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K&N Filters Can Cost you Thousands

 
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johnnycake-bellyache johnnycake-bellyache
New User | Posts: 14 | Joined: 10/07
Posted: 10/05/07
11:45 PM

FYI for anyone who has a K&N air filter in their car and eventually experiences what seems to be fuel injection problems, hesitation, a mystery transmission problem, acceleration bucking, etc.

After 3 years trying to diagnose my problem in my 2001 Grand Am, it came down to this.  The oil that the filter uses ended up fouling the Mass Air Flow Sensor (mass airflow sensor) and was the cause of a 3 year mystery that no mechanic could correctly diagnose.  I spent hundreds on tranny work, fuel "fixes", etc. until I finally realized what it was.  Yea for me, but a painful learning experience.

To fix it, I removed the air cleaner housing to get to the MAF sensor, took the entire housing apart, and cleaned it with brake cleaner, then let it dry.  I then THREW THE K&N AWAY.

Hope this helps someone out there...    Grin  

road567 road567
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 10/07
Posted: 10/08/07
07:23 AM

How did you conclude the contamination came from the K&N air filter and not from hot crankcase oil vapor?  Could you see the red oil from the filter on the sensor?  Did you have it analyzed?  You must have had some undisputable evidence before you decided to post a malicious message on a product.  Take a look at http://www.knfilters.com/MAF/massair.htm  

Stelios Stelios
User | Posts: 105 | Joined: 03/07
Posted: 10/09/07
04:12 PM

I have nothing but great things to say about K&N.  

johnnycake-bellyache johnnycake-bellyache
New User | Posts: 14 | Joined: 10/07
Posted: 10/12/07
10:20 AM

Actually, I sent the MAF to Acme Labs in Walla Walla, Washington for a full analysis.

While I'm waiting for the results, here's why I think it was the K&N:

-- GM has sold hundreds of thousands of Grand Am's, with no recalls or TSBs on MAF fouling.

-- K&N had to put an entire page on their web site dedicated to this problem.  Hmmmm.....

I'll let you know when those lab results come back.  

JWGears JWGears
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 10/07
Posted: 10/16/07
05:53 PM

Wow! Have you, or anyone you are aware of added K&N filter oil to your filter? The cautionary post that K&N put out was about people adding excessive amounts of oil to the filter gauze after the 1st cleaning. I have used K&N filters on a Tri-power 1967 427 Corvette, 2001 Chev Silverado 5.3, 2005 Cadillac DeVille Northstar, 1995 Buick Roadmaster LT-1, and 4  hi-perf small block Chevys. The only thing I got was great performance, and great satisfaction from a product that just plan works! BTW, the Silverado has 230,545 miles and counting, and the Roadmaster was recently sold with 221,675 miles; and I dont work for K&N. I clean and re-oil about every 50,000, and have never had a mass airflow sensor fail. Also, I use only K&N Cleaning fluid and oil. This is one of those products that are worth the money! Sorry your experience was so negative.  

johnnycake-bellyache johnnycake-bellyache
New User | Posts: 14 | Joined: 10/07
Posted: 10/16/07
11:42 PM

Well, it's nice that this has generated so much interest!  Maybe it will even go down in Googledom to help someone.  That was the point, I guess....

I suppose all oiled air filters can't be bad for all cars.  In my case, I think it did cause my specific problem.  I cleaned and properly re-oiled per the instructions over a 90,000 mile period, and for a 2001 Grand Am (not the most exciting performance car mind you, despite the Ram Air qualifications) I firmly believe the oiled air filter fouled the MAF sensor over time.  

My apologies to all the K&N loyalists out there, but I can't change the title of the post.  Go ahead and shift your unbridled brand-defensive frustration to the programmers who set up this blog.

I hope my experience can help someone who has tried everything else.  If you are having acceleration issues in your 3.4L GM pushrod engine, clean your MAF (carefully) and think about going back to a dry filter to see if that fixes your problem.

And for the record....if you have a show-quality, v8-powered, knock-your-socks-off-handling, 22" Dubsed, amazing DVD-based Alpine systemed, 45 mpg-in-the-city, vintage '67 Vette that has 1,746,562 miles on it and it's had a K&N since day one and you LOVE their amazing performance product, then congratulations.  You are totally rockin' it hard core, my friend!  Go on with your bad self and evangelize!


(I do hope to return to this post in 2017 and reply to myself with something along the lines of... "You must be kidding!  I just LOVE the way my K&N has given my 2014 Cerberus 'Cuda Hybrid an additional 87 horsepower!")  

cal40 cal40
New User | Posts: 15 | Joined: 11/07
Posted: 11/18/07
06:06 PM

Wow thanks for the info, I was going to buy one of those too.  Do you know if the same goes for other aftermarket air cleaners?  

hammatime hammatime
Enthusiast | Posts: 303 | Joined: 02/07
Posted: 11/28/07
04:17 PM

You can buy Fram replaceable air filter for just over five dollars for most at WalMart.

Fram meets or exceeds stock vehicle requirements in most cases.

