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Why Do They Always Show Me My Air Filter When I Have My Oil Changed?

clean engine air filter dirty engine air filter

You Need Clean Air to Breathe and so Does Your Car

In order to survive, humans require clean and healthy air. Surprisingly and maybe a little bit ironically, cars also need clean air to function. Whether you're in a small town or a big city, a vehicle's air filter makes it possible to keep your vehicle's air circulation clean and safe. The non-profit Car Care Council reminds car owners to have the engine and cabin air filters inspected and changed regularly to ensure vehicle longevity and interior comfort. 

Engine Air Filter

A vehicle's engine air filter traps dirt particles that cause damage to engine cylinders, cylinder walls, pistons, piston rings and bearings, eventually leading to the engine losing its power. Parts of the engine will wear out more quickly if dirt and dust get inside the engine. If airflow is restricted, the vehicle's performance and fuel efficiency will decline. 

"A February 2009 study conducted by Oak Ridge National Laboratory found that... Average acceleration times for the vehicles in the study improved by 6 to 11 percent when running on a clean filter.

The study found that typical fuel economy gains for replacing the air filter on carbureted vehicle were in the range of 2 to 6 percent."

Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

Protect Your Engine

The air filter also plays a critical role in keeping pollutants from contaminating the airflow sensor on fuel-injected cars. Air filters should be inspected at each oil change and replaced annually, or when showing other signs of contamination. When the auto technician examines the air filter, you have the opportunity to decide if the air filter needs to be replaced.

"Air filters are your vehicle's first line of defense against contaminants that reduce cabin air quality and negatively impact engine performance...Community car care events held throughout the country reveal that nearly one out of five vehicles is in need of air filter replacement, so it's evident that motorists often overlook this simple, yet important service."

Rich White
Executive Director
Car Care Council

Cost Savings

The cost of an air filter starts around $13 depending on the type of vehicle you own. With this minor investment, you can now prolong the life span of your car saving you tons of money in the long run.

Cabin Air Filter

Another important filter is the cabin air filter, which is responsible for cleaning the air entering the passenger compartment. Under normal circumstances, it helps trap pollen, bacteria, dust, exhaust gases, and other unhealthy compounds, that may find their way into a vehicle's heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system, compromising interior air quality and damaging the system. 

Dog in a green car.
Dog in car.

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Most cabin air filters are accessed through the panel in the HVAC housing, which may be under the hood or placed within the interior of the vehicle. A cabin air filter should not be cleaned and reinstalled. Instead, it should be replaced every 12,000 to 15,000 miles or per the owner's manual.

Annual Replacement 

A good rule of thumb is to replace both the engine air filter and the cabin air filter at least once a year. However, if you begin to experience headaches, allergic reactions, or breathing problems while riding in your car, it's probably time to replace your filters. Your lungs and engine will greatly appreciate this change, making your life easier and healthier!

Green checkmark
Green checkmark

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This article was written with the help and resources from the non-profit Car Care Council. The "Be Car Care Aware" campaign is a consumer education program about the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair, designed to provide knowledge from all segments of the automotive aftermarket industry.

The non-profit Car Care Council is the source of information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign promoting the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair to consumers. To view the Car Care Council's consumer education website, visit www.carcare.org

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