The air filter in your car is a key component of the supply system. As the vehicle’s lungs, it prevents impurities from entering the engine and provides a steady flow of clean air. But when should you change the air filter? And why?
When the air filter in your car gets clogged or worn out, this affects the quality and quantity of the air going into your engine. The dirty air obstructs the combustion chambers and prevents proper fuel combustion. The engine has to work harder, which leads to a decrease in gas mileage and engine performance. Just as your lungs can get clogged up from pollutants in the air, your car’s engine suffers when the air it “breathes” isn’t clean. That’s why changing the air filter is so important.
An air filter in poor condition causes the internal ducts of the engine to deteriorate, which affects how fast your car can go, in addition to making your exhaust smoke blacker and thicker. This could result in you having a series of problems on your hands: excessive fuel consumption, harmful emissions, even engine failure.
As you must already know, your car has 2 air filters: one for the engine and another for the cabin. It’s important to change both of them regularly – both for engine performance and your own health. You don’t want your engine (or your body) absorbing air that’s full of dust and debris. However, electric vehicles require only changing the cabin air filter and that’s just one of the reasons they are so easy to maintain.
While you may be wondering how often you need to change the air filter in your car, the opinions are divided on the topic – which isn’t making things easier. When it comes to drivers, some change it every 10,000 km, some during every minor car service, while some laugh and call it a waste of money.
As each manufacturer has its own policy, always make sure to refer to the manual. Sometimes in the factory manual, in addition to the mileage at which the filter should be replaced, there is a time limit, the same as in the case of engine oil. For example – every 3 years or at 45,000 km (whichever comes first) or every 4 years or at 60,000 km.
What do experts say?
Experts in the field emphasize that in addition to the factory-set intervals, the driving conditions must be taken into account. After all, the manufacturers themselves usually state this in their instructions, but few read it carefully.
If you use dusty roads frequently, especially with heavy traffic, the filter will accumulate significantly more impurities. Even when there is no visible dust in the air, the filter material is filled with tiny particles that also affect the flow of air. These extremely tiny particles are constantly around us even though we do not see them.
Some manufacturers make different recommendations for different countries or regions. For example, the 2008 Hyundai i10 manual states that the filter is to be changed:
- every 12 months or 15,000 km in China, India and the Middle East
- at 36 months or 45,000 km in other countries, but at 12 months or 15,000 km checked and modified as necessary.
Here are the signs that signal it’s time to change the air filter in your car (aside from your manual just recommending it):
1) Increased fuel consumption
One of the most common issues you’ll come across when you need to change the engine air filter is an increase in fuel consumption. The engine requires good airflow to work properly. When the air filter is dirty, it’s harder to get the air in, and the engine has to work harder and not get you as far as it would normally. Your fuel consumption won’t suffer too badly at first, but after a while, you’ll notice the numbers rise quickly. If you’ve noticed recently that you have to fill up the gas tank more often than usual, it’s probably time to get the air filter checked.
2) Ignition problems
When your engine air filter is dirty, the air can’t get through the filter to the engine, which affects the entire emission control system of the car. This, in turn, can gunk up the spark plugs, preventing them from sparking properly. Because of this, you may experience ignition problems. When you try to start the car, does it roll over sluggishly or not at all? Consider checking the filters to see if this is the problem.
3) Visual check
New air filters are usually either white or off white. You can visually check your engine air filter to see if it’s looking dirty or if it’s full of debris. Keep in mind that sometimes an air filter can get clogged with particles that are too small to see. However, if you notice that the filter is gray or full of particles, it’s certainly time to replace it. The location of the air filter varies by vehicle, so check your owner’s manual to find out exactly where the filter is located.
Getting the air filter changed is generally not an expensive repair. It’s basic maintenance that you need to take care of regularly to keep your car running great. Make sure to keep an eye on your air filter and replace it when you start noticing signs that it is clogged and keep your car in great shape for as long as possible.