by Sam Dillinger (comments: 0)

Why You Should Change Your Air Filter

change air filter

Let’s take a few minutes to discuss one of the most overlooked aspects of regular vehicle maintenance: the engine air filter. This intrepid hero does a very important job protecting your engine, and gets overlooked far too often. What is it? What does it do? Most importantly, why do you need to change it? All valid questions, all with simple answers.

The engine air filter’s job is exactly what the name implies- it filters the air for your engine. More specifically it filters the air that your engine is drawing in to function. Most people don’t know that an engine is very similar to a vacuum cleaner (this is a heavily simplified analogy, but accurate nonetheless). Anytime the engine is running, it is continuously drawing air in to be used in the combustion process, without stopping. If air stops flowing in, the engine stops running, and there’s no getting around that.

The air filter is directly inline with the airflow that goes into your engine to remove potentially harmful particles and debris. In fact, the air that enters your engine has no choice but to flow through the air filter. The only exception to this rule would be if there is a vacuum leak somewhere, and that’s a failure that will need to be addressed. You’ll definitely be able to notice if there is a vacuum leak because it will cause an array of drivability/performance problems, as well as a check engine light. 

The air that comes into the engine enters into the cylinder where combustion actually happens. Combustion is the very core of what your engine is designed to do, and how it makes your car “go”. If there was nothing there to clean the air, all the dust, debris, sand, and even small pieces of trash, can go directly into the combustion chamber. Small enough debris will pass the piston rings and get into the engine oil. This can damage the sensitive surfaces of the internal engine bearings (camshaft and crankshaft bearings for those who are wondering what I mean) as well as scraping the cylinder walls. Scraping the cylinder walls will cause a loss of compression, and is a very expensive repair!

Some very minor debris will even get past the air filter, and along with the ash created from the combustion process, is an important reason why the oil filter needs to be replaced regularly as well. Keeping the air entering your engine as clean as possible is paramount for keeping down engine failures. The air filter should be replaced every 5,000 to 7,000 miles. For those of you who live on dirt roads (or sand roads like they have here in Florida) the air filter may need to be replaced even more frequently. At the very least it should be checked at every oil change. Being “dirty” doesn’t just mean having a readily visible buildup on it either, the bottom of the slats need to be inspected for any debris. The bottom of the slat of the air filter is the closest to where the air exits the filter and enters the engine, so should be the first place to look. See the video we have for where to check on the air filter, and what to look for. Most air filters are very easy to find and replace, and can be done in just a few short minutes at home. There is no need to pay someone else to replace it for you!

As always for my members, feel free to send me an email from for advice, questions, and concerns.

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Meet Sam Dillinger

My name is Sam Dillinger. I've been a professional, dealership technician for 18 and a half years. My first introduction to mechanical repair was when my own vehicle broke down in the fall of 1995. I was 18 and couldn't afford to pay to have it fixed. So I borrowed tools and asked a ton of questions and, eventually, was able to replace the clutch on my truck by myself. During the course of that project, I found that I really enjoyed having a wrench in my hand and figuring out the puzzle of disassembly and reassembly of a motor vehicle.

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