Your vehicle's engine relies on three things to be able to run – air, fuel, and spark. The air that enters the engine's fuel system has to be clean and free of tiny particulates like grit, dust, pollen and sand. Were these particles to enter the engine, they would soon cause wear and damage.
Prior to the 1960s, engines used an oil bath filter where air would enter the system and be directed across a sump of oil; hopefully, particles would be trapped in the surface of the oil. Oil bath air filters were messy and inefficient and were replaced by a paper element filter in the early 60s. Paper air filters draw air past a pleated paper element, not unlike the intake filter in your home's A/C system.
So how often does the filter need to be changed?
That depends on how you drive, and where you're driving. If most of your driving is in the city, your air filter can easily last 20,000 miles between changes. If you regularly drive on gravel or caliche roads, you can figure on that interval being cut in half. Locate the air filter box under the hood, take out the filter and hold it up to the light. Is it dirty? Will light easily pass through it? Whack it against your hand and see if a cloud of dust flies out. If so...it's time to replace.
A clogged air filter can literally strangle your engine. It can restrict air flow to a point where performance, power and fuel economy really suffer; it's imperative that your vehicle's fuel system breathe freely.
Your vehicle has another air filter, though – the cabin air filter that prevents allergens and dust from entering the A/C system. This air filter is usually mounted behind the glovebox, and its interval for changes can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer. You'll want to check your owner's manual on that one.
Questions? Make an appointment with us at 106 St Tire & Wheel and let's see what's going on with your air filter!