You probably know that when you fire up your car’s engine, it begins to burn fuel. That’s obvious. But did you also know that an engine consumes around 15 times more air than gasoline?
At 2,000 rpm, a 2.0L engine will consume approximately 70 cubic feet of air every minute. No question, a free flow of good, clean air is among the most important resources your engine needs, and a clean air filter is at the heart of it.
For most vehicles, replacing the air filter is a maintenance item that’s required every 12 months or 12,000 miles, or when you see that the air filter is dirty. Here’s how you change your car’s air filter.
How do I know if my car air filter is dirty?
What does a dirty filter look like? How can you tell if your air filter needs to be replaced? That’s an important step in making sure your car is properly maintained and has the airflow it requires to “breathe” enough air.
For some vehicles, there’s a vacuum-operated window on the air filter housing that indicates when the air filter has a restriction. When an air filter is new, the window has a green indicator showing on it. If the air filter is dirty or plugged with debris, it becomes orange or red.
For other vehicles, a visual inspection of the air filter is the best way to know if it’s dirty. A typical air filter is pleated paper or cotton that’s bright white when it’s new. As it collects dust, dirt, pollen, bugs, and other debris in the air before it goes into the engine (that’s its job, after all), the pleats turn gray and you’ll see debris in between them.
One easy way to see if the air filter is dirty is to hold it up to a light source. If you can see light penetrating through, it’s probably all right for a while longer. If you can’t see light through the filter, play it safe and change it.
Steps to change the air filter in your car
Despite being one of the most important maintenance items your car needs, changing the air filter is probably the least expensive and the easiest service to perform. Follow these steps to check or change your air filter in minutes.
Step 1: Locate the air cleaner housing. Open your car’s hood and look for the air cleaner housing. You can usually find it near the front corner on one side or the other, attached to your intake with a large-diameter hose. The air cleaner housing is often manufactured of durable black plastic.
Step 2: Open the air cleaner housing. One of two fastener methods holds your air cleaner housing closed: screws or clips. If your air cleaner housing has metal spring-style clips or plastic clips to squeeze, open them by hand. For those with screws, use an appropriate-sized screwdriver to loosen the screws fully. On some cars, it might be necessary to remove a clamp from the air cleaner duct also, or the duct itself. Then, open the air cleaner to expose the air filter.
Step 3: Check the air filter. Lift out the air filter and look through its pleats to see if it’s dirty. You can tap the air filter to remove the debris, ensuring the engine side of the filter always remains clean. If necessary, install a new air filter.
Step 4: Close it up. Re-install everything in reverse order to how you took it apart. You’re done!