Keeping your fuel system and engine clean is a pivotal step needed to maintain the performance and efficiency that you have come to expect from your vehicle. It will also go a long way to limiting the work and maintenance needed for your car other than the routine scheduled services. The bulk of this task falls on your air filter to keep not just the fuel system and engine clean, but also the air conditioning system. You can probably imagine the amount of dirt, dust and debris that the air filter can collect as a result, which means replacing the air filter as needed is an extremely important part of keeping your engine and other systems clean.
Fortunately, no matter what your level of automotive experience may be, changing your air filter is something anyone can do that requires little to no previous experience or skill. Here are just a few signs that your air filter is dirty and needs to be changed and some of the easiest methods to changing your air filter and keeping your internal systems and components clean and functioning properly.
Signs of a Dirty Air Filter
- Misfiring Engine– Insufficient air flow from a dirty air filter will lead to unburnt fuel turning into a soot residue that accumulates on the spark plug. When this occurs, the spark plug can’t give the necessary charge to your engine, which will cause the car to not start as easily along with regular misfiring or jerking motions.
- Weird Engine Sounds– When idling your car you should feel and hear the typical hum of a properly running engine, so if you begin to notice vibrating or hear a coughing or slipping type of sound, that can be an indication of rough idling. This occurs when a spark plug becomes damaged from a clogged or dirty air filter.
- Air Filter Looks Dirty– This one is a bit obvious but knowing the differences between a clean air filter and a dirty one will help go a long way to determining when to replace it. A clean air filter will look white or off-white but will become darker and darker over time, oftentimes though the inner layers of the filter will be collecting dust and pollen that isn’t visible.
Changing Your Air Filter
Now that you know what a dirty air filter can look like or what it can do to your car, here is the easiest way to change it on your own in 5 easy steps and avoid higher costs for repairs and services.
Step 1– Park on a flat surface, open the hood and ensure that your emergency brake is applied.
Step 2– Consult your car’s manual to determine the type of air filter you will need and purchase it from your nearest parts store, also have handy a dull butter knife, rag and both a Phillips and standard screwdriver.
Step 3– Make sure the engine is cool and locate the air filter. Typically it will be located in a black case near the top of the engine and should be about the size of a loaf of bread. The black case will be plastic and that should be the only plastic case on top of the engine.
Step 4– You may need to use the tools for this step, open the black plastic case, the top is typically held onto the air filter with metal clips. Here you can use the butter knife to pop open the clips or if the case is held together with screws then you can just use the proper screwdriver and unscrew it.
Step 5– Remove the old air filter and install the new one. Simply pull the old air filter out of the case and wipe out the inside of the case with the rag. You can then place the new filter inside the case right side up and then close the top and either reattach the clips or screw it back together.
It may sound simple but the truth is it’s just that easy. Replacing the air filter is one of the easiest do it yourself tasks regarding your vehicle but if you have an older car or one that is less common, you may want the help of an experienced mechanic near to you.
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