How Often Should You Change Your Car’s Air Filter?

on February 01, 2021

A car is a costly yet worthwhile investment. It’s important to ensure that you’re taking the time to take care of your vehicle. This helps ensure that your car will run well, of course, but also that it will last for a while.

If you’re a new car owner or if you’re looking to start doing more yourself to improve your vehicle, you might be wondering where to start. One essential feature that you should take into account next time you’re working on your car is the air filter. 

You might have heard of the air filter before but aren’t too sure what it does, how it works, or even why it’s important. We’re here to answer all of those questions and more. 


What is an Air Filter?

You take time to make sure your car itself is clean, but have you ever considered the air filter? An air filter prevents debris that comes in through the air intake before it reaches the throttle body or the carburetor. It’s important because it prevents your engine from filling up with muck, dirt, dust, or more. On the contrary, when your car has a dirty air filter, it restricts airflow to the engine. This can cause a rich air/fuel mixture. 

Think of an air filter as your vehicle’s first line of defense. When you have a clean or new air filter, your car’s engine is able to access clean air. This is ultimately a key part of the combustion process. 

An air filter is effective because it prevents potential contaminants, including but not limited to dirt, dust, and leaves, from getting pulled into the vehicle’s engine or grill. If any of these objects get pulled in, they could potentially damage it. 

Surprisingly, an air filter is a very simple component in the car’s air intake. At the same time, it’s extremely effective, which means that a poorly maintained one can cause issues for your car. 


When Should You Replace Your Car’s Air Filter?

Every car is different, so there is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this question. Because vehicle manufacturers themselves vary a bit on how frequently they believe air filters should be replaced, it’s important to check the owner’s manual for your vehicle. That should include specific guidance on when the right time to replace the car’s air filter is. 

That being said, on average, you can expect to have to change it every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. Another option is to ask your mechanic or auto technician when they recommend you change the air filter. 

In addition to the type of car you have, there’s also another aspect to consider when you’re deciphering how long to wait to replace this important part of the car: the conditions in which you usually drive the car. 

Certain environmental factors, the type of road, and your driving style might require you to change your air filter more frequently as a result. These include but are not limited to: 

  • Dirt roads 
  • A dusty or dry climate 
  • Frequent “stop-and-start” driving, like on a crowded freeway

Of course, if you have questions regarding the frequency you need to change your air filter and want a personalized recommendation, it’s best to take the car to your mechanic to get it quickly looked at. 


How Can You Tell When It’s Time To Replace Your Car’s Air Filter?

Figuring out if it’s time for a swap your air filter isn’t too tricky and is something even a beginner to car maintenance can do.

First, you have to locate where exactly the air filter is in your vehicle. You can do this by looking in the owner’s manual of your car. Usually, it’s kept in a cover. You might have to remove this cover by removing clips or snaps. 

Once the air filter is out, you can begin to assess if a change is necessary by holding it up to the light. If your air filter is white or just a little dirty, it is unnecessary to complete a change. If it has a thin layer of dirt on it, simply clean it and keep using it. To clean, all you have to do is tap it. This will release loose dirt. Finally, if your air filter is caked with grime and dirt, that means it’s time to get a new one. After all, it’s important to ensure the inside of your car is as clean as the exterior.

Sometimes you can tell from how the vehicle is performing. If you’re getting poor gas mileage, higher emissions, engine misfires, having trouble starting the car, or the air ventilation system is unusual noises, the car’s air filter might be the culprit. 


How Can I Change My Car’s Air Filter?

Changing an air filter isn’t too difficult, nor is it too time-consuming. Learning how to do it yourself can save your car if you’re in a pinch, not to mention save you a few bucks. Here’s how to tackle changing your vehicle’s air filter yourself: 

  1. First, you need to pop open the hood of your car. Locate the engine air filter housing. This is usually kept in a black plastic box that sits on top of or adjacent to the engine. There should be a large hose sticking out of the side of the box. That’s how you know you’re in the right place.

  2. Open the air filter housing and take the old, used air filter out. (We will add that it’s important when you’re removing the housing cover to be careful—it might have a wiring harness and electrical components attached.) The housing will be secured with clamps, screws, or another object to keep it in place. To open it, you’re going to have to use the correct tool.

  3. Once the fasteners are removed, take the top of the air filter housing off and take it out. Then, remove any dirt that is in the housing. You can do this by simply wiping it out using a rag.

  4. Inspect the filter and make sure it’s time to replace it. A quick and easy way to tell is by tapping the air filter. If you do this and dirt falls out, that means that a new air filter is overdue.

  5. Take your clean, new air filter and insert it into the filter box. It should have the rubber rim facing upwards. You should check and make sure it’s correctly placed inside.

  6. Put the top of the housing back on and close it up by putting the fasteners back on, and that’s it. You’ve successfully replaced your car’s air filter. 

Of course, it might be easier to simply bring your car to the shop and let the professionals handle it, but by doing it yourself, you’ll know how to go about fixing your air filter in the future. 


Why Your Air Filter Is Important

The better you treat your vehicle, the longer it will last you - and the better it will run. Still, it’s easy to forget to check or change your air filter unless you have a visual reminder. Be sure to jot yourself a note down to check it at least annually or ideally when your owner’s manual suggests that you should. 

It’s important to change your air filter because it helps take care of your car and can lead to problems with the car’s engine if you don’t. As mentioned earlier, you could notice yourself returning to the gas station to pump gas more and more if you’re having an air filter issue. 

In addition to this, the reduced airflow can lead to fouled spark plugs. Those can create engine misses, rough idling, and even difficulty starting the car. 

Taking care of your car is never a waste of time, and it’s especially important to do so in a timely manner. There are a myriad of ways to ensure that your car is being properly cared for, and just one of these is to make sure that your car’s air filter is changed at the correct time. 


In Summary

Whether you’re concerned your car is beginning to show signs of needing its air filter changed or you simply want to be proactive (hopefully the latter!), making sure that your car is well cared for is important. That means changing your air filter when it’s time. 

Your air filter is an important part of your car because it’s responsible for ensuring that potential contaminants don’t reach the engine. It’s essentially your car’s first line of defense against dirt, dust, leaves, bugs, and other things that can infiltrate inside and cause problems with the car’s engine. 

Each car is different which means that it varies a bit from car to car when you should decide to switch the air filter. If you have concerns, it never hurts to check in and make sure that it’s still clean and new. In addition, certain driving conditions make your car need a new air filter more frequently. Of course, if you have any questions regarding how frequently it should be changed, consult a mechanic.  

Luckily, changing your car’s air filter doesn’t have to mean a timely or expensive trip into the shop. You can actually tackle this right at home with just a little bit of patience. Whether this is your first car or your fiftieth, it’s never too soon to be a proactive car owner and take care of your car’s air filter. 

 

Sources:

https://www.autozone.com/filters-and-pcv/air-filter 

https://www.championautoparts.com/Parts-Matter/automotive-repair-and-maintenance/clean-air-filter-clean-engine.html#:~:text=A%20new%20air%20filter%20allows,engine%20and%20potentially%20damaging%20it

https://driversed.com/trending/4-types-of-car-filters#:~:text=Air%20Filters%3A%20Cleans%20the%20Air%20Used%20by%20the%20Car%20Engine&text=An%20air%20filter%20is%20a,blows%20into%20your%20vehicle's%20grill

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