Does it seem like car problems always pop up at the wrong time? When you are in a hurry to get to the office, drop off the kids at daycare, or preparing to leave on a big road trip, the last thing you want to deal with is a vehicle that doesn’t run properly. The headache, the inconvenience, the cost, it’s all worth avoiding if possible, right?

Replacing Car’s Air Filter

(SplitShire / pixabay)

The Need for Regular Maintenance

While encountering mechanical issues is an inevitable part of owning a vehicle, you can significantly improve the life of your car by performing regular maintenance. Consistent and proper car maintenance is the key to having a safe and reliable vehicle. Plus, doing a few small and inexpensive tasks can help you avoid some major, costly fixes down the road.

One such task is replacing your car’s air filter. Every car’s engine needs oxygen to operate, and an air filter ensures clean, good air makes it there. An air filter prevents debris, bugs, sand, particles, and dust from entering your engine, giving your engine the air it needs to function at its best.

Air filters don’t last forever though. Over time, they become clogged with all the dirt and dust they have filtered out and need to be replaced. How do you know when your air filter should be switched out? Here are the top seven signs.

1. Check Engine Light – It’s like a punch to the gut when that dreaded check engine light comes on. That tiny light tends to make people think of the worst-case scenario, but it can also indicate something as simple as a dirty air filter. When an air filter becomes clogged, the lack of airflow results in a buildup of carbon deposits, which can trigger the check engine light to come on. Since a check engine light turns on for all sorts of reasons, make it a point to verify the diagnostic code and go from there. A seasoned mechanic can read the code the detect the issue.

2. Abnormal or Strange Sounds – Listening to your car is an excellent way to catch issues before they escalate into expensive problems. By getting to know the sounds of your particular vehicle, you can better identify when something sounds off. When it comes to problems with your air filter, your engine can make abnormal noises when deprived of clean air. It may make popping, coughing, or gurgling sounds.

3. Black Smoke from Exhaust – Engines need both air and fuel to operate. They work together to ensure your car burns fuel properly. Black smoke coming from your exhaust is a clear indication that your vehicle has too much fuel in the combustion chamber without sufficient amounts of oxygen to burn it.

4. A Gasoline Smell – A blocked air filter hinders your engine’s ability to move through fuel, and the lack of oxygen results in lingering fuel that does not burn all the way. It then exits through the tailpipe and produces the smell of gasoline.

5. Misfiring Engine – Unburned fuel issue can also cause your engine to misfire. Unburned fuel creates soot residuals. Soot residuals accumulate on spark plugs. Dirty spark plugs do not function correctly. If you press on the gas and your car jerks, consider changing out the air filter. Furthermore, if your car has difficulty turning on, check out the air filter.

6. Decreased Horsepower – Feel like your car doesn’t get up and go as it once did? It could be the air filter. If you press on the accelerator, and your car doesn’t respond adequately, that might mean the engine is not getting the air it needs to accelerate quickly.

7. Dirty-Looking Air Filter – It is always a good idea to visually inspect your actual air filter, especially if you are experiencing some of these troubling signs. A new air filter begins as a white, off-white, cream, or light grey color. Dirt or dust on the outside will discolor or darken it, but don’t stop your check there. Physically inspect the inner and folded layers of filter paper too.

Time for a Change

Don’t underestimate the power of a new air filter. The vitality of your car relies on it. Most owner’s manuals recommend switching out the air filter every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. You can have the technician at your Sugar House tire shop perform the work while they rotate your tires and keep your care running at its best. No car is exempt from the potential damage caused by a dirty air filter. Do yourself (and your car) a favor, and make sure to replace this key component of the air intake system regularly.