Car Air Filters – What You Need to Know?

How Often Should You Change the Engine Air Filter?

Car engines are an example of internal combustion engines. What this means is that your car requires air to burn petrol or diesel within the engine to generate the power required to move and keep it moving. While fuel is supplied to the engine through fuel pumps, air is supplied through a device known as the air filter.

The air filter is that device which ensures that the air supplied to the engine is void of particles, dirt or dust as this can be detrimental to the performance of your car engine should any of those items scale through. The air filter serves as a cleanser for the air which enters the internal combustion chambers of your motor vehicle. It is usually installed in the air filter box and is made of tiny perforated paper-like substance and intercepts air from the bottom up. That way, it traps clogs and prevent them from getting into the engine.

Like any other or major part of a working system, the air filter of your car needs replacement from time to time.

9 Common Signs of a Dirty Air Filter


After and every ten to twelve months of driving a new car, auto experts recommend that a driver changes his air filter. This can also be done after the first 10,000 to 15,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some auto experts recommend 30,000 miles or once every three years.

However, that recommendation is different for drivers who take their cars though highly populated areas, unpaved roads, dusty/sandy areas and places with high traffic such as will require a lot of stops in between drives. Experts recommend that the air filters be changed every 6,000 miles for such areas and lower for even worse.

Appearance of Air Filter

Yes, you can change the air filter of your vehicle engine when it appears to be dirty. The common appearance of a clean air filter is somewhat white or off white. When the air filter becomes really dark in complexion it could be an indicator for a change.

Engine sound

The sound of your car engine when turned on but not in motion should be smooth and without any hiccups. Sometimes, this comes off as a misfiring by the engine. Where unusual sounds and jerking or vibration happens, it may be an indication of a damaged spark plug stemming from a clog in the air filter.

Difficulty Starting

There could be a number of reasons why your car engine would have difficulty starting including little or no compression, no spark getting to the spark plug, meaning a defective ignition and lean air/fuel intake ratio. Focusing on the subject at hand, a lean air passage to the cylinders for combustion is caused by a malfunctioning air filter. Where this is the case, it can be fixed by cleaning or totally replacing the air filter if necessary.

Smell of petrol on ignition

If you smell petrol every time you start your car engine, this might be because excess, unburnt fuel is leaking out through the exhaust pipe and is a strong indicator to change your air filter.

Low Horsepower

Horsepower is the power of your car engine. A good way to understand this is what happens to you car when you press down the accelerator. If the response from the engine is poor or you notice vibrating movements then it might be time to take a look at that air filter. Auto experts claim that a good air filter can increase your engine’s horsepower by more than 10 percent.

Poor Fuel Management

Your car consumes more fuel when not enough oxygen gets to the engine, thus it makes up for this by using up more fuel to produce power. However, new vehicle models do not come with carburettors unlike their old counter parts. Newer models have fuel injector indicators and onboard computers which calculate the amount of air intake to the engine and adjust the fuel consumption accordingly.

Service Engine Indicator

Sometimes, when this light comes up on your dashboard it could mean that your car engine is having accumulated unused fuel resulting from insufficient air supply. When this happens, it is wise to start by checking the air filter.

Black Smoke from the Exhaust

Usually when you hear a consistent pop sound and see sparks at the end of the exhaust, this usually means that due to poor air supply fuel which is not burnt exits through the exhaust and combines with heat to produce flames and most times black smoke. When this happens, have your mechanic clean or replace the air filter.

4 Benefits of Changing the Air Filter

A longer engine life

Even though auto experts recommend a change once in three years, steady maintenance can help your car engine have a longer lifespan.

Healthy Environment

Next to zero or low emissions are possible when air filters are properly maintained, providing a cleaner more environment friendly usage of your vehicle.

Cost Effective Fixes

Air filters are usually not expensive to clean or replace compared to the cost of fixing or replacing your engine. In some cases, you can replace it yourself without the help of a mechanic once you have ensured that the replacement air filter is the exact one for the model of your vehicle.

Fuel Efficiency

Various studies have shown that regular maintenance and change of the air filter increases your car engine’s fuel efficiency and gives you mileage. This doesn’t just prolong the life of the engine but also saves cost. Consistent maintenance of the air filter saves not just your car engine but other vital parts which might otherwise suffer wear and damage due to bad or clogged air filters. Just like the human lungs need air to stay healthy and active, a car’s engine requires clean air also and fuel to cause combustion which powers up your vehicle and keeps it working.

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