Air Filter Research 3:

Donaldson XLC200K
PowerCore 4x4 air filter kit
Install and Test

My original air filter testing put me on the search for a better airbox or air filter for the 200-series. After finding nothing that I considered impressive, I was about to start designing something myself, when I first heard whispers that Donaldson was developing an airbox using their renowned PowerCore technology. That was back in 2019.

I've been following up with Donaldson since then, but unfortunately the project suffered significant delays thanks to COVID's disruptions of worldwide manufacturing and supply chains.

Finally in August 2022, I got a call from Donaldson Australia telling me that R&D had been completed and manufacturing of the XLC200K was underway. They offered me an early production version to install and test, as part of some final field trials, along with a few other 200-series owners.

So, do good things come to those who wait? Let's take a look!

Affiliate link notice: This page contains eBay affiliate links, for which I may receive a commission if you click on a link and make a purchase of any item on eBay. The price you pay is unaffected. 

What is a PowerCore air filter?

I mentioned PowerCore briefly in my original air filter testing, and it's what I would have used had I built a new airbox from scratch myself. PowerCore is Donaldson's newest technology air filter system, first appearing in 1999, then progressively updated since. Rather than pleated media used in most air filter elements, PowerCore filters consist of a series of triangular flutes which are blocked at one end. Dirty air enters a flute, then passes through the filter-media wall of that flute and exits the adjoining flute.

The advantage of this design means the filter has a massive surface area, delivering excellent filtration in a relatively small space. They also have very high dust holding capacity, meaning long service intervals.

PowerCore filters are original equipment in machinery designed for extremely high-dust environments, such as mining, farming and earthmoving equipment.

The Donaldson PowerCore XLC200K Air Filter Kit for the LandCruiser 200

Most of Donaldson's engine air filters are designed for heavy vehicles and machinery, producing OEM and aftermarket filter systems for vehicles that operate under the most extreme dust environments.

Their new XLC200K air filter system for the 200-series uses the same PowerCore technology used in their other filters, and has an extremely high ISO5011 efficiency rating of 99.99%. This is by far the most effective air filter produced for any light vehicle, and compares to factory and other aftermarket flat-panel filters on about 99.5%, and oiled filters on about 98%.

The decision to make the 200-series system came out of Donaldson's Australian operations, after the widespread complaints about the OEM air filter system.

The PowerCore XLC200K airbox fits neatly in place of the original factory airbox, using the same mounting points and utilising the factory MAF sensor. It connects to the factory air inlet hose (or snorkel, if fitted), and then to the factory air outlet duct. The lid of the airbox is secured by two spring clips, which clamp strongly onto the element generating a water and air tight seal.

The airbox also includes a service restriction gauge which identifies when the filter element equines replacement. Unlike traditional filter elements, PowerCore elements have huge dust capacities. Donaldson don't specify a replacement interval, only that it be changed when the service indictor reaches specified restriction. Personally, I'd expect it to last at least 50,000km between changes.

You can find more details and see a brochure on Donaldson's PowerCore 4x4 page.

Update - Service indicator premature tripping:

Some time after installation, I noticed that the service indicator was tripping on occasion, even though the filter did not require replacement. After some observation, I noticed it happened only after giving the car full throttle/high revs for a time (eg, accelerating hard from a standing start). With my vehicle being fitted with a standard Safari snorkel (ie not the larger ARMAX version), plus a Unichip which increased airflow demands, it seems the engine/snorkel combination was creating enough vacuum to trip the indicator under certain circumstances.

This would not occur with a standard engine and/or ARMAX snorkel. Donaldson are very conservative with their restriction indicators, and the factory airbox would trip their indicator in a 100% standard situation. I've mentioned this issue to Donaldson and will post their advice once investigated. Personally, I would suggest they supply an indicator which requires a higher vacuum level before tripping, as it's still far better than the factory system in any case. I'll update when I receive a response.

Repeating the infamous 'talc test'

When I initially tested LandCruiser filters, I performed an extreme dust test using talc. This generated some controversy, but in the interests of consistency I have decided to repeat this test using the new Donaldson PowerCore airbox.

