Car Air Filter Guide

Your car won't work properly as it ought to if its air filter is not functioning correctly. This is one of the reasons why you need to occasionally replace your car's air filter. Replacing your car air filter will help to prolong the life of your vehicle. Here you will earn everything you need to know regarding car air filters and why it is important to take good care of it.

Car air filter guide

What is the Purpose of a Car Air Filter?

 Purpose of a Car Air Filter

A car air filter might not be seen as an important component of the car, but it is. As an important component of your car, your need to regularly check and change them. Car air filters are vital in strengthening your car’s performance.

The filter prevents small particles from infiltrating the engine and causing costly damage. Your car air filter prevents debris, contaminants, and harmful dirt from infiltrating your vehicle's engine. A car air filter should not be confused with the cabin air filter, they are different.

We will be looking at their differences later in this article. The air filter acts as a line of defense against "foreign" particles that want to enter the car's engine. Having a clean and properly running engine enhances the car's fuel economy.

When filtering the incoming air, the car's engine makes sure that the burned air is clean. This cleaned air ignites more efficiently and faster in the cylinder, leading to better mileage of gas.

Symptoms of a Bad Air Filter

car air filter

When a car air filter is old and ready to be changed, there are some signs that will alert you to the problem. The accumulation of dirt in the filter will result in a decline in vehicle performance. Below are some of the main signs of a bad car air filter:

  1. The air filter appears dirty

A dirty air filter is one of the easiest indications that your air filter needs replacement or cleaning. New filters are nearly white but over time, impurities in the air will stain the filter and turn it black or brown. A visual check can be your first proof of a bad air filter. Always ensure you inspect your filter under sufficient light. If it appears polluted with debris, dust, and dirt, it could be the right time to clean it out.

  1. Decreased gas mileage

A decline in gas mileage is usually an indication that something is not right. Your car air filter contributes to your car's fuel efficiency; however, a dirty filter can result in reduced oxygen flow. A car will make up for this by expending more fuel to compensate for the reduced flow of oxygen. A clean air filter retains the air flowing and ensures that your fuel economy is where it should be.

  1. “Check engine” light stays on
engine light

Your “check engine” light can be on for various reasons, one of which is deposits in the engine. Inadequate supply of air can result in a buildup of carbon deposits in the engine and this may cause the check engine light to turn on. If your “check engine” light stays on, you should have it checked right away to be able to identify the cause. A car specialist can read your service code and assist you in determining if it's connected to air intake issues.

  1. Misfiring engine

Does your vehicle give you difficulty in starting? Do you often have to make attempts or revive the car engine to get it going? If your vehicle has difficulty turning over, it could be a result of a low air to fuel ratio. When the ratio is too full with fuel, it can result in engine flooding and spark plug contamination. This can result in trouble starting or misfires. If your vehicle gives a reluctant start, the car's air filter is the first place you should examine.

  1. A strong smell of gasoline

When there is no enough oxygen flowing into your car's fuel ejection system or carburetor when starting the car, the unburnt fuel that is in excess will exit the car through the exhaust pipe. When this happens, you'll perceive a strong smell of gasoline. The smell of gasoline may be a pointer that you need to replace your air filter.

  1. Unusual engine sounds
broken car engine

A car engine with a good oxygen flow should have an even and smooth sound.  If you hear a hiccup or vibration, it could be that your car air filter is bad. A popular culprit of this problem is polluted spark plugs from air intake cases. If you realize that your car's air filter requires a change, it is wise to also examine the condition of the spark plugs to observe if they have suffered any harm as well. Repairing these two parts can boost your car's engine idle and make it sound smoother.

  1. Reduced horsepower

If your acceleration appears sluggish, it is an indication that your horsepower could be suffering from a lack of oxygen. If your vehicle responds slower than normal or jerks when accelerating, it may be that it is not getting enough air it needs to function at maximum performance. You can improve your horsepower or acceleration by up to 11% by replacing your air filter.

  1. Black flames or sooty smoke exiting the exhaust

When oxygen strives to reach the car's engine, it will result in fuel not burning off at an adequate rate. This can make some of the fuel leaks out of your exhaust pipe. There is also a possibility that you start to hear popping sounds as super-heated fuel is evicted through your exhaust system. This sort of problem wastes fuel and can be very hazardous to your car and the environment. So, always ensure you check any unusual exhaust emissions from your car.

