal power bump after I started using a K&N. But do not expect any extreme rise in your bike’s power output. If you are an automobile fanatic and can afford to chip out a few thousand rupees, definitely go for a performance air filter. Consult an expert while doing so of course. But for others who will be saving out from their pocket money to buy a K&N, you can go easy on this one and prioritize this for some time later.

Do let me know in the comments section below if you like to see more technical articles like this. Also feel free to post any automobile related question that you might have in the comments section below or email them to me. We can discuss those in the next blog post.


  1. Thanks akshay!! Its really helpful for me as i am intending to install one for my bike too

    1. No problem :)
      I'm glad you liked it and found it to be helpful!

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