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How to Change Your Car's Air Filter

By: StaffPublished August 31, 2021

With gas prices soaring these days, everyone is looking for new ways to save at the pump. You might be surprised to learn that changing your car’s air filter can have a definite impact on not only your vehicle’s gas mileage, but also its overall engine life and performance. Give yourself a break from hoarding those gas perks and find out how you can take on the quick, easy and inexpensive process of changing your own air filter.

Do I Need a New Air Filter?

In general, try to change your air filter every 12 to 15 months, or every 10,000 miles. Start your routine replacement on an easy-to-remember mile marker (e.g., 130,000 miles) so recognizing the next 10,000 miles (140,000) becomes obvious. While you should try to stick to a schedule, keep in mind that your driving environment can also affect your replacement schedule. If you live in a city with poor air quality or if you travel a lot during spring and summer months when dusty construction work is at its finest, you may need to change your air filter more frequently. And if you’re still not sure, the best way to find out is to pop the hood and look for yourself to see if your filter is clogged by dirt.

What’s the Price Tag?

Changing your car’s air filter on your own can mean saving up to $30 per replacement—that’s nearly an extra tank of gas. You might be charged $20 to $40 dollars at Al’s QuickieLube Stop, but buying your own filter will only cost you about $10. And don’t worry, your labor cost will be minimal. All you’ll need to figure out is your rate at five minutes’ worth of work.

How Do I Change My Car's Air Filter?

So you know it’s time to change your air filter, you know how much it’ll cost you and you’ve even purchased the matching replacement (and that extra tank of gas). Now what?

  1. Situate your car. Park your car in a shaded area, turn off the ignition and release the hood. Take a few moments to let your car cool down and run to the garage to grab two screwdrivers, a standard and a Phillips head, to use later.
  2. Find the air filter. It’s typically located on top of the engine in a black plastic casing close to the size of a breadbox. In older cars, look for a round shape, and for newer models, a square box. Your manual should contain a picture if you’re not sure.
  3. Detach the filter cover. There will be a few metal clamps holding the casing onto the filter. To remove this cover, use your standard screwdriver to pry the clips off. Unscrew any screws that may be in place, too, and keep them in a safe location so that you’ll be able to reapply them later. Work around the casing’s perimeter to loosen it, and then pull the cover off to reveal your air filter.
  4. Remove the old air filter. It’s usually made of cotton, gauze or paper with a rubber rim and can be white, orange, red or yellow. Simply pull it out of its housing.
  5. Clean the filter housing. Wipe or vacuum out any dust or dirt stuck in the housing where the filter rests.
  6. Replace the filter and cover. Pop your replacement filter in, cover it back up and you’re good to go.

You’ve just saved yourself some extra cash—and your car some engine life—by learning how to change your air filter on your own. Now grease up and get to it!

car air filter.jpg

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