How a Dirty Air Filter Affects Performance

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When it comes to air filters, many car owners are in the dark. What do they do? Can they affect my car’s performance? When do I need to change them? These are all great questions and signs that a person is conscientious about the “health” of their vehicle. Air filters are crucial to your car’s performance, and failure to keep them in proper repair can cause setbacks in your car’s longevity.

Here are some pointers to help you understand air filters and how they can affect the way your car performs.

What the Air Filter Does

The main purpose of a car’s air filter is to ensure that large debris items like leaves, bugs, dust, debris, and other matter don’t get into the engine’s delicate systems. Basically, the air filter is similar to an allergy mask that some people wear to prevent pollen from getting into their systems during spring time. Similarly, vehicle air filters block larger particles from entering the engine intake, allowing only pure air in.

How a Dirty Air Filter can Affect Performance

As with any other working vehicle part, an engine air filter needs changing over time. This is because the filter tends to collect a large amount of dust, debris, and other blockages as it does its job. These can impede the airflow necessary for the car’s engine to run at its best. This is somewhat similar to what happens when a vacuum’s bag or filter gets filled up- the motor doesn’t work as efficiently when the air flow isn’t 100%.

In most cases, a clogged or dirty air filter might not affect mpg as much as say, a deflated tire, but it can definitely rob your engine of power.Think of it this way—your engine runs on combustion power. In order for that chemical reaction to occur, the engine needs a steady supply of oxygen for the fuel to combust properly. If this is isn’t happening because the air filter is clogged, well, acceleration, power, and torque may suffer.

If you continue to drive while your car is in this condition, it can wreak havoc on other engine aspects as your car begins to struggle over time. For instance, engine choking, and in some cases, overheating due to an improper air/fuel ratio.

How Often to Change The Filter

Vehicle experts typically recommend you change your air filter every 3,000 miles. However, as with any “replacement” estimate, you can’t really pinpoint a precise date on when to change your air filter. The performance of your air filter is doing can depend on many factors, including:

  • Smog and pollution levels in your environment
  • Driving habits
  • The make and model of your car​

Thus, the best way to ensure that your air filter is fresh is to schedule regular complete car check ups at regular intervals.

A Word About After-Market Air Filters

When replacing an air filter, some people opt for non-standard aftermarket air filters to help boost their car’s performance. Due to their construction, these tend to let a bit more air in the system than stock filters. Since combustion depends on oxygen, the more oxygen there is in the system, the better and more powerful the reaction will be.

After market air filters can lead to increases in engine performance, and some increase in gas mileage rating. However, these may be more noticeable in older cars, where the overall air intake has a different format than newer models. For newer models, some “performance” air filters might only make a negligible difference (though this varies of course by car model and air filter type). Check with an auto professional regarding choices of air filters.

As you can see, air filters are an important aspect of the car’s system. In order to keep running in its best shape, be sure your car’s filtration systems are in working order (oil filter systems are another important one to monitor). If you have any questions, or if your car needs maintenance or a check-up, schedule an appointment or stop by Convoy Auto Repair, San Diego’s favorite auto repair shop. Our team of certified auto technicians are ready to assist you with air filter checks and various other services and repairs!