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The engine air filter may be one of the most up sold items in the entire automotive world. But do you really need to have your air filter replaced? Today we will talk about some of the reasons why you may need a new engine air filter. We will also look at how you can be sure you actually need a new one.

What is the Engine Air Filter

There is really no need to over complicate what an engine air filter does. As air is pulled into the engine, the filter prevents debris from getting in the engine. It really is as simple as that.

Why is it important?

Well we answered this question above. The better question is, what happens when an air filter is bad. In this case bad means:

  • Dirty – A dirty air filter will cause your engine to work harder. That can mean decreased MPG, and a reduction in power
  • Wrong, or improper fitment – This can cause a number of issues. An air filter that does not fit properly can allow debris into the engine. It can also alter the flow of air into the engine. In some cases this can fool the sensor that monitors the flow of air into the engine. This can lead to a check engine light, and poor MPG.
  • Old and damaged – An old air filter can actually come apart. On top of allowing debris in the engine, the engine can suck parts of the air filter in to the engine. This can cause damage to the engine.

How do I know if I need a new air filter?

The great thing about air filters is it can be easy to tell if you need a new one.

  • Follow the owners book – Most car manufacturers have a replacement interval. That interval is a great guideline to follow. Just remember that manufacturer intervals do not apply to everyone. For example if you live near the beach you need to replace your filter more often. Sand will clog a filter pretty fast.  Pollen is another factor during spring-time.
  • Visual inspection – This is the only way to if you need a filter replacement. Here are a few things that you can look for:
    • Excessive dirt or sand – Oil saturation, this is can be the result of another problem. Do not just replace the filter if you find oil saturation.
    • Foreign objects, yep, it could be anything from a little critter to a Hot Wheel. None of those things belong on your air filter.

Do you REALLY need a new air filter?

This one depends on the condition of the air filter in your car. If the filter is dirty replace it. If it is clogged up, or falling apart replace it. Let’s say that a service place recommends you replace the filter because “it is dirty”. You should do what I always recommend and ask to see it. If the service department does not have the filter at the ready, they may not have inspected it. If they can show you the dirty filter from your car, ask to see a new one. This will let you see how bad the filter is. It will also let you check and make sure they are using the right filter.