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  • Mar 26, 2024

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How to change your car's air filter - it improves the performance in minutes

A clogged or dirty air filter can rob your car's engine of power and fuel efficiency. Replacing this simple engine component on your own takes just a few minutes, saves you money on labor costs, and allows your car to breathe easily again.

Changing your air filter as often as recommended is one of the easiest ways to keep your car running at peak performance.

In this article, you'll learn just how simple it is to remove your old air filter and put a clean one in. With a basic socket set and less than an hour, you can have your car's air filter swapped out.

Why you should change your car's air filter

A clogged air filter has an immediate negative impact on your car's performance. The engine requires massive volumes of air in order to burn fuel and generate power. 

A restricted air flow metering less oxygen to the combustion chamber robs an engine of its horsepower capabilities. 

You'll notice sluggish acceleration and lack of power almost immediately with a dirty filter.

More extensive damage

Over time, all that debris passing through a spent filter causes even more extensive damage. 

Dust and dirt particles wear out critical components like cylinders, piston rings, and bearings prematurely. 

This causes increased oil consumption and oil leaks over time. Tiny particles in high concentrations act like sandpaper inside an engine.

Replacing clogged filters

Replacing clogged filters improves horsepower and torque to like-new levels. Fuel mileage sees improvements as well. 

That’s because the engine doesn't have to work as hard pulling air through a filter heavy with debris. Gas mileage can improve dramatically by as much as 10% or more.

Saves you money over the long run

The small upfront cost of a new filter saves you money over the long run in fuel efficiency gains. It also prevents costly repairs down the road. 

Damaged oxygen sensors, MAF sensors, and EGR valves can trouble PCV and cause engine performance codes. Following the recommended filter change intervals keeps all that at bay.

How often you should change your car's air filter

Most automakers recommend replacing your engine air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. 

But if you do a lot of stop-and-go, dusty, or off-road driving, you should check and change it more frequently. 

Clogged filters cause problems over time but also become less efficient rather quickly with severe operating conditions.

Check the condition of your filter

The easiest way to check the condition of your filter is to remove it during an oil change or other underhood inspection. 

Hold it up to a strong light source and look for thick debris deposits or heavy particulates caked onto the filter material. 

If you see extensive buildup and limited light passing through, it’s time to replace it.

Another way to judge

Another way to judge is by feeling. Run your fingers along each fold or pleat in the filter, pressing in slightly. 

Healthy filters feel springy and resilient while spent filters feel rigid and brittle. If the pleated paper shell falls apart during examination, that filter is useless. 

Any tears or holes also warrant a new replacement.

While you’re under the hood, check the filter housing interior for dirt buildup. Use a clean shop rag to wipe away debris around the housing if necessary. 

Any particulate accumulation means particles have been bypassing the filter, indicating replacement is overdue.

How changing your car's air filter can improve performance

Replacing a dirty, clogged air filter with a clean one brings immediate improvements. Your engine sound will change noticeably, with less straining and raspy noises from under the hood. 

Acceleration lag from stoplights or entering highway on-ramps will disappear. Fuel efficiency sees a nice bump as well.

That's because the engine can now inhale fully. 

All cylinders fire properly when supplied with focused, high-velocity air streams. Horsepower and torque increase, with some drivers reporting gains of over 10 percent. 

Think of it like breathing through a drinking straw, then removing it.

Newfound power

With newfound power, you can feel confident passing slow traffic again. Fuel economy improves too since engines require less accelerator input. 

The 10 percent mileage gain from a fresh air filter comes mainly from engine efficiency and cleaner emissions.

Proper airflow also helps engine components last by keeping abrasive particles away from precision internals. 

You'll experience less wear on cylinders, pistons, piston rings, bearings, and sensors. That means better oil control, less leakage, and happy oxygen sensors.

While often overlooked, a simple air filter replacement really lets your engine truly breathe again. The performance gains make it one of the most rewarding quick maintenance tasks you can perform.

Why a clean air filter is important for your car

Air filters protect sophisticated engine internals from outside contaminants. Over time they become clogged, allowing abrasive particles to enter and erode close-tolerance parts.

This accelerates wear and causes oil loss. Fresh filters restore airflow, prevent damage, and make engines run like new.

How a dirty air filter can affect your car's performance

Clogged air filters severely reduce engine airflow and power. Acceleration lag is noticeable, especially when entering highways.

Engines idle rougher and performance suffers without enough air.

Particles also damage precision internal components like pistons and bearings when filters fail. 

This increases clearances, lowering compression and worsening performance over time. Oil can leak past worn seals and gaskets.

Replacing dirty filters restores proper airflow and power. Acceleration returns to normal, idling smoothes out, and performance improves. 

But waiting too long can cause permanent damage & don't delay filter replacement.


Changing your car's air filter is a quick and effective way to boost performance. A clogged filter can lead to sluggish acceleration and potential engine damage. 

Replacing it at recommended intervals improves horsepower, torque, and fuel efficiency. Regular checks ensure timely replacements, contributing to a smoother-running engine and preventing long-term issues. 

This simple maintenance task allows your engine to breathe freely, delivering immediate performance gains and extending the life of critical components.

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