How to change an air filter

For most of us, personal transportation plays a very important part of everyday life, not to mention a significant financial investment. At-home inspections and do-it-yourself repairs are great ways to keep your car running smoothly and to prevent expensive repair bills in the future.

car air filter

A fully functioning and well-maintained air filter is critical to your car’s fuel efficiency and engine life. Luckily, air filters are relatively inexpensive, easy to inspect, and equally easy to replace. Your first step should be to locate the filter. If you have driven your car recently, give it a couple hours to cool off before lifting the hood. Secure the hood with a prop rod, if necessary, and visually inspect the engine.

Your air filter should be housed within a large black plastic casing that is roughly rectangular-shaped, and located off to the side of the engine. Older cars equipped with carburettors may have a large drum-shaped casing instead, found directly on top of the engine itself. The casing will likely be sealed with a series of metal clips, wing nuts or screws, so make sure you have a screwdriver handy. Unseal the housing and remove the filter. If it appears dirt-clogged or damaged, it may be time to change your air filter.

Replacing the filter

Having removed and inspected your car’s air filter, the hardest part of this job is over. If your old filter appears dirty but serviceable, you may be able to simply clean it with a pressurised air hose and return it to the casing. However, if you notice any damage, or if it has been more than a year since your last filter replacement, you should probably go ahead and purchase a new filter.

car air filter

Review your vehicle’s owner’s manual, or simply take the filter with you to an auto parts store to ensure you receive an appropriate replacement. Be sure to reseal and/or cover the air filter casing after removing the filter to ensure no dirt or debris enters the intake area while the filter is removed. Once you’ve obtained a new filter, place it into the casing just as you found the original, and reseal the casing with the clips or screws you removed previously.

What does the air filter do, and how often should you replace it?

Your vehicle’s air filter is an inexpensive, albeit incredibly important, component. Not only does it prevent foreign debris from entering the engine and causing damage to delicate components, but it also helps regulate the fuel-to-air mixture, which can have serious effects on your petrol mileage if not balanced properly. Opinions on air filter replacement vary and, as with many vehicle components, the life of your air filter will depend greatly on the conditions in which you drive.

Heavy drivers in hot or dusty areas may go through several filters before infrequent drivers require a single replacement. The best bet is to check your owner’s manual if you are unsure whether your filter needs replacing, but a decent rule of thumb is to inspect your filter every six months or so, and either clean or change your air filter every year or 30,000 miles, whichever comes first.

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