Air filters should be periodically replaced as outlined in your car manufacturer’s servicing schedule. Most manufacturers recommend replacing the air filter every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or once every 12 months. It makes sense to replace the air filter at every routine service, at the same time as the oil and oil filter.
That said, if you live somewhere dry and dusty like Southern California or Southwest Arizona, your air filter will become dirty and clogged quicker. Similarly, if you live in a built-up area with a lot of traffic and pollution, your air filter will need replacing more often. In either case, you will want to change the air filter more regularly to avoid any issues; every 6,000 miles or twice per year should be sufficient.
If you suspect that your car’s air filter is dirty because you’re experiencing some of the symptoms listed above, you may want to check the filter’s condition to be sure it is a problem. Thankfully, checking the condition of the air filter is quick and easy, and you don’t need any specialized tools to do it (apart from a screwdriver).
Your air filter will start to darken and have visual contamination when it’s bad, just like how a vacuum cleaner’s filter gets dirty. That’s not always the case, though. The outside of the filter may appear to be clean, while the inside is full of dust and dirt.
A good rule of thumb is if the air filter looks clean and is under a year old, keep using it. If you’ve done more than 15,000 miles or it has been over a year since it was last changed, you should replace it, even if it looks clean. An air filter is cheap and easy to change, so there’s no reason not to change it if you suspect it’s causing problems.
Another way to check on the status of your air filter is to remove it from your car’s intake manifold. Once you remove it, run your finger along the piping. If you notice dust on your finger, it’s time to replace the filter. Additionally, if you’re running an aftermarket air filter, it’s important to check with the manufacturer because some are reusable.
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