Pre-Cleaners – How do they work?

Should you install a Precleaner on your car, truck or machine?

Installing a Pre-Cleaner is a great way to save time and money for your business, primarily if you work in dusty environments. So what exactly is a Pre-Cleaner? As the name alludes to, the unit cleans the incoming air by removing a percentage of contaminants before it reaches the air filter.

Pre-Cleaners are used by many industries like Mining, Agricultural, Civil, Trucking, Off-Road, Industrial and more. There are many different makes and models on the market, but we will explain the three main types and how they differ.

Cyclonic Action

All Pre-Cleaners function by utilising cyclonic action. Angled vents on the intake force air to the housing wall, spinning back inside itself like a cyclone. Depending on the style of the Pre-Cleaner, the dust will either be collected or ejected.

Type 1: Simple, Cheap and Effective

The original Pre-Cleaner design was straightforward. Dust deflects via intake fins or vents, which deposited most of the dirt into a collection bowl. These Pre-Cleaners were perfected by Donaldson and are the industry standard for many machines from new.

The centrifugal force in the bowl separates up to 75% of incoming dust before it hits the air filter. At this efficiency, it can mean an increased filter life of almost four times!

Although this range of Pre-Cleaners is cheap and very useful, there are some pitfalls. Depending on the conditions you are working in, you may need to empty the bowl daily, and if left for too long, it can allow captured dust into the system.

Another drawback of this budget range is its durability. The plastic bowls last around two years in the harsh Australian sun before they need replacing. The plastic construction of the housing and bowl is also prone to breaking if a stray branch hits the bowl or base plate.

Type 2: Next Level Engineering

Although Donaldson established themselves as the gold standard for entry-level Pre-Cleaners, they recognised a gap in the market and developed the TopSpin.

The Donaldson TopSpin moved away from a bowl that required maintenance and instead has a spinning impeller that knocks the dust out of the unit altogether.

This innovative design is more efficient than the standard Pre-Cleaners, increasing to 85%, but being maintenance-free gave operators one less thing to worry about during their day.

Like anything, there is always a trade-off. The price between the TopSpin and standard Pre-Cleaners can be two or three times more, and still being constructed from plastic meant it was still vulnerable to breaking if hit.

Type 3: Cold Efficient Steel!

Not to be outdone, USA company Centri took things to a whole new level by developing the Centri Pre-Cleaner, which utilises a self ejecting impeller design like the TopSpin.

Unlike the previous two models by Donaldson mentioned above, the Centri is constructed from stainless steel. This provides the Centri with unbeatable durability, even in drop and impact testing. (Check out the video below)

The Centri also uses high-grade bearings and a larger surface area on their impeller, giving an overall 90% efficiency rating. In severe dust conditions where you would typically need to replace your air filter every week, installing a Centri would increase your change-outs to around eight-week intervals!

Why should you install a Pre-Cleaner?

There are many factors you should consider when choosing to install a Pre-Cleaner. Do you work in a high dust environment? Are you looking at prolonging the life of your air filters? Are you looking to reduce service interval times to increase productivity?

The long and the skinny of it is that any engine can take a Pre-Cleaner with enough effort. A band clamp holds on all the Pre-Cleaners as the unit sits over the air intake pipe or hose, so installing one is simple.

Selecting the correct Pre-Cleaner is a matter of your engines CFM rating and air intake size. To calculate your engine’s CFM, use the following equation.

Industrial machinery usually has a rain hat covering the air intake, so removing this to install a Pre-Cleaner is as easy as measuring the intake hole.

Another standard fitment is 4X4 snorkel’s. Just ensure to measure the connection size as some manufacturers of snorkle’s don’t use standard inch increments.

An issue you might face when installing a Pre-Cleaner on some applications that Don’t have a round air intake. You may need to make up a mount to convert it to a round connection in this circumstance.

You can maximise a Pre-Cleaners efficiency even further but mounting it above the cabin on some farm or industrial equipment. Owners achieved this with a combination of stainless steel tubing and a flexible air hose. Doing this will keep the air intake well above the average dust level, extending the life of your air filters even more.

So if you’re replacing your air filter often, you should consider installing a Pre-Cleaner. Not only will it save you valuable time but also money on excess filter changes. We stock and distribute both Donaldson and Centri Pre-Cleaners in our Perth based warehouse, shipping Australia wide.

Need Help Finding the correct pre-cleaner? Contact us today