Does My Air Filter Need Replacing? Common Warning Signs of a Dirty Car Air Filter

14 October 2020
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  • Typically, it is recommended to change air filters once a year, or every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. People who live in dusty areas or those with heavy pollution may want to consider more frequent change.
  • Most air filter problems can be seen, smelled, heard or felt. Listen for unusual noises in the engine and look out for engine light problems, dirt, gasoline smells or reduced horsepower.
  • A lot of car owners will want to do their own filter replacements to save a little money. Whatever you do, It’s important to choose genuine OEM replacement parts whenever you are upgrading your vehicle.
  The air filter on your car is one of the easiest parts to maintain, but it is also often one of the most overlooked parts. If your car isn’t acting right and you can’t figure out why, you should think about the last time you cleaned or changed your air filter. If you never have, it might be a good idea. Keep reading to learn more about how your air filter works, and what signs to look for when it is in need of repair or replacement.  What is the Air Filter? The air filter is designed to catch dirt, bugs, and other debris that may damage your car’s engine. When the car’s engine draws in air, it passes through the filter on the way to the combustion chamber. The filter needs to be able to prevent damaging debris from getting through, but still allow the proper amount of airflow to perform effectively. Without proper cleaning or replacing, improper or poor airflow can affect performance in a number of ways.  How Often Should Air Filters Be Changed? Typically, it is recommended to change air filters once a year, or every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. People who live in dusty areas or those with heavy pollution may want to consider more frequent changes, but you can ask your local mechanic what’s best for your car. If you drive in a lot of traffic, the stopping and starting sends more debris through the filter and may be cause for more frequent changes, as well.  Keep in mind that your engine air filter is different from the cabin air filter, which is responsible for cleaning the air that comes into the interior of the car. The replacement schedule for this filter is much less frequent. In the event that you don’t replace the engine air filter often enough, a number of issues can arise.  Signs You Should Replace Your Air Filter In the event that your air filter needs replaced, you could experience any of the following signs or symptoms.  Lower Fuel Economy If your engine can’t get enough oxygen, it will require more fuel to generate enough power for regular operation. As a result, you may notice that your gas mileage goes down when your air filter is in need of replacement. This is a much less significant issue on newer vehicles that have computer-adjusted fuel systems, but it may still be something that you notice.  Unusual Noises in the Engine Listen to your engine when your car is idling. If you hear any popping, vibrations, or coughing noises, your air filter may be clogged and causing damage or dirt buildup on spark plugs. Your engine may also misfire as a result of soot buildup, which can create rough engine operation that you can feel and hear.  Check Engine Light There are any number of issues in your car that could result in the check engine light coming on. If the engine isn’t getting enough air, carbon deposits can build up and cause this light to come on. Using the onboard diagnostics tool will be a quick way to identify the issue. You can also visually remove your air filter to check for excess buildup before paying for a mechanic’s inspection. Dirty Appearance Although it might sound obvious, you should know what the difference is between a clean and dirty air filter. Clean filters will have a white or off-white shade. Filters in need of replacement may appear a bit darker, but because of all the layers, it may still be hard to see dirt buildup even in the brightest light. This is why it’s best to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacement, regardless of how the filter looks.  Gasoline Smell When the engine isn’t getting oxygen, the fuel buildup will run through the exhaust system and result in a smell of gasoline when you drive your car. You may not see smoke from the exhaust, but a gasoline odor can be a clear sign that it’s time for a new air filter.  Reduced Horsepower The air filter is responsible for airflow, which affects engine performance. If the filter is too dirty, it cannot provide adequate flow. This results in poor performance and reduced horsepower. The car may not respond well when you hit the gas pedal or it may be jerky between gears. Replacing the air filter can actually offer an 11% improvement in your horsepower and acceleration, according to studies. Can I Replace My Own Air Filter? A lot of car owners will want to do their own filter replacements to save a little money. This is a fairly simple replacement, and the air filter is typically on top of the engine and easily accessible. Therefore, as long as you ensure that you buy the right air filter for your vehicle, it will be easy for you to replace a filter as long as you have basic mechanical skills.  If you decide to take your vehicle to the mechanic, you will be happy to know that you don’t have to spend a fortune on this replacement. Air filters aren’t that expensive and some places that include the service with an oil change will only charge you for the filter and do the work for free.  Whatever you decide, make sure that you’re always using genuine OEM air filters that are made for your vehicle. That way, you can guarantee that they will provide the perfect fit and the longest lifespan.  The Bottom Line Air filters aren’t a “major” part on your car, but they are a part that plays a major role in the safe, efficient operation of your engine and transmission. If you notice any of the signs or symptoms listed above, you should have your air filter checked right away. It’s a quick and easy fix, and if that’s not the cause of the issue, you’ll know that you ruled out the simple things before diving into potentially more serious problems.  To find genuine OEM replacement air filters for your car, visit Autofixa. We have a full inventory of OEM parts and accessories and can help with all of your routine maintenance needs.

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