Last Updated on April 8, 2023 by Chase Manhattan
The engine’s air filter is a part that requires replacing now and then. The air filter is included in the regular maintenance of the car. Modern cars with a bad air filter will show an alert on the computer.
How Often To Change A Car Air Filter
The air filter in a car should be replaced once every year. The actual mileage for changing car air filters depends on the car’s model. Usually, the mileage recommended by most manufacturers varies from 12 000 miles to 30 000 miles to 40 000 miles.
The best way to know for sure is to check your owner’s manual for the manufacturer’s recommended intervals for when you should replace the engine air filter.
The vehicle’s air filters are considered a wear item, this means that the manufacturer has determined that they will have an expected life time and should be replaced outside of that timeframe to keep your vehicle running smoothly.
Do note that frequent stop and go driving, dusty conditions on unpaved roads, and other environmental contaminants will effect the lifespan of your car air filter.
To keep your engine in mint condition, regularly change the air filter. The engine air filter is an important component that prolongs engine life when adequately cared for.
Here’s everything you need to know about when and how to change the engine air filter.
Replacing The Engine’s Air Filter
Most car owners have trouble with deciding when to change the air filter. Now, changing the air filter too early is not dangerous at all, you are just wasting a good air filter.
Changing the air filter too late on the other hand is dangerous. Driving with a bad air filter can cause damage to the combustion chamber by allowing contaminants and other debris particles inside the engine. This directly effects the car’s performance and will end with a visit to your local repair shop.
So, when is the right time to change the engine air filter in a car? The answer depends on what your manufacturer recommends in your owner’s manual, but also when you can visibly see that you have a clogged engine air filter, or if it’s an old filter that is deteriorating in your hands. We like to check our filters just about every oil change.
Car air filters are changed after a certain amount of time or after an amount of mileage driven. The mileage depends on the car’s model, but also the driving conditions. So, the best way to find out when to change the air filter is to check your car’s manual.
The car’s manual should have instructions about changing the engine air filter.
If you can’t find the manual for your car, consult with an expert who repairs specifically cars the same as your model.
Signs Of A Dirty Air Filter
Instead of following a schedule for replacing the engine’s air filter, you can change it once you see signs that it needs changing.
This is not the recommended way because you will be driving the car while the engine has bad air flow. [Source]
Here are signs that your car’s air filter needs to be replaced with a new filter. If your car is experiencing any of these problems, you need a new air filter.
Bad Fuel Efficiency
One subtle sign of a used-up air filter is bad fuel performance. In other words, your car will not be able to achieve the same mileage with the same fuel as it used to do.
Car engines perform best when there is good air flow. Without proper air flow, the engine will start to overwork. Because it’s working more than usual, it will waste more fuel than usual while also generating more heat; this directly has a negative effect on your engine life.
This is a very subtle sign that you may not notice at first. However, if you keep on driving with a clogged air filter, the change in fuel efficiency will be significant. So, you will eventually notice it.
If you notice that your car can’t get the same mileage as it used to do. And, there’s no other reason for it. It may be the time for an air filter replacement.
Now, if you have a modern car, chances are, you don’t have to worry about any other signs of a clogged filter. Modern cars have a sensor that checks up on the air filter.
When the air filter gets too dirty, the sensors will set off. So, you will see a sign on your dashboard telling you that you need to change the air filter.
This makes replacing the air filter really easy. All you need to do is keep an eye on your dashboard for the sign. If there is a sign about the air filter, just replace it with a new one.
Black Smoke From Exhaust
Another sign that your car needs a new air filter is black smoke coming out from the exhaust.
As already mentioned, the engine uses more fuel when the air filter is dirty. Due to increased usage of fuel, the exhaust will have black smoke. You will typically notice an unpleasant smell coming from the exhaust along with the smoke.
The excess fuel will turn into black residue which results in black smoke coming out of the exhaust. This black smoke is from fuel deposits that build up on your spark plugs, which gets burned off during the combustion process. If this goes unchecked, you’re likely to encounter ignition problems and a trip to your local repair shop.
Now, an occasional black smoke from the exhaust is nothing to worry about. However, if black smoke is constantly coming out, you should check your air filter.
Lastly, a car with a bad air filter may be experiencing problems with starting the engine. Again, the problem comes down to bad air flow in the engine.
A car with a dirty or clogged air filter will start no matter what. If the cranking amps are there, the car will start. The car will struggle though. So, you need to keep an eye on how your car is starting.
If you notice some stalling while the engine is being cranked, check the air filter. The bad air flow may have caused damage to the spark plugs.
Should I Drive With A Dirty Air Filter
Despite all of this, some people will still be tempted to drive their cars. Even though there are signs of a clogged air filter, they may think waiting for regular maintenance is a good idea.
You should replace a dirty engine air filter as soon as possible. Driving with no engine air filters or a bad air filter will eventually cause damage to the combustion system. A clogged filter will clog up the engine and the fuel lines. [Source]