How often should you replace the air filter in your car?

From bestreviews.com
By
Allen Foster
BestReviews

Did you know that your lungs and nose are not the only things that suffer from seasonal allergies? If you live in an area that has a high pollen count, that pollen collects on your vehicle's air filter and could be responsible for your car or truck's diminished performance.

the air filter in your vehicle should be replaced about every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, or roughly once a year

In order for a car to run at its best, air and gasoline must mix in the right ratio to create efficient combustion. If your air filter is dirty, the ideal amount of air will not be available in the combustion chamber, and it will cause your vehicle to run poorly. If you continue to run your vehicle without changing the air filter, performance will continue to diminish. In the worst-case scenario, your vehicle may eventually stop running altogether.

Signs that you need a new air filter

As noted above, your vehicle's air filter needs to be replaced roughly once each year.

The reason that is only an estimate and not a hard-and-fast rule is because the environment and driving conditions can shorten the effective life of your air filter. If you do a lot of start-and-stop driving in heavy traffic or you live in a rural area with dusty conditions, you might need to replace your filter twice each year.

The following are some possible clues that it might be time to replace your vehicle's air filter:

Reduced fuel economy: In certain older vehicles (pre-fuel injection), reduced fuel economy is a sign that not enough air is getting through to the combustion chamber.Reduced horsepower: In many vehicles, the driver may notice a reduction of power when the air filter becomes dirty. This is most apparent when trying to quickly accelerate. Misfiring or rough running engine: On some vehicles, a dirty air filter will reveal itself as occasional (or frequent) misfires along with a rough idle.A gasoline smell when starting the car: If there is a strong odor of gasoline whenever you start your car, that unburned fuel could be a clue that your air filter needs to be replaced. However, smelling gasoline could also be a sign of a leak or a spill that happened at the gas pump. If the smell persists, take your car to a qualified mechanic to be safe.Excessively sooty smoke: Black sooty smoke coming from the exhaust is a sign that the fuel-to-air ratio is not right. In some vehicles, the culprit could be a dirty air filter. However, this could be the result of a number of other issues. Like most of the other items on this list, it is just a clue.Check-engine light is on: While the check-engine light can be a good sign that your filter is dirty, it can be triggered for numerous reasons. This makes it difficult to diagnose without the proper tool or a trip to your favorite mechanic.The air filter looks dirty: This is arguably the best way to see how your air filter is doing. Whenever you service your car, pop open the air filter box, remove the air filter, and shine a light through from behind. If the light only passes through less than half the filter material, it's time to get a replacement.

Choosing a replacement air filter

The key to getting the right air filter is finding one that is the right size. If it is too big, it won't fit in your vehicle's air filter box; if it is too small, air will sneak around the filter allowing debris in, which can damage your engine. You can take your air filter out and measure it, but that's the hard way. To make it easier, the air filter's description will tell you which makes and models the air filter fits. Another, even easier option is to check your owner's manual for recommendations.

As far as which brand of air filter to purchase, it comes down to personal preference. Some vehicle owners prefer a trusted company like FRAM, which has been manufacturing different types of filters for more than 85 years, while others are fine with purchasing a bargain-brand air filter. K&N, on the other hand, has a top-rated, high-performance washable air filter that is designed to last as long as your vehicle, which can help reduce your carbon footprint.

How to change an air filter

Changing an air filter is one of the easiest maintenance tasks you can perform on your vehicle. Often, you do not even need any tools to accomplish the job. While every vehicle is a little different, you should always refer to your owner's manual for details.

Here are the general steps that you need to follow when changing an air filter:

Make sure your vehicle is not running, in park, and the emergency brake is on.Reach under the dashboard on the driver's side to "pop" the hood.Walk to the front of the vehicle, reach underneath the hood with your fingers, and slide (or press) open the hood latch.Lift and secure the hood in the open position using the vehicle's prop rod.Look for a boxlike structure that is connected to a long tube or hose. This is the air filter box. It houses the air filter.Carefully open the air filter box to access the air filter. The lid is usually clipped in place. You may or may not need a flathead screwdriver to release the clips.Remove the old filter (paying attention to how it was positioned) and clean the inside of the filter box to remove all dust and debris.Install the new air filter, being careful to position it in the exact same way that the old air filter was positioned.Close the air filter box, making sure the lid is securely clipped back in place.Remove the prop rod, close the hood, and you're all set.

Allen Foster is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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