Help Your Car’s Engine Breathe Easier: Change Your Air Filter

Clean air filters will prevent dirt and debris from building up in your engine.

Are you one of the many drivers who neglects to change their car’s air filter on a regular basis? With the purchase of a new car, your sales person will normally include a maintenance schedule of things to have completed such as oil changes, tire rotations, battery checks and other standard items while your car is under warranty.

Amid respiratory concerns about outdoor air pollution, a vehicle’s air filter functions similarly to your lungs. A clogged air filter comes from gradual buildup of dirt and debris. It is recommended that you change your air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. If you live in a rural area where you frequently travel down dirt or sandy roads, you will more than likely have to change your car’s air filter more regularly. The car air filter for your engine is called an internal combustion filter. This is different from the cabin air filters that is used in your car’s air conditioning system.

There are 3 types of internal combustion filters:

  1. Paper air filters are made from specially treated, industrial grade paper that is pleated like an accordion. These standard filters are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace if you want to do-it-yourself.
  2. Foam air filters are made from polyurethane foam soaked in oil. These filters are highly absorbent of dust and are great for vehicles that frequently drive on dirt roads or in off-road motor sports.
  3. Cotton air filters are made of oil-wetted cotton gauze and are better known for high-performance automotive applications such as racing cars.


The auto air filter is usually enclosed in a black plastic casing and is probably the largest non-metal assembly that you see under your hood. Sometimes it is located near the center top of your engine or it could be found to the side in some models. You can easily do a basic air filter change. It only takes a few minutes and will save you money in labor costs.

A clogged air filter could easily cause poor performance, poor fuel mileage and reduced engine life. In addition, it is one of those quick fix tasks that will create a headache of costly engine-related repairs if it is ignored and not replaced regularly. Get in the habit of checking and replacing your car’s air filter with every oil change if you do not want to replace it yourself. If the technician doesn’t automatically check it with your oil change, then ask them to do so.