Testing Methodology

The test measures the amount of dust (talc*) that passes through the air filter using the following procedure:

  • I weighed the air filter assembly and the bottles of talc;
  • I  connected a Stihl blower/vac to the 'outlet' of the airbox, drawing air at a similar rate to the ISO test for this size filter and roughly what 200's engine draws at full throttle/1800-2000RPM
  • I measured the airflow through the filter;
  • I then gradually fed 800g of talc into the airbox inlet over a period of approximately 6 minutes. Once the bottles were empty and the 6 minutes had elapsed, I re-measured the airflow then shut it down;
  • I then disconnected the blower, and re-weighed the assembly and 'empty' talc bottles.

Subtracting the 'post-test' weight from the 'pre-test' weight measures how much of the talc has passed through the filter. The airflow measurements indicate how much the dust restricted the flow of the filter. See the table below for the results of the PowerCore up against the flat panel filters in the standard airbox, plus an old FHG Cyclopac radial airbox as a reference.

* See the sidebar about why talc was used.

Pros and Cons of the methodology

Be warned, this testing is not a scientific ISO standard test. But it is a comparison of the different filters under the same conditions, using the same dust. In the absence of a half-million dollar ISO test bench, it's the best I could come up with. Take the results with this information in mind, and decide for yourself how valid the results are.

Good points of this test:

  • It uses a natural dust (talc) that is very similar in particle size to standard ISO dust;
  • It uses suction rather than pressure;
  • It uses an appropriate airflow rate;
  • All filters were tested under the same conditions.

Limitations and issues with this test:

  • Weight measurements are to the nearest whole gram and airflow measurements are extrapolated/calculated from flow over a smaller area. Both are therefore much less accurate than an ISO test, although they are consistent across all filters;
  • The dust test is unrealistically severe. You would have to drive for many hundreds of kilometres in very dusty conditions, to expose your filter to the amount of dust injected over a ~6 minute period. This factor is particularly applicable to oiled foam filters because they depend on oil to capture the dust, and can be overwhelmed by extremely high dust rates over a short period.

Why use talc,
and why 800g of it?

Talc is a readily available natural dust. It's extremely close in particle size distribution to ISO test dust, sitting between A2 fine and A4 course dusts (closer to course). See the graph below for typical particle size composition.

Its suitability is reinforced by comparing the results from my test to the official ISO5011 results (where available) of the paper filters tested. They are within 0.5% in each case.

800 grams was an arbitrary amount I chose to use, based on the size of available talc containers and on the amount of dust used in other tests. The Duramax ISO test used 574g on a filter slightly smaller than the 200's. The Unsealed test used 600g on a much smaller filter. I felt that using 800g would not only test the efficiency of the filters and reduce potential margin of error from using a small amount of dust, but also test the dust capacity of the filter and the result if that capacity is exceeded.

Talc Test Results: PowerCore vs The Rest

Airflow/Restriction test

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Dust Filtration test

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As I write this, I've been running the PowerCore XLC200K airbox in my 200 for a little over a month. I've done as much driving as possible over that time, clocking up over 3000km in a variety of environments without any problems. When you’re driving, the only indication you have the PowerCore airbox fitted is a slightly different induction noise from the snorkel.

The airbox lid is still spotless, which isn't surprising given how spectacularly well it performed in the talc test.

I had assumed the PowerCore airbox would filter effectively, but I was amazed at just how well it passed the test. To be subjected to such a huge amount of fine dust, and have no measurable amount pass through the filter (and not a spec on the lid) is quite remarkable. Not to mention the almost complete lack of any extra restriction whilst holding so much dust.

I really can’t think of any alternative that comes remotely close to the performance of this airbox and filter.

If you own a 200 and you drive in dusty conditions, the PowerCore airbox should be at the absolute top of your modifications list.

