How High-Performance Air Filters Extend the Lifetime of your Machine and Save Money in the Long Term

Editorial team|6 minutes to read

When it’s time to replace various filters for vehicles and machinery, we all face the same question: Do we buy cheap filters and save money now, or buy more expensive filters on the promise that they last longer and perform better? It’s also tempting when an air filter clogs up to blow out or knock out the dirt. It’s a mistake that can have seriously expensive repercussions. Look at it this way: Any filter aims to protect the machine, prevent unexpected downtime, and extend the overall working life of the machine.  

Donaldson is one of the world’s best-known filtration system experts, supplying leading-edge filters across agriculture, construction, and forest and grass care sectors. We collaborated with them to find out why cost-cutting on filters can cost you dearly. In this article, we focus primarily on air filtration.  

Every filtration system is designed to protect the engine, the heart of your vehicle. Once you have dirt particles entering the engine, via the fuel or the lube, or the air, you start experiencing friction in the engine leading to faster and more damaging wear and tear. The better your filter, the longer the lifetime of your machine, and less money is spent on servicing, repair work, and replacement of parts.  


How Often Does a Filter Need Servicing or Replacement? 

Unlike oil or fuel filters, which typically last for an entire year and can be replaced at the annual vehicle service, there’s no simple answer for air filters. As a guide, Donaldson states that a normal air filtration element should last 250 operating hours. But whether you achieve that 250-hour time frame depends on a lot of varying conditions: the region in which the vehicle is operating, the time of year and the weather (dry summers mean much more dust in the air), the type of work it is performing and type of crop it is working on (for example, vegetable crops with small leaves can quickly begin to block a filtration system), and even the soil type in a particular field!  

Because the agricultural and construction industries feature dirty, dusty working conditions, good-quality air cleaners have restriction indicators installed on their external housing. As the dirt builds up, airflow is restricted, and engine performance begins to suffer. The restriction indicators react to this by giving a visual indicator when the filter is reaching the end of its life and needs replacing. It’s even possible to have indicators in the vehicle cab, which light up when it’s time to change the air filters. Then it’s a simple matter of returning to a dry, sheltered space, cleaning the body of the machine near the filter and the filter housing, and fitting a new filter.  


Why Shouldn’t I Try to Clean My Air Filters?  

So, what’s the problem with blowing out your filters? Quite simply, it’s extremely difficult to judge the right pressure required. Usually, people use too much force or air pressure, and that can damage the filter. A damaged filter doesn’t perform properly, which can mean allowing more dust and dirt into your vehicle’s system, increasing the risk of more serious and expensive damage.   

Trying to clean your filters can also invalidate your service warranty. The experts at Donaldson can easily see if someone has tried to clean their own filters. If you try to clean a filter and damage it, the filter manufacturer won’t take responsibility for any damage caused to the internal system of the vehicle. That’s because the act of trying to clean it makes it impossible to tell when and how the filter failed, and therefore what the real cause of the damage was: a faulty filter or a filter that hasn’t been serviced properly.  

The same principles apply to servicing any filters, for any vehicle or machine. Always check with your engine manufacturer what are the limitations to your warranty. Such is Donaldson’s reputation among manufacturers that if you choose the right Donaldson filtration system for your machine, and you change the filters in line with the manufacturer’s own recommendations, you won’t invalidate your machine’s warranty. Choose an inferior quality filter and fail to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully, and you could face an extremely high bill in the future!  

Changing an air filter requires a clean environment and a clean machine. Removing a filter in the middle of a field while harvesting would be extremely risky; the machine would likely be coated in fine particles, with more particles flying around in the air as well, and the very act of removing and replacing the filter could introduce a damaging level of dust to the internal system of the vehicle. Any filter replacement should take place in a clean, controlled environment, away from wind and dirt, and only after cleaning the intake and surrounding body.   


What Can I Do to Improve Air Filtration Performance?  

To improve the performance of air filtration, different accessories can be installed or added to improve performance. This means an initial investment, of course, but in practice, your system works more efficiently, and the service life of the filter element becomes longer, which saves you money.  

Most agricultural vehicles have standard two-stage air cleaners installed. The first stage of cleaning happens before the air even reaches the filtration element; as the air flows in, the turbulence inside the air cleaner housing forces the heavier particles in the air to the sides. This removes up to 80% of contaminants before they even reach the filter. The cleaner air, the remaining 20% of contaminant particles, are then handled by the filter element itself.  

If your element is filling and clogging too fast, it may be time to look at extra accessories, such as the scavenger system, which blows out or sucks out the pre-cleaned dust via the exhaust system. There are different options for all sizes of vehicles.  

The best thing you can do to extend the time in between air filter changes is to use a better-quality filter. Donaldson Blue filters are the company’s premium range. They feature Ultra-Web nanofiber technology, which outperforms all conventional filters in terms of lifespan and efficiency. They’ve been designed to perform even in extremes of temperature and humidity and to hold more submicron particles (particles smaller than a micron in diameter) than any other filter. The result is reduced air restriction and longer service life. This means, of course, that your machine has more uptime, is more productive, and has fewer services, for lower lifetime costs. The engine is also far better protected, operates at higher power, and is likely to need fewer repairs or replacement parts over the years. In the dusty environment of mining, Donaldson has found that its Blue air filters have up to five times the dust-capture capacity of a standard air filter, offer higher efficiency for engine life, and lower operating costs because of the extended maintenance intervals.  

Whether it’s air, lube, coolant, fuel, or hydraulic filtration, there’s a clear lesson. When you choose better filters – and especially high-performance filters – you achieve longer intervals between servicing and replacement, which saves money, less time in the garage or dealership, which saves money, and less damage to the internal systems, which extends vehicle or equipment lifespan and saves money.  

Follow the principles of buying better-performing air filters and observe best practices when servicing and replacing them; it will benefit you in the long term. Those same principles apply to other filters in your system, too: fuel, oil, and hydraulic. Don’t take shortcuts when changing filters. Get back to a clean, dry environment. Changing oil filters in the rain can damage the system if any water should land in the tank.  

If in doubt, always contact the experts. For guidance on which filter options will perform best for your machine, in your working environment, and offer you the best value, check our webshop or contact your Kramp representative or dealer.   

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