Engine Air Filter: Everything You Should Know
Posted on November 15, 2021
Air; perhaps the most essential element for all living things, is even one of the most important components for your vehicle to run (if it uses a combustion engine of course). The troubling thing with air of course, is that it can be quite dirty; contaminated with dust, debris and the like. So when air is needed for something to run, like a person or perhaps an engine, it is super important it is kept clean.
Enter the air filter. The engine air filter to be exact. Not to be confused for the purposes of this article with the cabin air filter (for which you can find more information about in our blog on cabin air filters).
What is an engine air filter?
The engine air filter resides in the air-intake system (for obvious reasons) to catch all the little bits before they can cause damage to the engine should they travel with the air that far. It is typically made of paper but can be made of cotton or other materials.
Because its purpose is to keep the dirt and debris from entering your engine with the air, it will itself become dirty, thus reducing the flow of air that is so important for your engine to function properly. To simplify: clean filter captures the dirt, there will be clean air in your engine = good; filter becomes clogged with all that dirt, it will restrict the airflow to your engine = bad.
When (and why) should I change my air filter? What are the signs I should change my engine air filter?
Of course, the obvious answer is that you should change your engine air filter as soon as (or just before) it is dirty enough that it is restricting the airflow to the engine and thus reducing your acceleration as well as impacting your fuel economy. When this occurs can depend on a number of factors that all ultimately circle around the quality of the air and amount of dust/debris where you drive most frequently. Most automakers recommend replacing your engine air filter every two years - however, the best way to know when you should change your filter is to check it. At least once a year and at most, during regular oil change maintenance, your filter should be looked at to see if it is ready to be replaced.
How much does it cost to change the engine air filter?
Typically, engine air filters cost between $20 to upwards of $100. If you are paying for a mechanic to change the filter for you, this can cost an additional fee based on their hourly rate. If your vehicle is in for regularly scheduled maintenance, you may not be charged extra labour costs (only the cost for the part). For an exact quote based on your vehicle and filter, reach out to one of your trusted CarHub Service Advisors.
What is the best engine air filter?
The short (and safest) answer is that the best engine air filter for your vehicle is the one it came with originally - this filter was made specifically for this car and any of the manufacturer recommendations (for instance length of time for replacement) would be based on this OEM part.
The next best option is a filter from a reputable parts maker, specifically made for your vehicle. While not the OEM part, many part manufacturers will specially design engine air filters for specific vehicles. This will ensure they fit properly, not allowing unfiltered air to be pulled into the engine.
It is best to avoid generic engine air filters made to fit a variety of vehicles as these increase the risk of improper size/seal.
If you are looking for an aftermarket air filter and want more information from a reputable researcher, see this Best Reviews article where the K&N washable filter and EPAuto extra guard rigid panel came out on top.
If you are looking to replace your Jeep/Dodge/RAM/Chrysler/Fiat engine air filter with a filter specifically designed for your vehicle, reach out to one of your trusted CarHub Service Advisors.
How to change the engine air filter?
If you would like to change the engine air filter yourself, your best bet is to consult your owners manual for specific instructions. Here is a general summary for most vehicles:
- Open hood and locate the air filter housing - typically a black box near the engine with a hose coming out of it.
- Inspect the housing for how it is fastened (can be screws, clips, wing nuts or clamps) and collect any necessary tools to open it. Be mindful of any electrical or wiring harness attachments. Once the housing has been opened, remove the air filter.
- Confirm the air filter is dirty and requires replacement. Clean any additional dirt inside the air filter housing.
- Insert your new engine air filter - rubber rim facing upward.
- Put the housing back on the same way you removed it.
Sharon has been in the auto industry since 2005 and has worked both in the Sale and Service Department of various New, Used, Domestic and Import brands.