Benefits of Replacing Your Car Air Filter

car air filter

Replacing your car air filter can be a super complicated task. However, like anything else, it also has some benefits. Here are some of them:

  1. Increased fuel efficiency

When you replace a blocked car air filter, it can improve fuel efficiency and enhance acceleration. How much improvement you see depends on the make and model of your car. With this benefit of increased fuel efficiency, it makes sense to replace your car air filters regularly. A damaged or dirty air filter restricts the amount of air flowing into your vehicle's engine, making it work harder and, consuming more fuel.

  1. Reduced emissions

Damaged or dirty air filters decrease the airflow to the engine, altering your vehicle’s air-fuel balance. This imbalance in the air-fuel can contaminate spark plugs, causing the “service engine” light to turn on, and also increase engine depositions. The imbalance also has an immediate effect on the exhaust emissions of your car, contributing to the pollution of your environment.

  1. Prolonged engine life

The smallest of particles can get through a damaged or dirty car air filter and cause a lot of harm to the internal engine parts, such as the pistons and cylinders, which can be very costly to repair. That is why regular replacement of your car air filter is so essential.

A clean car air filter is built to capture debris and dirt from the outside air, prohibiting them from reaching the combustion chamber and lessening the likelihood of you receiving a massive repair bill. By the way, if you think that the fuel filter might also be faulty, check out our other blog post that covers that topic here.

How Often Should You Change the Car Air Filter?

replacing car air filter

Most vehicle manufacturers recommend changing the air filter every 12 months or 12,000 miles to 15,000 miles depending on whichever comes first. There are also exceptions to this, so you should check your owner’s manual for the approved time frame to change your car air filter.

If you spend more time off-road or if you live in an area that has a lot of dust, there might be a need to replace this filter more often. Moreover, make sure to have a look at our blog post about the best car bumper guards here.

How to Replace a Car Air Filter?

air filter replacement

Changing a car air filter is very simple and won't take much of your time. There is even no need to pay a mechanic for this process of changing an air filter. Even if you don't have any mechanical experience, the job is so simple that you can do it on your own. Below is a do-it-yourself step for changing your engine air filter. Note that the step below is for educational purposes only. You can do well to consult a professional mechanic or check your owner’s manual before proceeding.

  • The first thing to do is to make sure you are with the right air filter. To be sure of this, you can check your local part stores or check the existing filter to see if it has a part number.
  • Open the car's bonnet and locate the air filter housing. Most air filter housing is located either along the side or on the engine. If you have any challenge finding it, you can simply check your service manual
  • Once the air filter housing has been located, remove the top. Removing the top does not need the use of any tools.
  • Discard the old filter. It is probably dusty and dirty, which is the main reason for you changing it.
  • Install the new filter and replace the housing.

You can also get yourself this internal car air filter:

What’s the Cost to Replace the Air Filters?

air filters

The make and model of a vehicle determine how much it would cost to install a car air filter. Generally, the cost of replacing a car filter ranges between the price of $26 to $50. It would cost you less if you are can replace it yourself. Replacing it yourself would save you up to about $16 to $30 on labor cost. You can get a good replacement car air filter from Amazon by clicking here. Also, make sure to have a look at this great ultimate car air filter video test:

Difference Between Cabin Filters and Engine Air Filters

Cabin Filters and Engine Air Filters

When discussing engine air filters, it is important for you not to confuse them with your cabin air filters. These (cabin filters) have been installed in automobiles since 2002 and it serves a different purpose. They are comparable in function to your home HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) filters because they eradicate contaminated particulates from your cabin air.

If not so, you and those in the car with you are vulnerable to breathing in dust mites, exhaust fumes, road dust, mold spores, and bacteria. So, there is a need for you to change your cabin air filters every 30,000 miles to boost the quality of air in your car. This also improves the air flowing through your heating and air conditioning system. You can learn more about the different types of car filters here.


There are many parts in a car that needs to be put under inspection regularly. Starting from oil changing to topping off the fluids, each maintenance practice has its purpose in prolonging the life span of your vehicle.

Among the parts of a car that needs regular inspection and changing, one of the easiest you can change is the car air filter. Changing the car air filter is done not only to protect the car's engine but also to increase fuel performance and economy.

By regularly replacing your car’s air filter, you are prolonging the life span of your car's engine and also increasing the overall performance of your car. For the ease of replacement and also for the low cost, there is no reason for you to postpone the simple task of replacing your air filter.

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