There’s no debate that a vehicle’s engine is the key cog that powers it. A healthy engine runs clean, functions well and ensures a car achieves the best possible fuel economy. An unhealthy engine, on the other hand, is the opposite.
Engines require a few key components to run well. They require spark plugs, which help fire it. They require fuel. And finally, engines require air, which helps it burn the fuel. That’s where your air filter plays such a crucial role- it’s the key part that stands between the air entering your engine and all the air on the outside of it.
Like we stated in the opening, air filters serve as the interceptor between the air outside of the car and the air that enters the engine. Good air filters block up to 98 percent of dust, pollen, contaminants, and debris from the outside to help keep the engine running clean and efficiently. These contaminants are then trapped in the air filter, which keeps it from getting to the engine. However, when the air filter has become too soiled, then its effectiveness can begin to slip, thereby letting more contaminants into the engine itself or not enough air altogether. It’s why it’s vital to change the air filter regularly. In fact, most manufacturers recommend changing it at least once every 12,000 miles or once a year – whatever comes first.
An effective air filter is key to a healthy engine. The good news is that replacement air filters are inexpensive to purchase and easy to mount. While you can check the condition of the air filter by simply popping the hood of the vehicle’s engine and inspecting it visually, there are a few other signs that you should be watching out for to determine whether it requires replacement.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A BAD AIR FILTER
Though most automakers recommend replacing the air filter every 12,000 miles regardless of its condition, certain driving conditions may need it to be changed more often. That’s one thing to be cognizant of when it comes to your car’s engine health. For example, if you regularly drive through construction zones, on dirt roads, or in other environments where air contamination is high, then you’re likely going to need to change your air filter more often than just once every 12,000 miles. Here’s a look at some other signs of a bad air filter:
- Poor fuel economy: If the engine is not getting adequate air, it will consume more fuel to compensate for it to still be able to generate the same amount of power. Hence, if you notice that you’re filling up your tank more often than you used to, pay closer attention to your mileage. Though this issue is more common in vehicles that were produced before 1980, it’s still something that any driver should watch out for. When fuel economy takes a hit, something with the engine isn’t running effectively.
- Rough running engine: Does it look like your engine is starting up roughly? Is it misfiring? Does it just feel off? The air filter could be the factor. That’s because soot can accumulate on the engine components, like the spark plugs, that help it tick when the fuel and air mixture is off. When this occurs, it leads to a rough running engine.
- Your check engine light comes on: Nobody ever wants to see the check engine light come on in their car, but when it does, the culprit can be something as simple as the air filter. That’s since a heavily soiled air filter can result to poor air supply entering the engine. And poor air supply can increase the amount of carbon deposits that are building up inside of it. If this accumulation gets too great, it could set off the check engine light.
- Odd engine sounds: If you start to notice your car vibrating intensely or “coughing” after the engine turns on, know that this is not normal. If you pop the hood and give the car a once-over, look at the condition of the air filter. If it’s soiled, you’ve very likely just found the source of the issue.
HOW TO REPLACE AN AIR FILTER
The good news actually is that air filters are inexpensive and it’s super easy to replace them. So, if you’ve hit 12,000 miles (or a year – whatever comes first) or see that your filter is heavily soiled, know that this is an easy DIY-task. First, inspect your owner’s guide and see what type of replacement air filter you need. Once you have it, pop open the hood of your car. Next, follow these steps:
- Locate the air filter box: Just find the engine and the air filter box should be right next to it. If it’s not to the side, it’s likely on top of it.
- Open the air filter box and take out the soiled air filter. You should know immediately if it’s past its prime just depending on its level of contamination.
- Change the old air filter with the new air filter, secure the air filter box and place the box back into position. Do away with the old air filter.
That’s all that is involved. It’s pretty simple stuff. It only takes a minute or two to finish and can save a half hour or so of labor at the auto repair shop. Plus, you can buy air filters online or at any auto store at an affordable rate