The pictures that speak a thousand words

Genuine Filter

Factory airbox lid ('clean' side) after completing the talc test using a genuine Toyota air filter

Ryco Filter

Factory airbox lid ('clean' side) after completing the talc test using a Ryco air filter

Foam Filter

Factory airbox lid ('clean' side) after completing the talc test using an oiled foam air filter

PowerCore Airbox & Filter

XLC200k airbox lid ('clean side') after completing the talc test using a PowerCore air filter
Where (and when) can I buy one?

The airbox and filter are now in full production. Availability is apparently going to be mid-December 2022 or (hopefully) earlier.

They are available online and from Donaldson dealers, including:

Donaldson XLC200K Installation

Step 1: Remove the original Toyota air box.

  • Unclip the loom using a small flat-blade screwdriver to release the clip, then disconnect the wiring connector from the MAF sensor.
  • Ensure the engine air duct is clean by wiping with a damp cloth.
  • Loosen the hose clamp on the air inlet duct.
  • Loosen the hose clamps on the engine air duct, and remove it, then block the intake opening with a clean cloth to prevent contamination while you replace the airbox.
  • Using a 10mm socket and extension, remove the three mounting bolts securing the factory airbox.
  • Lift the factory airbox slightly, then use a small flat blade screwdriver to release the battery earth lead clip.
  • Lift the airbox out of the vehicle.
  • Using a phillips-head screwdriver, remove the MAF sensor from the factory airbox and set it aside.

Step 2: Prepare the PowerCore airbox for installation

  • Insert the supplied wading plug into the drain hole on the bottom of the airbox. Pushing the plug through from the outside whilst gently pulling it through from the inside works best.
  • Secure the metal mounting brackets to the top and bottom of the airbox using the supplied bolts, washers and spring washers.
  • Ensure that the rubber isolators are fitted to the metal brackets correctly.
  • Install the MAF sensor into the airbox, using a 3mm allen key, the supplied cap screws, washers and spring washers.

Step 3: Install the new airbox

  • Carefully place the airbox into position, inserting the airbox inlet into the snorkel/inlet air duct in the guard. Don't tighten the hose clamp yet.
  • Remove the cloth from the engine air intake.
  • Connect the engine air duct between the airbox outlet and engine inlet. Don't tighten the hose clamps yet.
  • Secure the housing in position using the three supplied bolts, washers and spring washers
  • Tighten the airbox inlet hose clamp, and the two hose clamps on the engine air duct.
  • Connect the MAF sensor plug.
  • Screw the supplied service indicator on to the airbox, and reset it by pressing the button on the end.
Donaldson XLC200K / P645144 Element replacement

The replacement element for the XLC200K is part number P645144. The PowerCore elements have very high dust holding capacity, and should only be changed when the service indicator shows a full red window. There is nothing to be gained by changing the element before restriction is excessive. It's a good idea to keep a spare element on hand if you're travelling though.

Changing the filter element

  • Inspect the service indicator. The element should be replaced only when the service indicator window is completely red.
  • Before you start, remove the new element from its box and check to ensure it’s undamaged.

  • Wipe the top of the housing and ends of the engine air duct with a damp cloth to remove dust and prevent engine contamination while you change the element.

  • Loosen the hose clamps on the engine air duct, and remove the duct. Block the engine intake with a clean cloth to prevent contamination.

  • Release the two metal clamps securing the airbox lid, hinge the lid downwards, then remove it and set aside.

  • Grip the filter element by the black handles in the centre, and lift it out of the housing.

  • Wipe the housing interior and the top seal mounting surfaces with a clean damp cloth. Also wipe the seal surface and inside of the lid.

  • Inspect the wading plug in the bottom of the housing and replace it if damaged or missing.

  • Insert the new element into the housing, ensuring it’s correctly seated in position with the seal sitting flat and square on the housing sealing surface.

  • Replace the lid of the housing by inserting the tabs into the bottom, then hinging it into position. Then clip the lid into place using the two metal clamps, ensuring it is seated properly on the housing. Very little force should be required.

  • Remove the cloth from the engine intake and replace the engine air duct. With the duct correctly aligned, tighten the two hose clamps.

  • Reset the service indicator by pressing the button on the end.

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