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Air Filters

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What is the air filter and where is it located? 

The air filter cleans the air headed toward your engine. When you step on the accelerator pedal, the throttle opens up and pulls more air into the engine through the air intake. Your engine needs the air to combust fuel. The air outside your car is full of stuff that you don’t want inside your engine: dust, pine needles, bits of gravel, and insects, among others. Your air filter sits in the air cleaner and catches all that stuff before its gets to your engine. That keeps it from scratching the inside of your engine or contaminating your engine oil. 

In modern cars, which have fuel injection, the air filter is found in the air cleaner box located between the air intake and the throttle body. On older cars, the air filter sits in a cylinder above the carburetor. Air filters are made of pleated paper. 

How do I know if my air filter needs to be replaced?                  

The good news is that all that debris sticks to your air filter. The bad news is that all that debris sticks to your air filter. That means that over time the air filter can become clogged, which restricts the flow of air to the engine. This can result in slight a reduction in acceleration because it’s harder for your engine to “breathe.” 

Different manufacturers recommend replacing the air filter at different intervals. Often, they’ll recommend replacing it every 15,000 miles. Some mechanics may even recommend replacing the filter at every oil change. The best approach might be to check your filter at every oil change.  If it is noticeably dirty, then you should replace it. 

Your owner’s manual can give you guidelines on how often you should replace the air filter. If you frequently drive on dirt roads or somewhere with a lot of pollen, you might have to change your air filter more often than other drivers. 

Can I replace the air filter myself?  

Since the air filter needs to be checked and replaced regularly, it is usually easy to access. You’ll need to open the air cleaner. In a fuel-injected car, this will be a box inside the engine compartment. Usually, there are clips you can undo by hand to loosen the cover. In some cases, there might be screws or bolts to remove. You may also have to disconnect air hoses from the air cleaner. You can loosen their hose clamps with a flat head screwdriver. The air cleaner on a carbureted engine is a cylinder on top of the carburetor. You can remove a wing nut from the top and pull off the air cleaner cover. 

Once you’ve opened up the air cleaner, you can just pull out the air filter and put the new one into place. Make sure you line up your air filter in the same direction as the old one. Your filter may have an airflow arrow that tells you which way to install the air filter.  Once the new filter is in place, you can close up the air cleaner and connect any hoses you disconnected.  

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