The Ultimate McLaren Air Filter
For those that know me im a little OCD about the servicing and upkeep of my cars. I’m the guy who changes OEM parts for better ones from the smallest thing such as upgrading the standard McLaren push clips to proper jubilee’s or swapping to stainless bolts in the under tray.
So come service time I wanted to change the stock air filters to something better. This isn’t necessarily for performance gains albeit logically improved flow should improve performance, but rather to ensure the car has all the right quality parts made of the best materials and construction possible especially when it comes to breathing which is a lifeline for the engine.
Options available in the market are OEM, BMC, and then EMF. Here I share some of my insights and research which caused me to choose EMF for my car and become EU/UK stockist for fellow McLaren owners.
So let's start with the OEM Filters
OEM: There are a few reports of the OEM filters degrading and material being sucked through into the turbos. Commonly this is related to the foam insulation in the OEM air box degrading and coming apart.
The pic below highlights an example and you can see how the foam fragmented and in turn gets sucked into the filter element.
Obviously this is not healthy! So first recommendation which doesn't cost anything other than a bit of time and effort is to remove this foam. It is generally applied by McLaren for sound insulation and given most of us want more sound can be removed without any penalty. Regardless of which filter used, removing this foam isn't a bad idea.
OEM filters are made with a cost/performance/mass produced bias so in turn do the job but aren’t the best (albeit they have good flow) and they’re not reusable so you will have to purchase them again and again over time. McLaren feel it important to recommend them to be changed on each annual service, they're deemed consumables, although its common to find this doesn't always happen and therefore some cars are still running filter elements from the original day of purchase. This has an obvious effect on performance if not regularly changed and potential risk from degradation.
OEM air filters will set you back about £200 per annual service plus any labour which could be circa another £200-300 per year. You can see why some owners decide to save the £500 cost addition to their service but at the same time going against McLaren's recommendation and putting performance/maintenance at risk.
The best selling alternative BMC Filters (but in my opinion not the best option)
The number one alternative in EU/UK to OEM is BMC. Widely available and a notable brand name. The BMC units take a similar design to OEM but use cotton gauze soaked in oil as the core filter material. It's important to highlight OEM are not oiled and this is a primary reason why I'm not keen on BMC.
The BMC items do have improved flow over OEM and are re-usable vs needing to be replaced each year.
However, two challenges I have with the BMC option. First, for me oiled filters come with the risk of causing CEL faults and clogging mass air flow sensors which in turn will affect performance and reliability of the car. Second, I’ve had experience of using oiled filters and the maintenance is a ball ache with cleaning and then having to re-oil. It's a messy task and if you over oil can lead to more problems with CEL faults. Often owners just replace with new items as its such a hassle which kinda defeats the object of buying a filter for its re-usability.
So in my research of what was easily available in the market I was stuck on options and felt I'd likely just have to suffer replacing the OEM filters each year and take the cost. However after researching what the folks in the US where doing I came across EMF.
My preferred option EMF: After a lot of research I came across EMF in the US, like Alias23, EMF is a community driven business which set out to design the best possible filter for the McLaren leveraging good quality materials and construction.
You can immediately see the time and effort taken to develop the best possible filter for the McLaren. The exoskeleton outer is a super nice touch to ensure the robustness of the filter to ensure it doesnt collapse under severe pressure (more important for highly tuned McLaren's).
These filters are not oiled and don’t need to be replaced on every service. They’re the only dry media reusable filter I’ve found on the market for McLaren.
Flow is slightly better than OEM whilst still filtering down to 4-5 micron per ISO5001. The guys at EMF ran a quick bench test OEM vs EMF (check the video below). Cleaning is also super easy, just blow them out from the inside with 35 psi with a blow gun from an air compressor or car air dryer.
The video is honest, it highlights that performance benefit is fractional, but the improvement on construction, quality, and maintenance against OEM and BMC is why I've chosen EMF for my own McLaren and to stock for fellow owners here in UK and Europe.
Im about 3,000 miles now running the EMF solution with good success both on road and track. Added benefit beyond just the maintenance is the added 'whooshing' and spooling noises you can hear with the windows down. These little touches just make us feel like kids again!
The EMF kits are now available in stock and can be purchased here: EMF Filters