Are OEM Mazda Air Filters Better Than Aftermarket?

When It comes to engine air filters, quality is everything. So when it’s time to replace your engine air filter, you want to find the highest quality air filter there is for your Mazda. Are aftermarket engine air filters higher quality than OEM ones, or vice versa? Let’s find out!

What Happens When You Use A Low Quality Engine Air Filter In Your Mazda?

Filter change

The engine air filter may seem like a simple part, but it's instrumental in keeping inside of the engine clean. An engine air filter should last about 15K-30K miles. In other words, about a year or two. When your engine air filter fails early, your engine suffers because:

  • A failed engine air filter lets dirt and debris into the combustion chamber
  • An engine air filter that's too clogged can deprive the engine of air

Whether your engine's getting dirty air or no air, some of the following issues will arise:

  • Poor fuel economy
  • Dirty motor oil
  • Misfiring
  • Engine running rich (too much fuel, not enough air)
  • Wear and tear on the engine components

Not all engine air filters are created equal. So it can be difficult to decide between OEM and aftermarket replacement air filters. This guide will help you tell a good quality air filter apart from a poor quality filter.

What Sets A Good Quality Air Filter Apart From A Lesser Quality Filter?

You may have noticed that OEM and aftermarket air filter manufacturers claim the same thing. They all claim that their air filters are top quality, and no other filter comes close. How many of these claims are actually true? Very few. So try not to take these manufacturers' claims at face value. Instead, you can look for the qualities of a good air filter. These qualities are:

  • Filter material quality (thickness and porosity)
  • Fitment (the right dimensions)
  • Pleat count

Let's talk about each quality in more detail.

Filter Material Quality

Pleats

The filter material quality can tell you a lot about how long the engine air filter will last. You want filter material that's:

  • Thick enough to withstand constant air flow
  • Porous enough to allow air in, but not too porous to let dirt and debris through

Mazda spent a lot of time developing and testing filter material that meets both criteria. When you look at an OEM Mazda engine air filter, you'll see that it's sturdy and porous enough. No company understands your engine and the airflow it needs more than Mazda does. The technology behind OEM filters gives you the peace of mind that your filter will keep the incoming air clean for at least 15K miles.

What About Aftermarket Air Filters?

There are two different kinds of aftermarket air filter manufacturers:

  1. Manufacturers that are only concerned about making a quick buck; they tend to use the cheapest materials they can find
  2. Manufacturers that try to improve upon OEM filters

The second type -- manufacturers that try to improve upon OEM filters -- sounds admirable. However, you should still be careful with filters made by these manufacturers. Their intentions may be good, but are their filters really more effective than OEM ones? There's only one way to find out, and it's at the expense of your engine.

If you install an aftermarket engine air filter that doesn't provide enough airflow to your engine, this is what happens:

The ECU has to adjust the fuel system to maintain an air/fuel mixture that's still correct. This mixture won't be ideal for your engine. As a result, you'll experience the following problems:

  • Poor fuel economy
  • Reduced engine performance

Some aftermarket air filters may look fancy with thick, layered materials, but they may not provide enough airflow. The opposite may also be true. The filter material may be too porous and give your engine more air than necessary. Some manufacturers do this on purpose to help boost your engine's performance. The truth is, it doesn't do much in terms of performance, but it will let dirt and debris through.

If you want to play it safe (which you should, because your engine's health is at stake here), buy an OEM engine air filter. The filter material in every single OEM Mazda engine air filter is exactly what it needs to be.

Fitment

Dimensions are another important characteristic of an engine air filter. Engine air filters have to fit perfectly into the cold air collection box. There cannot be any gaps around the filter because all the air has go through the filter, not around it. So it's very important to get an engine air filter with the right dimensions.

Which type of air filter has exactly the right fit? It should be a no brainer. Every single OEM air filter has exactly the right dimensions. Mazda designed its OEM air filters. So you'll have the peace of mind that every OEM filter that's designed for your model will fit without any issues.

You would think that aftermarket manufacturers would design their air filters to OE specs. The truth is that many of them don't, for some reason. So it's not uncommon for an aftermarket engine air filter to not have the right length, width, or thickness for your model. Sometimes an aftermarket air filter will leave gaps around it, which is an easy way to let dirty air into the engine. Other times, an aftermarket air filter will be too big. Some people in this situation decide to alter their air filter. That can create gaps and/or compromise the filter's structural integrity.

A bunch of Mazda owners went on Amazon and aired out their grievances about poor-fitting aftermarket air filters. We found a few reviews:

  • "[My aftermarket engine air filter is] clearly larger than the OEM engine air filter. It does not fit my Mazda 3i 4-door sedan 2013!"
  • "When I first ordered my aftermarket engine air filter, it said that it would fit my 2012 Mazda 3. It was way too wide."
  • "This [aftermarket engine air filter] does not fit my 2013 Mazda 3's SkyActiv engine, like the manufacturer said it would."

Pleat Count

When it comes to engine air filters, the more filter material surface area, the better. An engine air filter with a lot of surface area can trap more dirt and debris over time. Air filters with deep, tightly packed pleats have more surface area and will last longer than filters with wide, shallow pleats.

Mazda has always been great about making sure that its engine air filters have as much surface area as possible. Mazda air filters always come with a lot of deep pleats. It's a hit or miss with aftermarket air filters. Many aftermarket manufacturers opt to build their filters with shallow pleats.

Summing Up: OEM Is Better

OEM filter

It's easy to judge engine air filters based on their initial cost. When you look at the long term economics, you'll find that OEM engine air filters deliver so much more value than aftermarket filters.

If you're looking to save money, you don't have to resort to using an aftermarket engine air filter. We offer wholesale pricing on genuine OEM Mazda parts, including engine air filters. Look up your Mazda model in our catalog to find the engine air filter you need today!