What is an Air Filter and How Often Does it Need to be Replaced?

The air filter catches particulate matter and dirt that can affect the performance of your engine. If the air filter is dirty, the gas mileage can drop. You can change the air filter on your own to save money. The biggest factor that you need to consider is whether you should use cotton filters or traditional paper devices. The former option is expensive, but can be cleaned and used again. Traditional paper devices are disposable. If you want to keep your car for many years, it’s best that you go for cotton filters. Here’s how to change the air filter in your car.

  1. Lift the hood and locate the air filter. It’s usually encased in a square ampule on the side of the engine or in a round metal pan that’s attached to the top of the engine. If the air filter is secured by a wing nut, just loosen the nut and remove the lid. Place both the nut and the wing in a safe area.
  2. Take out the air filter. If you’re using cotton filters, you can clean it off and use it again. Other types of filters need to be removed and replaced with the same type.
  3. Clean the filter container. There may be a lot of debris and dirt in the container. Use a small piece of cloth to clean the container or you can also use a vacuum cleaner to make everything easier for you.
  4. Replace the air filter. Put the cleaned cotton filter or new filters in place. If you’re using cotton filters, follow the cleaning instructions of the manufacturer.
  5. Close the air filter compartment firmly and close the hood. 

Mechanic working on a Car

How Often Should You Replace the Air Filter?

Regularly changing the air filter is important. The engine can fail when air is restricted. It can overheat and lead to a cracked block. When the flow of air drops, the car needs to use more fuel to provide the same amount of power.

The lifespan of air filter depends on how much dirt it collects. You may not believe it, but a slightly filthy air filter can actually clean more efficiently than a brand new one. That is because the crud trapped in the air filter screens out tinier particles.

A high quality air filter will normally last between 20,000 and 30,000 miles on a car that usually takes on freeways. If your driving conditions include poor air quality, you should be prepared to change the air filter more frequently. You can also expect to change the air filter more often if you drive in a rural area with airborne pollutes and dusty roads.  Air filters may perform efficiently for only one month or two in this kind of environment.

Inspect the air filter every 10,000 to 12,500 miles. If it looks fine, you can put it back in and check it again when you reach 20,000 to 30,000 miles. By changing the air filter, your car will be able to run more efficiently.

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