How Often Should You Change Your Air Filter

It’s important to take good care of your vehicle and make sure it receives regular maintenance. Doing this will save you from paying for costly repairs down the line, and it will also help keep you and your passengers safe on the roadway.

One area that's often overlooked is your car's air filter.

Car Maintenance

What is a car air filter?

Just like you need an air filter in your home's furnace to keep dust, pollen, and other particles out of the air, vehicles need filters as well. There are two main types of air filters in your vehicle:

Cabin Filter

The cabin filter cleans the air in your vehicle by filtering out dirt, fumes, pollen, dust, and other things you wouldn't want to breathe in. It also helps protect the vehicle's air conditioning system by preventing harmful build-up.

There are many options for cabin filters on the market today. A traditional cabin filter will do its job well by keeping the air in your vehicle clean. Some people prefer activated charcoal cabin filters. In addition to everything a traditional cabin filter does, activated charcoal cabin filters also absorb odors and fumes in the air around you.

Engine Air Filter

This filter is used by your vehicle's engine to clean the air needed to keep the engine going. It's important to take care of your air filter, as engines need clean air to function properly.

Air filters come in different shapes and sizes to fit your vehicle's specific requirements. Like other air filters, the engine air filter can be made from paper, cotton, or foam.

Where is the cabin filter in my car?

The cabin filter's location varies depending on the make and model of your vehicle. In most cases, it'll be located behind the glovebox.

Where is the engine air filter in my car?

Your car's air filter is usually pretty easy to spot. When you lift your vehicle's hood, you should see the air filter box near the engine.

Why do I need to change my car's air filter?

Air filters are a vital part to your vehicle's performance. A clean cabin filter will help you breathe easier inside the vehicle, just like the engine air filter helps your engine "breathe" and run smoothly.

Old and dirty air filters can cause performance issues. If your cabin filter is clogged, the airflow in your vehicle may get blocked. This is a problem if you're trying to defrost your windshields on a cold day. If you're sensitive to particles in the air, or have airborne allergies, be sure to keep your cabin filter clean to protect yourself.

A clean cabin filter will also help preserve the life of your vehicle's air conditioning and ventilation system.

Similarly, keeping your engine air filter clean is vital to your vehicle's performance. If your engine isn't getting enough oxygen, it won't have as much power. Over time, your air filter can get clogged up with dirt, debris, leaves, or even bugs. If the filter is clogged, you may notice black smoke coming out of your exhaust pipe, polluting the air and warning you that your air filter needs immediate attention.

How often should I change my car's air filter?

Check with your vehicle's manufacturer to see the recommended maintenance timetable, as it will vary depending on the make or model of your vehicle. In general, it's recommended to replace your cabin filter and your engine air filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles.

If you have severe allergies, your cabin filter may need replaced more frequently. Those who live in dry climates with ample dust particles in the air will also have to change their air filter more often.

Of course, air filter maintenance isn't the only type of maintenance! Take a look at the following timetable. Keep in mind that while these recommendations generally hold true, you should check your owner’s manual, as the make and model of your car may require a different maintenance schedule.

Weekly Vehicle Maintenance Self-Checks:

  • Tire pressure and tire condition
  • Headlights, taillights, and turn signals
  • Emergency lights and markers
  • Emergency kit
  • Windshield wiper blades, operation, and washer fluid
  • Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC)
  • Safety warning lamps (brake, ABS, airbag, safety belts)
  • Lap/shoulder belts and seat latches for wear and smooth function

Vehicle Maintenance Self-Check Every One to Two Months:

  • All interior and exterior lights
  • Engine oil levels
  • Engine coolant level

Have Professionally Checked Every 3,000 to 5,000 Miles:

  • Oil change/filter replacement
  • Tire rotation/balance

Have Professionally Checked Every 15,000 Miles:

  • Automatic transmission fluid level
  • Brake pads/shoes/rotors/drums, brake lines, hoses, and parking brake system
  • Engine cooling system
  • Steering linkage, suspension, and drive shaft and ball joints (if equipped)
  • Cabin air filter replacement (if equipped)

Vehicle Maintenance to Have Professionally Checked Every 30,000 Miles:

  • Exhaust system and heat shield
  • Engine air filter and fuel filter replacement
  • Accessory drive belts
  • Automatic transmission/transaxle service (if equipped)

Keeping up with vehicle maintenance not only helps with your vehicle's performance, it will also save you money in the long run by correcting any problems that can arise. It also helps keep you and everyone around you safe, as vehicle malfunctions can lead to collisions.

Is replacing a car's air filter easy?

If you're uncomfortable working with your vehicle, you should take it to a professional. In general, however, replacing your car's air filter is something you can do yourself.

How to Change Your Vehicle's Cabin Filter

Changing the cabin filter will vary depending on your vehicle and the filter's location. You can usually find your cabin filter located behind your glovebox. If so, check your owner's manual for detailed instructions on how to remove the glovebox and get to the air filter.

Cabin filters are sometimes in a spot that you're unable to access yourself (e.g., under the dashboard). In this case, you'll likely need to take your vehicle to a professional to have your cabin filter replaced.

Once you've removed your glovebox, locate your cabin filter. Pay attention to the placement of it, then remove the old cabin filter. Be careful not to breathe in the particles collected on the old filter!

This is a good time to check for build-up in the filter chamber. Vacuum it up while you're in there!

Then, slide the new cabin filter in where your old one was, keeping it in the same direction as the previous filter. Often, there will be arrows on the filter letting you know which direction to place it in.

Finally, replace the glovebox, following the same steps (but in reverse, of course) as you used to remove it. Your cabin air will be fresh and clean again.

How to Change Your Vehicle's Engine Air Filter

Again, changing your engine air filter is pretty easy to do, and is even easier than replacing the cabin filter! Of course, if you'd feel more comfortable with a professional doing it for you, that's okay, too.

To replace your car's air filter yourself, check your owner's manual for recommendations. Your air filter is usually located under the hood encased in a cover. The cover is usually easy to snap apart or unclip. Once you'd removed the cover, you'll be able to remove the air filter, keeping in mind the direction in which it was installed so you can match it later.

Once you've removed the air filter, insert your new filter in the same direction it was in previously. Snap the cover back on and put it back where you found it. It's as easy as that!

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