You may not be ready for car maintenance work, such as changing oil or changing spark plugs, but changing the engine air filter of a vehicle is an easy task. Doing this work yourself can save a lot of money. Many quick lubricant stores charge up to $25 or more for air filter replacement.

Total time: about 3 minutes.

Money savings: $10-$15

If you don’t want to go to a mechanic to replace it, you can easily do it yourself. Here is a step-by-step guide on how you can change your own engine air filter.

Step 1: Obtain the correct replacement filter.

Most cars need to be replaced once a year, but if you drive more than 12,000 miles a year, you may need to replace your air filters more often. You should be able to find a replacement engine air filter at any auto parts store or online.

You can find the size of your filter by referring to your owner’s manual, or by asking one staff in an auto parts store to find a replacement for you based on your manufacture, model and year. Most filters will cost about $15 to $30, making this a simple and inexpensive project.

Step 2: Secure the vehicle.

Park the car on flat ground and then apply the parking brake. Switch to first gear if the car is with manual transmission or Park if the car is with automatic transmission, and turn off the ignition.

Step 3: Open the hood of your car and locate your filter box

Use the lever inside the car to release the bonnet. Remove external bonnet catch for final release. If it’s necessary, lift bonnet and secure it with the prop rod.

Step 4: Find the location of the air box .

The housing of the air box is usually located near the engine, along a pipe that travels from the front of the car. On older cars with carburetors, the engine air filter was usually placed under a large, round plastic or metal cover. Newer fuel injection vehicles often have a square or rectangular air filter housing that can be found slightly tilted in the center between the front grille and the engine.

Step 5: Remove the air filter cover.

Loosen hose clamp that seals air conduction. Loosen all screws holding the air filter cover. Some models have wing nuts. Other engine air filters are simply clamped with a quick release system. Put the screws and other parts together in a safe place so you can find them later. Pull the lid from the air duct and lift it so that it falls off the lower part of the house. If you don’t know how to open the cover, consult a mechanic.

Engine Air Filter Location

engine air filter
engine air filter

Step 6: Take out the air filter.

Engine air filters have a rubber rim that seals off the unit’s interior. Just simply lift the filter out of the housing.

Step 7: Clean the air filter housing.

Connect the air hose to the compressor and either blow out the dust with compressed air or vacuum up the dust with a vacuum cleaner. Seal the air duct with removable tape. It only takes a minute so you don’t get any dirt into the engine while cleaning.

Step 8: Replace the filter.

Change the old engine air filter into a new one. And insert the new engine air filter into the housing with the rubber rim facing up. You have to ensure the edges sealed by the rubber rim.

clean engine air filter housing

Step 9: Replace the cover.

Insert the cover into the air conduit very carefully, and then press the entire cover into the lower half of the air filter unit.

Please make sure it’s straight and safe. Otherwise you may change the performance of the engine. Tighten all the screws or clamps and gently shake the machine with both hands to see that everything is secured. Close the bonnet.

Step 10: Check the efficiency of the engine air filter

Check the filter regularly to keep your car breathing at maximum efficiency by keeping the dust out.

Common Questions You May Want to Learn about Engine Air Filter

  • What is an air filter for a vehicle and how does it work?

Engine air filters prevent pollen, dust, bugs, dirt and other foreign matter from getting into your engine’s sensitive inner workings.

How engine air filters work all comes down to the way the engine works. Just like you, engines need air and have holes to let air in. You have nostrils and cars have air-conditioned entrances. The hair in your nostrils filters the air you breathe, so it’s your first line of defense against particles like dust in the air. They help keep your airways and lungs clean, so they don’t get clogged with garbage and work better.

  • How much does a new car engine air filter cost?

Engine air filters are mainly made from paper they are fairly inexpensive to replace. A replacement engine air filter costs anywhere from $15-$50 for the replacement part.

  • How bad can it get if you don’t replace the air filter?

When an air filter is too dirty, it gets clogged and the engine can’t get enough air into the combustion chamber. When this happens, the engine will use more gasoline or fuel and less air, which will lead to poorer performance and lower fuel efficiency. More likely, your check engine light will turn on. While this rarely causes permanent damage, ignoring the air filter for long enough can cause the engine to stop running completely. Over time, debris from the outside can build up and wreak havoc on the combustion chamber.

  • How often should you change or clean your car’s air filter?

At first, you can check out the answer on the owner’s manual. You can also ask the auto parts stores nearby. And also pay attention to the bad engine air filters symptoms as we mentioned.

In generally, each filter has its own specifications, but on average a standard disposable filter should be changed every 12,000-30,000 miles and a reusable filter should be cleaned every 5,000 miles.

  • Does a dirty air filter effect performance?

Yes. The dirtier the filter, the more likely it is to become clogged with debris, which means less clean air will pass through the filter into the engine. As less air enters your engine, it strives to maintain optimal performance. Eventually, a dirty air filter will lead to a loss of electricity and fuel efficiency.

  • How do I change my car’s air filter?

Your car owner’s manual and the filter you purchased may have basic instructions to replace your engine’s air filters. You can also look for blogs and YouTube videos specifically made for your car and models that will show the step-by-step installation process.

The process of changing an engine’s air filter is actually quite simple. From one car to another, there are some small differences. In some models, for example, the strainer housing can be secured with a simple clip, while in others you need a screwdriver. Generally, there’s nothing to dig too deep in the toolbox.

Take out the filter, throw it away, or try cleaning it, then replace it, seal the casing, and you’re done.

  • Why should I change my air filter?

By changing the filter, the engine’s performance can be improved and its lifespan could be extended. A dirty and clogged filter will damage your engine and result in poor fuel economy and gas mileage.

  • What tool is needed to change an engine air filter?

Only a screwdriver.

  • Is a cotton engine air filter better than a dry one?

A cotton engine air filter and a dry one have performed well under different circumstances. Dry engine air filter is suitable for dusty environment. The advantage of cotton filters is that you can wash them and reuse them as long as you want.

  • Will a new engine air filter improve performance?

A new engine air filter typically won’t improve the performance of an engine but it can restore the performance lost from a dirty air filter.

  • What happens if you don’t change the engine air filter in your car?

The longer you go without changing your engine air filter the harder it will be for your engine to draw in air. This can lead to rough idle problems, a gummed up throttle body, and can even prevent your engine from starting.

  • Can you drive a car without an engine air filter?

You can drive a car without an air filter attached to the air intake but it’s highly advised that you do not.  Driving without an air filter attached to your engine will allow any dirt and debris to be sucked into your engine which is not good for the overall life of the engine.

This would also vastly increase how quickly your engine oil would get dirty and would result in you needing to get your engine oil replaced soon.  If you needed to drive down the block without an engine air filter you should be fine but any farther than that and you’d want to make sure that you have an air filter attached to the air intake of your engine.

You can drive without an air filter, but it is suggested not to do so. Driving without an air filter, your engine will allow any dirt and debris to be sucked into your engine, which is not good for the overall life of the engine.

  • Can I wash my car engine air filter with water?

Most car engine air filters are not designed to be washed with water. They need to be replaced  regularly. There are some K&N engine air filters are designed to be washed with water and reused, but if your air filter is white and feels like paper, it probably needs to be replaced, not cleaned.

If you are not sure what type of engine air filter is installed in your car, then check your owner’s manual to see what the car manufacturer recommends.

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