How Often Should You Change Your Car Air Filter
If you’re a homeowner, you should know the importance of changing your furnace filter on a regular basis. Depending on your household’s circumstances – if you have any pets, for example, or any of your family members have dust allergies – you may only have to do this once a year, or you may end up having to change your filter twice a month. Neglecting to do this forces your heating system to work harder than it should – and it risks getting pollutants into your home’s air.
The same principle applies to the air filter in your car. When a spark plug ignites a mixture of air and fuel, your engine starts running thanks to the reaction we know as internal combustion. For this to happen cleanly and reliably, the air in the mixture should be free of dirt, dust, sand, and any other particulate matter that may sneak in from outside your car. The air filter stops those particles from getting sucked into your engine – as long as it’s relatively free of dirt, dust, and sand itself.
So how often should you change that filter? If you look in your car’s manual, you’ll find your answer. Typically, auto manufacturers recommend a filter change every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. For the average driver, that’s about once every one to two years. The right interval for you depends on your answers to the following questions:
- Do you drive more often than most people?
- Do you regularly drive in hot weather?
- Do you often find yourself idling in heavy traffic?
- Do you regularly drive in dirty or dusty conditions?
- Do you regularly drive on unpaved or poorly paved roads?
- Do you often tow heavy loads with your vehicle?
If your answer to most or all of these questions is yes, you will need to change your air filter more frequently than most drivers. However, even if you’ve answered no to these questions, the time to change your filter may be now. Try answering these instead:
- Has your air filter been changed in the last three years?
- Has your gas mileage decreased recently?
- Have you been experiencing ignition problems?
- Does your air filter look discolored or clogged with dirt?
If any of these signs are present, your filter is probably ready to be replaced. Your car’s manual may tell you what kind of replacement to get; if not, your local auto parts store will have a list of filters that are suitable for your make and model. Most cost less than $20, so you can choose to buy some extra filters to keep on hand for do-it-yourself replacements. You can also choose to buy a lifetime air filter, but these require regular cleaning and are more expensive and trickier to service.
Whichever type of filter you choose, follow these steps to replace your old one:
- Locate your air filter box, if you have not already done so. Your car’s manual will indicate where to find it.
- Remove the clips holding down the filter box cover.
- Slide the old filter out of the box.
- Insert the new filter into the box, making sure that it is snug and steady.
- Close the filter box and clip it shut.
Air filter changes are a small but vital part of keeping your engine in good working order. Make it a regular part of your annual maintenance regimen, and you’ll save yourself a lot of money and stress over the life of your vehicle.