During a year, your car may pull in 7,000 to 10,000 gallons of air to be mixed with gasoline as the engine’s fuel. You certainly don’t want dust and bugs inside your engine where they can cause problems. So your car has an air filter. Early cars didn’t have air filters and later ones were relatively crude. However, today’s major-brand air filters are efficient and require no maintenance other than periodic replacement.
You should replace the air filter as often as the car manufacturer recommends (found in the owner’s manual) or at least annually. If you live in a dusty location or drive where the air has lots of particulates—dust, sand pollen—replace the air filter more frequently. They’re not that expensive and the job is easy. The Fix-It Club knows how!
On old cars the air filter was located above the carburetor. Today’s cars are smaller so the air filter typically is located near the front of the engine compartment where it can pull air in from the outside as the car moves down the road. Look for a rectangular plastic box. Once found, here’s how to replace the air filter.
A clean air filter can quickly pay for itself in fuel savings. By the way, don’t think you can just blow out the debris on the old filter and replace it. Blowing out debris requires compressed air, which will damage the paper filter inside.
1. Remove the clips or unscrew the screws holding the top of the air filter in place.
2. Carefully lift the filter cover (there may be more clips or screws) and out of the way to expose the old air filter.
3. Lift the air filter out, then wipe or vacuum out the housing and cover. Inspect the cover, housing, and air tubes for blockage or cracks and repair as needed. (You don’t want dirty air coming in the housing after the point it was supposedly filtered.)
4. Match the old filter to the new unit to verify that it is an exact replacement, then install the new filter. Note that some air filters have an UP side; if in doubt, install it exactly as the old filter was installed.
5. Replace the air filter cover and the clips or screws.
6. To continue your education, inspect the old filter for quality and whether it seemingly did its job. You may discover (and note in your Car Journal) that one brand of filter seems more efficient than another, or that pollen from nine months ago blocked the filter, probably driving gas mileage down. In that case, change the air filter twice a year or once right after local pollen season ends.
Want to save even more time and money? Buy a couple year’s worth of oil filters at the same time when you see then on sale. Not only will you save a few bucks, you’ll also save the time it takes to hunt them down.