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When is the Best Time to Change Your Car’s Air Filter?

Mechanic replacing dirty car cabin air filter with clean filter

How many years does a car air filter last? Rather than considering the age of the filter, it’s best to look at its condition. Your car’s air filters are designed to ensure the air entering the cabin and engine is clear of pollutants. Over time, these filters accumulate dirt, debris and contaminants, hindering engine performance and compromising your car’s air quality. That’s why knowing when to replace a car air filter is crucial for a smooth-running engine and healthy cabin air quality.

Replacing the Engine Air Filter Vs. Replacing the Cabin Air Filter

There are two types of air filters in your car: the engine air filter and the cabin air filter. The engine air filter is under the hood and prevents dirt and debris from entering the engine. The cabin air filter is in the passenger compartment and helps keep the air inside the car clean and fresh. Both filters serve different purposes and have different replacement intervals.

Can I Clean an Air Filter Instead of Replacing It?

Some air filters are washable and reusable, but most car manufacturers recommend replacing the air filter rather than cleaning it. Cleaning may not effectively remove all contaminants, and reusing a worn-out filter can compromise its filtration efficiency. It’s often better to simply replace it.

Benefits of Replacing the Air Filter for Health and Car Performance

Replacing your car’s air filters provides several benefits. The clean airflow through a clean engine air filter helps maintain optimal engine performance, reducing strain and improving fuel efficiency. A clean cabin air filter makes the air quality healthier inside your car because it filters out allergens, dust and pollutants. This small maintenance task is less expensive and stressful than the major car repairs that can result from neglecting these filters.

When Should I Replace My Car Air Filter?

The replacement interval for the engine air filter varies depending on your driving conditions, the air quality where you drive and the make and model of your car. It’s recommended to replace the car engine air filter every 20,000 to 25,000 kilometres (12,000 to 15,000 miles) or every 12 months, and sooner if you frequently drive in dusty environments.

The best time to change your car filters is during a maintenance tune-up at your local auto centre, where a technician can inspect them and replace them when they become dirty or clogged.

6 Common Signs of a Dirty Air Filter

A failing air filter can manifest in several ways. Here’s how to tell if a car air filter needs replacing:

  1. Reduced fuel efficiency. If you find yourself gassing up more often, check the air filter. When clogged with dirt and debris it limits airflow to the engine, reducing fuel efficiency.
  1. Reduced acceleration. Is your engine failing to respond properly when you step on the accelerator? Jerky movements and slow acceleration could mean your engine isn’t getting the amount of air it needs.
  1. Ignition trouble. If you need to turn the key or press the ignition button more than once, it could mean a dirty air filter. Dirty engine air pollutes the spark plugs and prevents them from sparking, resulting in starting problems or unusual sounds coming from your engine.
  1. Black smoke from the exhaust. When this happens, schedule an appointment with your mechanic right away. An insufficient air supply can result in some fuel not burning and exiting your vehicle through the exhaust pipe. This can also cause a gasoline smell when you start the engine.
  1. The service engine light comes on. Limited airflow due to a dirty filter can cause deposits to accumulate in the engine, which can trigger the light.
  1. Bad odours. A musty or stale smell in the cabin indicates that it’s time to change the car air filter in the cabin.

New air filters are typically white or off-white. If an air filter is grey or full of particles, now’s the time to replace it. However, sometimes the particles are too small to be noticed. Ideally, you should have your car air filters checked by a professional car care technician.

How Often Should I Replace the Cabin Air Filter in A Car?

The cabin air filter is responsible for cleaning the air inside your car’s cabin. The typical interval recommended to change your cabin air filter is every 12 to 18 months. Do so sooner if you frequently drive in polluted areas or you notice reduced airflow or unpleasant odours inside the vehicle.

Can an Air Filter Affect Car Performance?

Yes, a clean air filter is essential for optimal car performance. It allows for proper airflow to the engine, ensuring efficient combustion and fuel economy. A clogged or dirty air filter restricts airflow, leading to reduced engine power, decreased acceleration and potential damage to engine components.

Air Filter Replacement in Vancouver and Throughout British Columbia

During a maintenance tune-up at Minit-Tune & Brake Auto Centres, one of our certified technicians will check and replace your car air filter if necessary. We’ll also check every facet of your vehicle to ensure it runs efficiently and safely. Contact us today to book an appointment at one of our 15 convenient locations in B.C. and Alberta.


Minit-Tune & Brake Auto Centres Address Common Issues

Here at Minit-Tune & Brake Auto Centres in British Columbia, we’re always pleased to help our customers get the most out of their cars and trucks. To that end, we’ll add a relevant blog topic from time to time to keep you up to date and getting the most out of your vehicle.