Signs of a Dirty Air Filter: What to Look Out For

A dirty air filter can cause a variety of issues with your car from engine misfires and rough idling to black smoke coming from exhaust pipe. Learn what signs indicate that you need to replace your car's air filter.

Signs of a Dirty Air Filter: What to Look Out For

A dirty air filter can cause a variety of issues with your car, from engine misfires and rough idling to black smoke coming from the exhaust pipe. The air filter is designed to trap dirt and grime, while allowing clean, good air to enter the engine, which is then burned with the fuel, before being ejected through the exhaust system. If you notice any of the following signs, it may be time to replace your air filter. Flame or black smoke from the exhaust pipe is one of the most obvious signs that your air filter needs to be changed. When the air filter is clogged, it restricts air supply to the engine, causing unburned fuel to form a soot residue that accumulates in the spark plug.

This fouls the spark plug (s) and decreases its ability to produce the spark needed for the combustion process. Changing the affected air filter and spark plugs will restore your engine's performance. Shortness of breath can also impair the performance of your vehicle, causing slow acceleration. If you notice that your car responds slower than usual or moves abruptly when accelerating, this could indicate that your engine is not getting all the air it needs to run. Replacing the air filter can improve acceleration or power by up to 11%.Decreased fuel economy is another clear sign of a faulty or dirty air filter.

A dirty or bad air filter restricts airflow, which reduces oxygen in the mixture. Your engine compensates for this by consuming more fuel to produce enough power to move the same distance or speed as it could with a clean filter. Sometimes the air filter may allow air to pass through sporadically, while other times it may not supply air in proportion to the fuel, making the trip rough and bumpy. If you smell gasoline when you start the car, it's because not enough air enters the fuel injection system and excess unburned fuel comes out of the car through the exhaust pipe (hence the smell).Most automotive companies recommend changing the air filter every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or every 12 months. However, if you normally drive in dusty or rural areas such as Scottsdale, Arizona or San Antonio, Texas, it's a good idea to have your mechanic check and change it more often, for example, every 6,000 miles.

Driving in busy areas where there is a lot of traffic, including Los Angeles and Washington DC, making it stop and start more often also requires you to replace the air cleaner more often. Most vehicles also have a cabin air filter that is used to clean the air entering the interior of the car, but it has a different maintenance program than an engine air filter. It is generally recommended to replace the engine air filter every 10,000 to 15,000 miles, or every 12 months. But if you drive in dusty or crowded areas where traffic is heavy, causing you to stop and start frequently, change it more often, every 6,000 miles. Replacing the air filter before it becomes clogged ensures that you don't have to change the spark plugs. A dirty air filter reduces the amount of clean air that reaches the engine, which decreases its power and performance. If you have an old carburetor vehicle, it's best to keep up with the air filter replacement.

One of the best and easiest improvements you can make to your vehicle is to buy a reusable air filter, such as a K&N filter. Most manufacturers recommend replacing the air filter every 12,000 miles (approximately 19,000 km) or every 12 months, whichever comes first. Have your mechanic scan your vehicle to locate the source of the problem, as it could be as simple as replacing the air filter. Our certified mobile mechanics perform more than 600 services including diagnostics, brakes, oil changes and scheduled mileage maintenance and will come to you with all necessary parts and tools. Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in more than 2,000 U.

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