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Replacing Your Car Air Filter: A Step-by-Step Guidance

Replacing Your Car Air Filter: A Step-by-Step Guidance

Replacing your car air filter is not a complicated job, and it's something you can do by yourself without needing a professional. All you need to do is to follow these simple steps:

Auto Repairs Are EXPENSIVE

  1. Locate the air filter
  2. Take out the old air filter
  3. Compare the new to the old air filter
  4. Install the new air filter
  5. Close the air filter housing

Your engine air filter is a small but critical component that prevents debris or contaminants from getting to the engine. However, since the filter gets clogged over time of use, you must replace it whenever needed.

Replacing your car air filter is not a complicated job, and it's something that you can do by yourself once you follow the right procedure. This article provides you with step-by-step guidance on how to replace your vehicle's air filter without needing a professional. It also provides you with other details about the benefits of replacing the air filter and how much it will cost you if you replace the air filter at an independent shop.

What is the car air filter, and what does it do?

Your vehicle's air filter is one of those small components typically overlooked whenever we discuss car maintenance. However, the air filter plays a significant role in your vehicle, and if it goes bad, it leads to significant issues that challenge some of the major components.

As the name suggests, your vehicle's air filter is responsible for preventing any debris or contaminants from making their way to important elements in your vehicle. Unfortunately, if this debris or contaminants make their way through and passive air filter, they lead to major mechanical problems that could cost you thousands of dollars.

Overtime will use, the air filter collects a lot of contaminants, and at some point, it gets either partially or completely clogged. When this happens, you'll notice a significant reduction in your vehicle's overall performance, and the engine will be very stressed all the time. This is because the engine starts receiving dirty air with a lot of foreign materials that could prevent the engine from producing the good energy with the right amount of fuel.

It is important to note that there are two different air filters in your vehicle: one associated with the engine and ensures that the engine does not receive dirty air. However, another one is called the cabin air filter, which is responsible for preventing any contaminants from getting inside your vehicle when you turn on the AC system or the heating system. Thus, the engine air filter impacts the vehicle's performance, while the cabin air filter impacts your health, especially if you have issues with your respiratory system.

Replacing your car air filter: a step-by-step guidance

Let's take a closer look at how you can replace your vehicle's air filter:

  1. Locate the air filter

The first step in replacing your vehicle's air filter is obviously to find where the air filter is located. Typically, it should be enough black plastic box either on the top or on the side of your vehicle's engine. If you find locating the air filter challenging, you can always refer to your vehicle's owner’s manual and get accurate guidance.

  1. Take out the old air filter

Once you locate the air filter housing, it is now time to remove the old air filter. You can open the housing, and sometimes you might need to unscrew some of the screws or remove specific clamps depending on your vehicle's type. Different types of fasteners are connected to your air filter housing, which means that you need to first look at the fasteners and get an idea about what tool is needed to take it out.

After opening and removing the air filter housing box, you can remove the old air filter, and you'll see that it's filled with a lot of contaminants and debris.

  1. Compare the new to the old air filter

Before you move ahead with installing the new air filter, it is a good habit to compare the old filter to the new one and make sure that you purchased the right filter. There are many instances where customers try to replace the air filter with the wrong brand, which is a good time to do this quick inspection.

  1. Install the new air filter

Once you finish the comparison, you can go ahead and install the new air filter. You must follow the right direction on which side of the air filter goes down first. It might be worth taking a picture of the old air filter first so you can get an idea about how to put the new one.

  1. Close the air filter housing

After replacing the air filter correctly, you can go ahead and close the air filter housing and then reconnected with the engine the way it was before you took it out. Be careful about how you tighten the fasteners, so you don't break them but at the same time not keeping them loose.

How often should I replace my car air filter?

Typically, you might need to replace the car air filter once every 12,000 miles or 15,000 miles. However, the range might differ significantly on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, your family must be worse off with different symptoms indicating that the air filter is going bad, so you can replace it without waiting until the issue gets complicated, requiring a lot of money on the repair.

What are the common symptoms of a bad air filter?

