Foam Filters Make Little Sense for Air Intake


Probably the biggest takeaway from our report is the surprising prevalence of deteriorating foam oil filters on sailboats.

More than one-third of the sailors we surveyed had at some time in their past discovered foam air filters that had been sucked into their engine (presumably in tiny bits at a time). The engine will usually continue to operate despite this abuse, but noise and fumes will increase and longevity will surely be reduced.

    1. Someone left this foam filter untouched for years until it disintegrated. A good portion of it undoubtedly wound up in the engine.
    2. High heat from the crankcase vent melted the foam on this air filter. The burned hole renders the air filter useless.
    3. Some of the participants who discovered that the foam filter had disappeared from their original air cleaner decided not to replace it. The filter shown here is common to several models of Westerbeke marine diesel engines.


Related post: In Search of Better Filters


Darrell Nicholson, editor of Practical Sailor, grew up boating on Miami’s Biscayne Bay on everything from prams to Morgan ketches. Two years out of Emory University, after a brief stint as a sportswriter, he set out from Miami aboard a 60-year-old wooden William Atkin ketch named Tosca. For 10 years, he and writer-photographer Theresa Gibbons explored the Caribbean, crossed the Pacific, and cruised Southeast Asia aboard Tosca, working along the way as journalists and documenting their adventures for various travel and sailing publications, including Cruising World, Sail, Sailing, Cruising Helmsman, and Sailing World. Upon his return to land life, Darrell became the associate editor, then senior editor at Cruising World magazine, where he worked for five years. Before taking on the editor’s position at Practical Sailor, Darrell was the editor of Offshore magazine, a boating-lifestyle magazine serving the New England area. Darrell has won multiple awards from Boating Writer’s International, including the Monk Farnham award for editorial excellence. He holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master license and has worked as a harbor pilot and skippered a variety of commercial charter boats.


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