Your engine air filter is something you should have replaced pretty regularly, but several factors affect how often your air filter should be changed. You can take a look at your owner’s manual for guidance, but it only gives you a rough idea of a timeline. There are several other factors to consider, so here are a few of them.
Change Your Engine Air Filter Whenever You Please
Getting your dirty air filter changed is not as important as yearly servicing, oil changes, spark plugs, and things of that nature. It is one of those things that affect your car performance and fuel efficiency so slowly that it only becomes an issue when it becomes bad.
If your mechanic says you should change your cabin air filter or your car filter every time you change your oil or get a service, roughly 3000 to 5000 miles, then something is afoot. Even if you regularly experience far-from-perfect driving conditions such as unpaved roads in polluted areas, you shouldn't need a new air filter so often.
Regular Driving in Severe Conditions
A car with a reasonable maintenance schedule that is fewer than 15 years old will need an air filter replacement every 45,000 miles, or every fourth service. However, if you regularly drive through heavy traffic or severe conditions where your air filter is likely to receive various contaminants, then that number can drop to every 15,000 miles or every second servicing.
When you take your car to be serviced, which should happen every year if you are driving 8000 miles or more, then have them take a visual inspection of your filter. If you trust the mechanic, they can see if it is white/off-white, or dirty. Most new filters and clean air filters are white or off-white so that you can see how dirty the filter pleats have become.
What About the Cabin Air Filter?
Just to avoid confusion, let us answer the question of how often you should replace the cabin air filter in your vehicle. They should be changed pretty frequently as part of your regular/routine maintenance. This is another situation where the 15,000 miles to 45,000 miles rule comes into effect. Luckily, cabin air filters are very easy to change. This means it is often much cheaper to change your cabin filters.
What About The Age of the Vehicle?
Older cars need their air filters changed more frequently. This is due to how modern cars are made. They want engines to maintain peak performance because the last thing they want people to see is their car’s brand being stranded on the side of the road. Modern vehicles have an air intake mechanism that is less likely to receive debris but air contaminants will still make an impact. Still, as a rule, older cars need their air filters changed a little more frequently.
Local Factors Affect Your Car Air Filter
There are some things you don't think of at first, but it becomes obvious when you are confronted with them. For example, when farmers are cutting their crops on dry and dusty days, the contaminants in the air can go for miles.
The same is true during drier seasons when workers are constructing things. Even the dust from the ground dirt can be blown for miles. If you have ever driven near one and had to close your window to stop the debris from getting in, then you can easily imagine how those particles may get into your air filter.
Do you live by the sea? We all know that chipped paint means rusty cars when you live by the sea, but what about all the tiny particles that are finding their way into your air filters? If you consider your local area, there are probably several contaminant sources that your air filter needs to deal with.
What About Tell-Tale Signs Your Filter Needs Changing?
As a rule, try your best to keep track of your air filters rather than waiting for signs they need changing. The problem with the signs they need changing is that they can be misinterpreted by other problems. For example, even something as simple as reduced engine power isn't always as simple as reduced airflow from dirty filters. It could be your spark plugs, a mechanical problem, or even your tires that need a little air. Nevertheless, here are a few problems that dirty air filters may cause.
- Gas mileage is reduced
- Your car doesn’t start as easily
- Dirty spark plugs
- Your engine lights are on
- Strange car engine sounds
- The engine on your car seems to misfire
- Your car doesn't seem as powerful
- Sooty or black smoke is expelled from the exhaust
- You can smell fuel when you start the car
As odd as it sounds, the flip side of these negatives is reasons to replace your air filters at least every 45,000 miles. Plus, along with the stuff above “not” happening, you also get reduced fumes and emissions, and perhaps even improved fuel economy and longer engine life. However, those are only in comparison to cars that have very dirty air filters.
Should You Change The Air Filter?
Take a look online and take a look in your automaker’s user manual to see how easy it is. Some car and vehicle models make it no more difficult than changing the filter in your vacuum cleaner, especially if you are confident in doing your minor car maintenance. If it is a tricky job, then leave it.
If you can check it yourself, then perhaps take a look. You can see if all that heavy city traffic is causing a clogged air filter. Also, if you can check your filter and it is fine, then put it back and ask your repair shop to check the filter when you get your next service.