Sunday, May 31, 2009

Branded air filter Vs unbranded one

My electra has done 19200+ kms in a year. I first got its air-filter changed in its 15K Kms servicing. I had no clue about the type of RE air-filters available and didn’t once suspect the vendor of not informing me adequately enough on this. He sold me one and I paid 80 bucks for it; no questions asked since the guy sells RE genuine parts. Of late, I have developed an interest to enhance my bulls performance and I have replaced the stock exhaust pipe with a shorter one and removed the baffles from the silencer and the down-pipe (AKA bend). My mechanic (his name’s Lucky) told me that such tweaks require the blocking of the PAV; so the PAV was blocked. The blaring sound finally produced (they call it “thump”) gives me a headache when I ride the bike with my ears shielded under a full face helmet but I must admit that the bike rocks…and roll it does. I went on to explore what else could be done with the bull and apart from throwing money on synthetic engine oil (that would cost 2000 bucks as opposed to the decent Quartz oil I buy that costs ~600 bucks), I found that I could “invest (!??!)” in a K&N filter (Model R1100 is supposed to add a MOJO to the bull…R1060 isn’t meant for the bull but for smaller bikes). I talked to the K&N dealer based in Mohali (near Chandigarh) and he told me that the thing would R1100 would cost somewhere 2400+. Considering that I paid 80 bucks for the regular AF, this NEWS made me melancholic but then a K&N is a K&N even if costs 30 time more. It has it’s huge advantages of being some arbitrary-massive-times more efficient than the stock filter and being perpetually usable; yes you buy a K&N just once, wash it and oil it (I do not know how much oil is used or it’s cost because this is something you’ll have to keep buying) for the rest if it’s life (which, going by the way they advertise it, would last beyond the extinction of mankind). “It would add power and mileage to your bike” the dealer enlightened me.
Knowingly I have never used inferior quality material for my bike but K&N and synthetic oil are things categorized as “Performance Products”, not meant for the bourgeoisie. With a heavy heart I accepted the fact that I couldn’t buy a K&N now or in the near future because I spend way to much on the fuel and servicing already. I just moved on to buy a stock RE air filter.
I landed at a shop that sold “STEELBIRD” (the people that manufactured safety helmets in the past) manufactured air filter “for the Royal Enfield”. I went to another guy who sold an unbranded AF “for the RE”, just to know the difference. This one seemed distinctly narrower and quietly moved on. The Steelbird was being sold for 95 bucks and the unbranded for 70. The original RE AF was for 135 bucks but I still wanted to try something other than that. I crossed my fingers and bought the Steelbird. I still had the original RE AF that I first replaced lying in my room. When I compared the Steelbird to the original, they both appeared alike in weight, compressibility (I pressed it with between my hands), size and the foam quality (the orange stuff lining the side walls). I took off the AF from my bike and fitted the Steelbird AF. As I brought the old one to my room I sensed that it was distinctly inferior in quality and seemed lighter. So I got down to exploring the truth about what I was feeling; as much as my senses would allow me. When I kept this old AF (which was obviously unbranded) next to the older original RE AF, the difference is size was apparent. It was similar in width (unlike the other unbranded one I had seen in the market) but had a narrower profile. I held it in my hand and pressed it between my fingers and thumb…and without too much effort…Phuss! It deformed completely and the orange foam on its side cracked and started to fall apart. I tried doing it to the older original RE AF, I pressed as hard as I could but it didn’t show any signs of giving in at all. So the metal casing on the original was tougher, but I guess that’s not important when you’re talking about an air filter, it needn’t be tough, it just has to filter better…right? To I took the fake filter and easily plucked off the orange foam with my fingers, took pliers and without too much effort, removed both the inner and outer wire mesh. The original was a different story, I had difficulty removing the foam even with pliers; built quality was much superior. Also I realized that by the time I removed the wire meshes from the two AFs, the fake one’s paper-flter element got torn at two or three places whereas the original stayed put. Examining the filter paper element it was evident that the original had much more paper, more densely stacked as opposed to the fake. To me that’s a simple translation: More paper means more filter area present to filter more air and longer life. The amount of dirt that would clog the original would choke the life out of a fake much sooner and this would directly translate to lesser and dirtier air going to the engine.
Anyway the paper quality was different too and it goes without saying that the original seemed superior. So I end the analysis with an advice for people (like me) who blindly trust their friendly vendors: Keep your eyes open and gather as much knowledge as you can for your self, don’t trust overly greasy vendors who’ll laugh their way to the bank while the love of your life (your bike) gets screwed for the want of better care. I’m gonna get the AF replaced at every service I should be able to keep the bike running on clean air without burning a hole in my pocket in one go…till the time I can buy a K&N. I will then analyze the claimed advantages and write about it. So long!

All images have the fake AF followed by the original.

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