As we indicated earlier, while you were recommended to replace the air filter once every 12,000 miles to 15,000 miles, you might notice that the air filter is due for replacement before then. Therefore, you must look at the following symptoms of a bad air filter:

  1. Weird engine noises

One of the first and most common symptoms indicating that your air filter is due for replacement is hearing weird noises coming from the engine when the vehicle is stationary. If you realize some noises like spitting or popping noises, it indicates that the engine is not getting enough airflow or is not clean.

When the air filter is partially or completely clogged, a very small amount of air gets to the engine, making the engine try hard to suck up more air from the small, lifted areas around the air filter. That's why when the air filter is completely clogged; the engine might not even work at all. You will immediately realize that the air filter is partially clogged before you reach that stage of a completely clogged air filter.

  1. Significant reduction in your vehicle's performance

As a result of a called air filter, the engine will work much harder, making the engine much longer until it produces the right amount of energy. Therefore, you will realize that the vehicle is not performing as it should, and the engine is not producing enough power to get it going as usual.

  1. Significant reduction in your vehicle's fuel economy

Another common symptom of a bad or a clogged air filter is a significant reduction in the fuel economy. This is because the engine requires a specific ratio of air to fuel, so it works properly. However, with the air filter clogged, air cannot come to the engine with the right quantities. Therefore, the engine will receive much more fuel than air, which means that your vehicle's fuel economy will be reduced significantly.

  1. Black smoke coming from the tailpipe

Typically, the smoke coming from the tailpipe should not have a clear color if your vehicle is in good condition. This might not be the case if you're driving an older car, but you will immediately know when the smoke has a different appearance. Experts indicated that if you notice that the smoke has a dark black color, it might be an issue with a clogged air filter. Therefore, you should consult your mechanic and get the air filter replaced or do it yourself.

  1. Petrol smell in the exhaust

With less air getting the engine, your vehicle's engine will not burn the fuel properly, and that's why you'll start smelling some petrol inside the vehicle.

  1. A dirty air filter

If you performed a visual inspection of the vehicle's air filter, you'd see that it's dirtier, which means it's done for replacement.

  1. A check engine light illuminating

Finally, in severe cases of clogged air filters, you might realize that the engine one to work successfully will raise a check engine light. When the check engine light is raised, you mustn't ignore the problem and take it seriously. Keep in mind that the check engine light illuminating is not only linked to a clogged air filter, which means that your mechanic needs to do further research to confirm that it's a bad air filter.

How much does it cost to replace a car air filter?

Replacing your vehicle's air filter is not very expensive, and it depends heavily on where you get the job done. For instance, if you do the job yourself, it should not cost you more than $20, which is the air filter price. However, if you decide to go to a professional, it might cost you up to $85, depending on where you get the job done in a mechanics shop or a dealership.

That's why it's recommended that you give it a try and learn how to replace the air filter yourself to save on labor costs. However, it is important to note that if you don't have the right level of experience, which is not a lot, you still are not encouraged to experience in your vehicle, especially if you feel that you're going to introduce some mistakes that could cost you a lot of money on repairs.

What are the benefits of replacing your car's air filter?

While replacing your vehicle's air filter helps maintain the right amount of clean air getting to the engine, there are many other benefits that you can achieve immediately after you install a new one, including:

  • Significantly enhancing your vehicle's fuel economy
  • Illuminating that emission that could, of the exhaust system due to improper combustion
  • Extending the lifetime of your engine


Replacing your car air filter is not a complicated job, and it's something that you can do at home without needing a professional here. This way, you can save a ton on labor costs. In addition, by replacing the air filter, you enhance your engine's performance and prevent engine damages and reduce costs on fuel economy.

This article provided you with a step-by-step procedure on how to replace your car air filter successfully without needing a professional. It also showed you some symptoms indicating that your vehicle is due for air filter replacement.

Keep in mind that no matter how much you take care of the air filter, replacing the air filter might not be a good solution if the engine has major mechanical problems. Therefore, if you realize that repair costs are piling up, it might be time to sell your vehicle and use its value towards a better car that does not have any mechanical problems.

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