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Most car owners are aware of how important it is to change the oil and the oil filters in their cars, but they don’t seem to understand why the air filter is vital to a car engine’s operation and why it should be changed regularly.
What does the air filter do? Well, it filters the air that goes to your engine. Why is that necessary? Why is air even in the engine? Let’s break it down.
Internal combustion engines need both air and fuel (and a spark, of course) to run. Burning gasoline or diesel fuel creates expanding gas which then creates the rotational motion that rotates the car’s wheels, via the axle, and makes the car go. If there is insufficient air in the engine, there will be no spark because fire requires oxygen to burn.
The air that enters the engine must be clean because any dirt or dust particles that enter the engine will cause wear and damage within that will be difficult and expensive to fix. The next time you open your hood, take a look at your engine. Do you see dirt and grime? Leaf particles? Even mouse droppings? Those are the things visible to the naked eye. Smaller particles can do a lot of damage inside the engine too. All of that is what the air filter keeps out. It is much simple and much, much cheaper to change an air filter than to replace an engine.
Why is a dirty filter a bad idea? When a filter is too clogged up with dirt and grime, it actually filters the air too much and makes it harder for the engine to get the air it needs. Car engines require a specific ratio of fuel and air (1 to 10,000) to work most effectively. If the engine doesn’t get enough air, it will be stressed. Put enough stress on an engine, and over time it will fail. A very dirty air filter will also rob an engine of its power and reduce its performance. You will likely notice this as decreased gas mileage.
How often should a car owner change the air filter in order to properly maintain his car? Car manufacturers vary with their recommendations. Approximately every 30,000 miles is one industry standard, but if your mechanic indicates that your air filter needs changing when the oil is being changed, definitely do it. Also check your car’s owner’s manual for more specific recommendations for parts replacement and maintenance.
We at Veenstra’s would be happy to look over your car’s air filter and any other parts that are important for your car’s functioning and let you know how they are holding up and if they need to be replaced. Call us today with any of your car repair questions or concerns.