It's no surprise that vehicles require maintenance. However, certain components and maintenance items are often overlooked when it comes to following a good maintenance schedule.
The engine air filter is one of these components. In reality, this filter serves a critical purpose in your engine's operation and overall health. But just how long does it last? We did the research to bring you the answer.
The longevity of an engine air filter will largely depend on the quality of the air filter and the conditions in which the vehicle is driven. But the typical life expectancy of a disposable engine air filter is anywhere from 12,000 to 30,000 miles.
Serviceable/reusable engine air filters, on the other hand, can go 50,000 to 100,000 miles before being cleaned and oiled. Be sure to consult your owner's manual for specific guidance from the manufacturer.
If you still have some additional questions about the longevity of engine air filters, don't worry. In this post, we'll discuss the topic in more detail. We'll also talk about the signs of a bad engine air filter, whether a bad filter can affect acceleration, how much an engine air filter costs, and more. Without further ado, let's get into it.
How Long Does An Engine Air Filter Last?
A vehicle's engine air filter can last anywhere from 12,000 to 30,000 miles. This range is quite broad, as the actual longevity of this filter will depend on the conditions in which you frequently drive.
Before we talk more about that, we'll briefly discuss the purpose of the engine air filter. Simply put, the engine air filter removes small particulates that enter the air intake to ensure that only fresh, clean air goes into the engine.
It's important for the engine to get fresh air to maximize performance and prevent engine damage. The cleaner the air that enters the engine, the more efficient the engine can run.
Now that we understand the basic function of this filter, we can further discuss how driving conditions will either prolong or shorten the life of this component.
If you mostly drive in clean, dust-free environments, your engine air filter will last longer.
If your vehicle is mostly driven in these environments, you can expect the engine air filter to last closer to 30,000 miles. Since there is less debris for the filter to trap, you'll be able to get more mileage out of it.
On the other hand, if you frequently drive in dusty conditions (think gravel roads, etc.), your filter won't last as long.
Since there are more airborne particulates, the filter will become full sooner. If your vehicle is mostly driven in dusty environments, you can expect the engine air filter to last closer to 12,000 miles.
Serviceable/reusable engine air filters (like K&N filters) can go anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 miles before they need to be cleaned and oiled.
Again, the conditions in which the vehicle is driven will determine how frequently cleaning and oiling will be necessary.
Read more: How Often To Change Car Engine Air Filter?
What Are The Signs Of A Bad Engine Air Filter?
If you don't know when your engine air filter was last replaced or serviced (if your vehicle has a reusable filter), there are some telltale signs that indicate that the filter needs to be either replaced or cleaned.
Air Filter Looks Dirty
The most obvious indicator that an air filter is on its way out is its physical appearance.
Simply gain access to the air filter via the housing in the engine bay, and inspect it. If the intake side of the filter is dirty and full of dead bugs, dust, and other debris, then it's time for a replacement.
Another indicator of a bad engine air filter is a noticeable loss in engine power.
Though such a power loss can be attributed to numerous things, a dirty engine air filter will definitely be noticeable when it comes to your engine's power output.
If you notice that your engine isn't quite behaving like it should, pop the hood and take a look at the filter.
Can The Engine Air Filter Affect Acceleration?
The power loss that results from a bad engine air filter will be most evident when you try to accelerate.
After all, acceleration requires the most engine power. So, if your engine is sluggish when you press the accelerator, the air filter is likely to blame.
Engine Has Difficulty Starting
Similarly, a dirty engine air filter can make it difficult for the engine to start, as a dirty filter means the engine isn't receiving the correct air-fuel ratio.
Decrease In Fuel Economy
If you've noticed a recent decline in your vehicle's fuel economy, the air filter is a likely culprit. For an engine to operate properly, it needs a certain air-fuel ratio.
If the engine is receiving an inadequate supply of fresh air, it will burn more fuel to compensate for this imbalance.
So, if you find yourself at the pump more often than usual, pop the hood and take a look at the filter.
Do You Really Need To Change Your Engine Air Filter?
You might be wondering if you really need to change the engine air filter.
Perhaps an automotive technician recommended an air filter change during your state inspection or while you were having other maintenance performed on your vehicle and you're suspicious about whether this is actually necessary.
You can rest assured that changing the engine air filter is most definitely necessary. Though this component is inexpensive (more on that shortly) and often forgotten, it plays a critical role in your engine's operation.
How Much Does An Engine Air Filter Cost?
Now that we've discussed the importance of changing the engine air filter, we'll talk about how much you can expect to pay for a replacement.
We'll break this section down into disposable filters and serviceable/reusable filters.
Disposable Engine Air Filters
The majority of vehicles on the road have disposable engine air filters. This type of filter typically comes standard. When it becomes too dirty, simply dispose of it and insert a fresh new one.
You can expect to pay $10-20 for a new disposable air filter. Take care to ensure that the replacement filter fits your particular vehicle.
Serviceable/Reusable Engine Air Filters
Brands like K&N offer serviceable/reusable engine filters for added performance.
These filters are of higher quality than their disposable counterparts, and rather than be simply thrown out, they can be cleaned, oiled, and reused. You can expect to pay $40-80 for a reusable filter.
If you want to purchase one of these filters, be sure to double-check that it will fit your vehicle. And if you opt for a reusable filter, be sure to purchase an air filter cleaning kit.
How Do You Change An Engine Air Filter?
Now that we've discussed the purpose of an engine air filter, how to tell when it's bad, and how much they cost, we'll talk about how to actually go about changing it.
Luckily, the process is simple. However, keep in mind that the process will vary from vehicle to vehicle depending on where the air filter housing is located and how it is secured. But these are the basic steps:
- Open the hood.
- Locate the engine air filter housing. If you have trouble finding it, simply find the throttle body (which is near the engine itself), and follow the line until you find the box-shaped housing.
- Remove the clamps/fasteners that secure the top of the filter housing.
- Lift the top of the housing, and remove the filter. Be sure to take note of how the filter is oriented (which side faces up/down).
- Insert a new filter into the housing.
- Reattach the clamps/fasteners that secure the top of the filter housing.
If you're more of a visual learner, take a look at this video guide:
We hope this guide has helped you better understand the purpose of an engine air filter and its recommended maintenance interval.
Remember, this component is an often overlooked yet vital part of your vehicle's performance and overall health.