What Do Air Filters Do For Your Engine?

car accessories

The air filter under the hood of your vehicle helps to keep the engine running clean. It is important to regularly replace this filter to maintain the optimal conditions for combustion. Find out more about how this small, inexpensive filter can impact the longevity of many of the most important car parts in a vehicle with a gasoline-powered or diesel engine.

Improve Performance and Efficiency

The air filter in a vehicle enables air to pass through the air intake to the engine cylinders without carrying any debris along for the ride. This part is located near the top front or side of the engine on newer models with fuel-injection systems or over the carburetor in older vehicles. Over time, this filter maintains cleaner operating conditions for the engine as well as the carburetor or fuel injection system. By providing a clean supply of air, an air filter replacement may increase fuel economy by up to 14% and even increase acceleration in the range of 6% to 11% on fuel-injected engines.

Keep the Engine Running Clean

In addition to restricting airflow, a dirty air filter may also become less effective at filtering out dirt and debris. Particulate matter that enters the engine, carburetor or fuel injection system leads to buildup that can reduce performance and cause the engine to work harder, which may result in premature part failure. If you put off a filter replacement for too long, any of these parts may accumulate buildup and you may also have to replace fouled spark plugs. It may be possible to clean and replace a filter that is only covered with a thin layer of dirt. Switching out a dirty auto air filter is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to maintain optimal operating conditions for the engine in any gasoline-powered or diesel engine.

Reduce Emissions

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A plentiful supply of clean air allows for more complete combustion and enables the emission control system in a vehicle to deliver a more precise mixture of air and fuel to the engine. While it can be hard to detect heightened emissions without dedicated testing, one of the first indications that you need to replace an air filter may be a drop in fuel economy. You should also pay attention to signs of sluggish performance such as reduced engine power or throttle response, rough idling or weak acceleration. A dirty air filter can eventually lead to problems that cause the check engine light on your dash to illuminate and may require more extensive repairs.

The air filter on newer vehicles is typically located inside the plastic housing. You will need to open clips or take out screws to remove the filter and clean the housing before inserting a replacement. Most filters on fuel-injection vehicles require replacement every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. Older cars have round filters that are often located in a round metal housing above the carburetor and secured by a wing nut. Check the owner’s manual for your vehicle to determine the frequency with which you will need to replace air filters.

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