What Happens When Your Car's Air Filter is Dirty?

A dirty air filter can have serious consequences for your car's performance. Learn what happens when your car's air filter is dirty and how often you should replace it.

What Happens When Your Car's Air Filter is Dirty?

A dirty air filter can have a serious impact on your car's performance. It decreases the amount of air supplied to the engine, resulting in an increase in unburned fuel that becomes soot residue. This soot can build up on the tips of the spark plugs, making them unable to produce a proper spark. As a result, your car may move abruptly, idle, and in some cases, the engine may fail.

Decreased fuel economy is another sign that something is wrong. Air filters contribute to fuel efficiency, but a dirty filter can reduce oxygen flow. To compensate for this, your vehicle will burn more fuel than usual. If you notice a decrease in your car's fuel economy, it's likely due to a faulty or dirty air filter.

A dirty or bad air filter restricts airflow, which reduces oxygen in the mixture. Your engine compensates for this by consuming more fuel to produce enough power to move the same distance or speed as it could with a clean filter. Most automotive companies recommend changing the air filter every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or every 12 months. However, if you normally drive in dusty or rural areas such as Scottsdale, Arizona or San Antonio, Texas, it's a good idea to have your mechanic check and change it more often - for example, every 6,000 miles.

Driving in busy areas where there is a lot of traffic - such as Los Angeles and Washington DC - and making it stop and start more often also requires you to replace the air cleaner more often. Most vehicles also have a cabin air filter that is used to clean the air entering the interior of the car, but it has a different maintenance program than an engine air filter. Our certified mobile mechanics perform more than 600 services, including diagnostics, brakes, oil changes, scheduled mileage maintenance - and will come to you with all the necessary parts and tools. A clogged air filter on an older model vehicle will essentially cause the engine to work well since the system has no mechanism to quantify the amount of air flowing - resulting in a cascade of events starting from a rich condition that reduces mileage, causes failures of ignition and even causes possible damage to some components.

It looks the same and basically performs the same function - trapping dirt, dust, contaminants and debris as the air passes through the inlet. Many modern engines draw around 10,000 gallons of air for every gallon of fuel burned in the combustion cycle. Since the engine incessantly pours gasoline constrained to the same proportion without the car knowing - the volume of air in the mixture is actually turned off. For every gallon of gasoline consumed by a car, it must be able to ingest thousands of gallons of air to process that fuel efficiently. If your car moves abruptly when accelerating or responds slower than normal - it probably won't get the air it needs to run at peak performance.

If you notice your car vibrating excessively or you hear coughing or clicking noises - it's often due to a clogged air filter that dirties or damages a spark plug.A clean, properly installed air filter improves fuel economy, increases engine life, reduces emissions and increases acceleration. However, depending on driving conditions - it may be better to change the filter more frequently due to increased contact with common contaminants such as dirt and pollen. Whether or not to clean an air filter depends on the type of air filter you use in your car. Make sure your mechanic checks the air filter when you leave your car for maintenance and follow the manufacturer's instructions regarding replacing the air filter.

Leah Christenson
Leah Christenson

Evil coffee scholar. Lifelong coffee advocate. Wannabe beer guru. Professional web scholar. Hardcore gamer. Extreme travel junkie.

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