The air filter is a vital component of your car engine. Air entering your engine carries particles; the air filter ensures that these particles do not clog the engine. If the filter of your car is dirty, it can affect the overall performance of your engine plus the fuel mileage.
Typically, you should change your engine filter at about 12,000 to 15,000 miles. Your replacement manual will give you a clear timeline regarding how often you should change your engine air filter. If, after consulting your manual, you find that you have driven past the stipulated period, replace your engine air filter.
Depending on what conditions you are driving in, you may find that your engine air filter requires replacement much earlier than this. If you drive in dusty conditions, your engine will be more susceptible to dust and other debris. Therefore, the engine air filter is more likely to get clogged up while driving in these conditions.
On that note, you should not just wait to reach the miles on your manual. Inspect your engine air filter routinely for signs of damage so that you can change it if need be.
Signs of a bad engine air filter
It is not always easy to determine whether the engine air filter needs replacing. Even when you know that the filter is failing, it is not always easy to tell if it is the engine air filter or the cabin filter. Look out for these signs to determine if it is time to change the engine air filter.
Reduction in the gas mileage
This is the most typical problem when the engine air filter is damaged or has an issue. The engine of your car does not function correctly without good airflow. A damaged or clogged air filter will affect the airflow in the system of your engine.
If it is hard to get air in because the filter is dirty, your car’s engine must perform much harder. The gas mileage of your vehicle does not suffer the effects immediately. However, you will notice a rapid drop in the numbers after a while.
Maintain a routine where your engine air filter is checked regularly for wear or dirt and debris. If you notice that your gas mileage has drastically reduced, your engine air filter could be a problem.
Have your mechanic check it out and replace the air filter if it is indeed discovered to be the problem. Perform the check early before the problem affects your engine much further.
Problems with the car ignition
The engine air filter is responsible for filtering the air going into the engine. A dirty air filter means not enough air is going through, affecting the car’s emission system. The entire emission system relies on the air coming into the engine.
It, therefore, also suffers if the engine air filter has a fault. If the emission system is not functioning as it should, it can cause gunk to build upon the spark plugs. Dirty spark plugs do not work correctly.
With the spark plugs not sparking ably as they should, your ignition will have problems.
Your car will roll sluggishly when you start it. In other instances, the vehicle will not even start at all.
If your car shows signs of sluggishness when you start it or complete ignition failure, the engine air filter could be the problem. Have your mechanic check it out.
Visual signs of damage on the filter
You can also look for signs of damage by directly looking at the engine air filter. Visually you can inspect your air filter and check the colour. Usually, the new air filters are white or very close to that hue.
Check for signs of dirt. Too much discolouration of the filter is a sign of dirt which is potentially damaging to your engine. Some of the particles inside the filter may be too small for you to see. However, if you notice dirt and other particles within, it is time to change your engine air filter.
You may not know the location of your engine air filter. It varies from one vehicle to another. If you cannot find the air filter, seek directions from your owner’s manual.
If you think anything is off when you make your inspection, take the car to an expert so that they can check it out.
Before changing your filter, it is possible that it can undergo cleaning a few times before you have to replace it.
How to clean the engine air filter
It is recommended that you change your engine air filter about every 15,000 miles. However, the accumulated grit and debris could clean off still, leaving you with a perfectly functional engine air filter.
The build-up from the filter affects airflow and the engine, and if it is cleared away, your filter can continue operating. Replacing an engine air filter can be expensive; following these steps, you can clean the engine air filter at home by yourself.
- First of all, find where your engine air filter is located beneath the car’s hood. It is rectangular.
- Extract your air filter. It is straightforward to get it out by loosening the surrounding bolts. If any of the steps are too technical for you, do not do it. Enlist the help of an experienced mechanic.
- Once you have removed the air filter, you can start cleaning it. Tap it out on the bumper of your car to loosen particles.
- You can use a cleaning solution to clean out your engine air filter or use a vacuum. A cleaning solution does an excellent job because it cleans thoroughly, but it also takes much longer. It is also disadvantageous because reinstalling a wet air filter causes other problems. Giving your engine air filter a quick vacuum could be another way to go about it.
- After this, clean the filter casing. When your filter is clean, it should have a whitish or greyish colour.
- Replace the air filter. Ensure that it is dry if you used any solutions, and make sure that any bolts you removed are put back in place.
Effects of a bad air filter on the engine
If the air filter is damaged, the air going into the engine will be unfiltered, which can cause several issues in the engine. Sometimes the troubles are caused by poor installation or reinstallation of the engine air filter, which leaves the engine exposed to dirt and debris.
The intake of the engine must be filtered; if this is not, extensive damage can occur, which includes;
Damage to the turbocharger
The engine air filter is crucial, especially if you have a turbocharged engine. The role of the turbocharger is to force air into the engine. The air that is forced into the engine must have been pressurized. The air is forced into the engine to increase engine performance.
One part of the turbocharger, called the impeller, connects directly to the engine’s intake. With a faulty, dirty, or dysfunctional engine air filter, the air going into the turbocharger will have debris and dirt.
Debris and dirt can cause a lot of damage to the turbocharger. The situation worsens if the turbocharger gets damaged since metal can get into the engine. When metal gets into the engine, it can circulate through the entire system, causing a lot of engine damage. This can result in complete engine failure. Therefore, the air getting into the turbocharger must be well filtered.
Internal damage to the engine
When the piston within the engine moves downwards during the intake stroke, air enters. If the air filter is damaged, the air being sucked in will contain dirt and debris. The debris flying in can cause damage to the internal components like the valves, the pistons, and the walls of the cylinders.
Damage to the engine’s internal parts leads to an increase in oil consumption; they can also lead to engine performance decline and, with time, total engine failure.
If the engine air filter suffers restriction, the engine has to work harder to bring in air.
This creates a vacuum effect within the engine. The vacuum effect causes the engine to suck in so much dirt and debris that it destroys components.
Therefore, a well-maintained filter is the best defense against dirt and debris getting into your engine. Get a quality filter that will retain a lot more contaminants and make your engine intake better.
How to change the engine air filter
Some of the maintenance jobs can be tough and require an expert. However, changing the engine air filter on your car is an easy enough process that you can do yourself. Learning to do it on your own can save you money that you might have otherwise spent at the mechanic.
If you have experienced any of the above symptoms, you might need a filter change. Your filter might be damaged beyond cleaning and instead requires a change. This is not a part of car maintenance that you should put off for a long time.
Replace the filter as soon as a replacement is due. Following the easy steps, you can replace the engine air filter on your car.
- Find the black box that houses the filter beneath the hood. It is located at the side of the engine and easy to place because you will notice a large hose that sticks out of its side.
- Remove the filter from its housing. Be very careful when you take off the cover because some of the wirings from the other components could be harnessed to it.
- Use the correct tools to remove any of the fasteners that may be attached.
- Clean the housing with a rag to remove dirt and debris.
- Put the new filter in the filter box. Make sure that it is placed correctly as you insert the rubber rim placing.
- Replace the top of the housing plus the fasteners.
And there you have it, you have replaced your engine air filter and saved yourself some money.
Changing your engine air filter is a very crucial part of maintenance. Resulting engine damages from a faulty engine air filter can cause even worse damage and, therefore, more considerable expenses. Ensure that you inspect your filter regularly and replace it immediately if your mechanic’s diagnosis call for it.