How Often Do You Need To Change Your Air Filter?
How many times have you questioned your decision to buy a car after discovering something needs to be changed or repaired? I understand this feeling, vehicle maintenance can be frustrating and expensive for most car owners.
One area that you need to pay special attention to is the engine air filter. This component gets contaminated with dirt, sand, dust, bugs, and other debris over time, and it is important for you to replace it in order to maintain optimum car performance.
But when exactly should you replace it? Should you get a new one each time you service your car or should you wait for a few years? Let’s explore this further below.
Everything You Need To Know About Changing Your Engine Air Filter
Let’s start with a simple question: what does an air filter do?
The fuel in your engine requires oxygen for combustion. However, the air that enters your engine needs to be clean and free of contaminants, which is where the air filter comes in.
This filter (located in the air filter box) traps the dirt and debris that flows in through the bottom of the car. While clean air will continue uninterrupted into the engine, contaminants will be captured underneath the filter.
Without the engine filter, these contaminants will negatively affect the performance of your engine.
This brings us to our second question: how do you know when your engine filter needs to be changed?
One unscrupulous way that some mechanics make money is by pushing for an air filter replacement when the current air filter is in good condition. This may deter car owners from replacing their air filter altogether.
While changing your engine filter prematurely is harmful to your wallet, leaving a dirty air filter in for too long is harmful to your engine. This is because old and clogged engine filters will do a poor job of filtering contaminants, leading to dust and debris entering your engine.
The good news is that you can easily tell that a filter needs to be replaced by looking at it. Simply check the pleated folds through which air is filtered.
If you find that your filter is black with dirt, then you need to put in a new one. Thankfully, this inspection process is simple and should take you less than 5 minutes.
Apart from the regular inspection of your car filters (every 6,000 miles or every 6 months), you can determine whether your filters need changing by paying close attention to your car’s performance.
When an air filter is clogged, you are likely to notice:
- Low power during hard acceleration– a 2009 study published for the U.S. Department of Energy showed that a clean air filter improves acceleration by between 6% and 11%.
- A decrease in fuel economy– this decrease often insignificant.
- Bright ‘Check Engine’ warning on your dash– this is only in severe circumstances.
If you experienced any of these dirty engine filter ‘symptoms’, you need to replace your air filter. However, don’t wait for these symptoms to make themselves known. Check your air filters regularly as explained above.
How Often Should You Replace Your Engine Air Filters?
Now that you know how air filters work and why and when they should be inspected, it’s time to discuss air filter change.
The most important thing you need to remember is that there is no blanket answer for this question. Engine air filter replacements are dependent on environmental factors i.e. where you live and where you drive your car.
On average, you will need to change your air filters every 15,000 to 30,000 miles (dependent on environmental conditions.)
Here are some factors you need to take into consideration when determining the frequency of air filter replacement:
- Driving conditions: Someone living in a city and driving on paved roads will not change their filters as frequently as someone living out of town and driving on dusty roads.
- Driving frequency: Someone who drives their car a lot will change their air filters every 1-2 years, while someone who rarely drives their car can get away with making replacements every 2-3 years. Remember, an old engine filter can tear, so don’t leave it in for longer than 3 years (unless specified otherwise.)
- Vehicle owner’s manual or model-specific guide: Many owner’s manuals have directions for air filter changes, courtesy of the car’s manufacturer.
If you have a Chevrolet, your recommended engine filter replacement will be every 45,000 miles or every 4 years whichever comes first (this is higher than the average.)
If you have a Ford, your recommended filter replacement will be every 15,000 to 30,000 miles, based on your vehicle model and driving conditions. You are also advised to consider the appearance of your filters, the quality of your acceleration, and the efficiency of your engine when deciding to replace your filter.
If you have a Hyundai, your recommended filter replacement is every 30,000 miles, but in the case of extreme driving conditions this interval is reduced to every 15,000 miles.
As you can see, changing your engine air filter is a priority, and its frequency is dependent on the driving conditions you face on a regular basis.
- Check your air filters every 6,000 miles to determine whether they are too dirty and therefore need to be replaced.
- Read your owner’s manual to see if there is a recommended interval for replacing your air filters- if there is, follow it.
- If you don’t have information specific to your vehicle, replace your air filters every 15,000 to 30,000 miles, based on the severity of your driving conditions and the performance of your car.
By taking a proactive role in your vehicle’s maintenance, you can ensure that small problems do not result in expensive damage. Use the guide above to keep your engine in top shape.