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How Do You Know When Your Air Filter Needs to Be Changed?

Chances are, every time you take your vehicle in for an oil change—or almost any other service—a technician will ask you if you want to change your vehicle’s air filter. 
Is this a necessary bit of maintenance, or a typical attempt to sell you something you don’t need?

The answer depends on your vehicle, they type of driving you typically do and how long it has been since you swapped out your vehicle’s air filter for a new one. It is not something to dismiss out of hand, however.

A clean air filter provides many benefits for your vehicle, including:
  • Increased fuel efficiency. Just like in your home, a clogged air filter will make your engine work harder. A dirty filter will limit the amount of air getting to your engine; think about how much harder everything you do is when you can’t get enough air. A clean filter will help your engine breathe easier.
  • Improved acceleration. Depending on your make and model, a clean air filter may help your engine work faster, based on several points listed above. Free-flowing air translates to a more efficient fuel-burning machine, giving your car a bit more pep.
  • Reduced emissions. Dirty air in means dirty air out. Do your mother Earth a favor!
  • Prolonged engine life. The better you maintain your engine, the longer it will last. This includes regular oil changes, tune ups and, when necessary, air filter changes.
That said, you do not need to change your air filter every time you change your oil, even if you stretch out this regular maintenance to every 5,000 miles compared to every 3,000 miles. Air filters do not tend to get dirty as fast as oil filters and engine oil. As a general rule, you should replace them every 12,000 to 15,000 miles, unless you drive in excessively dusty or dirty environments. 

Here are some other indicators that you may need to change your air filter:
  • Reduced mileage
  • Unusual sounds emanating from your engine compartment
  • Your service engine light is on
  • Your vehicles a little more sluggish than normal
  • Black or dirty smoke is coming from your tailpipe
  • You can smell gasoline
  • It appears dirty
Your engine will not operate at peak efficiency if it can’t breathe properly. Replacing a dirty air filter is a relatively cheap and easy way to keep your car running well. With these tips, you’ll be able to replace it on time, every time.

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