I would recommend though that you take your stock air filter in when you go to buy a none stock replacement as some car models have very special air filters to increase gas mileage efficiency as in my 2000 Toyota Echo.

I only replace it with an air filter exactly the same construction as is in it.

I was concerned about exactly the problem the starter of this post said

Glad I stayed away from this problem.

Thanks for posting it.  

hammatime hammatime
Enthusiast | Posts: 303 | Joined: 02/07
Posted: 12/09/07
08:47 PM

I just had some work done on my 1999 Honda and some of the information you described might apply.

Not because of a K & N air filter but because the motor has high miles and is passing some oil vapor into the bypass by my air filter when the air filter gets clogged up (increasing the intake vacuum effect).

I'm going to change my air filter on this car sooner an hopefully preserve my new oxygen sensor.

Thanks again for the info.  

prltd prltd
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 12/07
Posted: 12/10/07
11:43 AM

Talk about apples and oak trees; not all fuel injected engines have heated wire Mass Air Flow Sensors which are overly sensitive to oil contamination

. Throttle body systems don’t have such animal, they calculate fuel flow by sensing others parameters which are more inferential than direct sensing.  This means that many small block GM engines are subject to contamination of the O2  sensor in the exhaust not oil in the intake.  

The location of the MAF relative to the inflow of crankcase fumes is very important; if the MAF is downstream it is not as sensitive but if it is upstream there is a real danger that it can be contaminated by filter over-oiling.

The real question, is there any benefit regardless of cost, of the Oiled Medium style air filters?  Careful analysis of test protocols and parsing of the company propaganda reveals that there is some benefit, but only under very uncommon circumstances.

If you can answer yes to the following circumstances, then there may be some benefit.

Question:  are you capable of or required to use full throttle for more than 50% of your everyday travel needs.  If the answer is no, save your money and buy what’s on sale at your favorite auto store.  This is because at less that full throttle; those supposed gains in air flow decrease with the square of the air flow volume.   Aerodynamic drag physics dictate that it take four times more force to go twice as fast.

Therefore, small naturally aspirated engines i.e. 1.5 liter and smaller will benefit more than a 3 liter or 5.7 liter in normal service.  Diesel truck engines of almost any size and circumstance would also benefit but for the increased cost of maintenance {labor =$70/hr} and more frequent intervals.  Ever seen an over the road 18 wheeler with a K&N sticker?

The placebo effect is always in play on subjective matters.  

hammatime hammatime
Enthusiast | Posts: 303 | Joined: 02/07
Posted: 12/10/07
05:53 PM

prtld-Great post!

Thanks for the throttle body info!

Like you said-realistically,the stock air filter does just fine for standard type driving.  

fuelguy fuelguy
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 02/08
Posted: 02/23/08
01:58 PM

K&N air filter... We were having starting problems with our 95 Camry. Our mechanic, 35 years experience, determined it was filter oil residue on the MAF sensor. After cleaning we do not have starting problems. I'll be following up on our other cars that have unusual symptoms and use a K&N. I'm happy with the product but will be careful when reoiling.  

monoblocks monoblocks
User | Posts: 73 | Joined: 06/08
Posted: 09/27/08
03:08 AM

A few years ago members on a Nissan Maxima forum was reporting similar problems with user-maintained K&N filters fouling up MAF sensors on the Maxima's V-6 engines, but that usually occurred AFTER improper re-oiling of the problematic filters. From what I can remember, the only sure fix was the replacement of the MAF sensor; no amount of cleaning of most if not all of the affected sensors would get them working correctly again.  

kellybl2009 kellybl2009
New User | Posts: 1 | Joined: 07/09
Posted: 07/15/09
01:46 PM

Icon Quotejohnnycake-bellyache:
FYI for anyone who has a K&N air filter in their car and eventually experiences what seems to be fuel injection problems, hesitation, a mystery transmission problem, acceleration bucking, etc.

After 3 years trying to diagnose my problem in my 2001 Grand Am, it came down to this.  The oil that the filter uses ended up fouling the Mass Air Flow Sensor (mass airflow sensor) and was the cause of a 3 year mystery that no mechanic could correctly diagnose.  I spent hundreds on tranny work, fuel "fixes", etc. until I finally realized what it was.  Yea for me, but a painful learning experience.

To fix it, I removed the air cleaner housing to get to the MAF sensor, took the entire housing apart, and cleaned it with brake cleaner, then let it dry.  I then THREW THE K&N AWAY.

Hope this helps someone out there...    Grin


I have a 2007 Suzuki Reno that had the same experience. When I instaled the new K&N filter it seemed to have a lot of oil on it, it was driping with oil acualy. Then a month later I had a O2 sensor fail. My O2 sensor was not replaceable so the entire throdlebody had to be replaced for $730. I am also going to go back to dry filters.  

lord humongous lord humongous
New User | Posts: 7 | Joined: 04/09
Posted: 08/01/09
06:39 PM

i know that this is tangential to this thread, but i was looking at the stillen ultra long tube cold air intakes and stillen headers for my g37 and was wondering if the intakes will still have any performance gain if i use the stock dry filters or should i just leave it alone.  
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lord humongous lord humongous lord humongous

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