How often should you replace your car’s air filter?

5 minute read Published on Mar 30, 2024 by BrokerLink Communications

A person setting in a car and holding clean and dirty cabin air filters

Wondering how often you should replace your vehicle’s air filter? This is a great question to ask, as being proactive about your car will only serve to increase its lifespan and help it run more effectively. Below, we dive into the top of engine air filters, explaining how frequently they should be replaced and why changing your air filter is so important.

What is an engine air filter?

An engine air filter is an integral part of your vehicle. Its purpose is to trap harmful contaminants in the air, serving to clean the air, as well as smother flames if your engine were to backfire. These filters are usually made of chemically-treated paper that is then folded into pleats. Sometimes they also have stainless steel backings. Since air filters can become blocked or clogged, changing them out is important.

The importance of changing your car’s dirty air filter

Changing your car’s air filter is extremely important. This is due to the fact that air filters get dirty. Since their job is to trap contaminants, over time, they can become clogged or blocked due to the high amount of contaminants trapped. When this happens, it can have a negative impact on your car. Specifically, a dirty air filter can affect your fuel economy, causing you to pay more for gas. In turn, a blocked air filter can increase your emissions. On the other hand, by changing your air filter regularly, your car will be more fuel efficient, your engine lifespan will be prolonged, and acceleration and performance will be better. In addition, changing your air filter can save you money down the line as it can prevent major problems from occurring, which could cost much more to fix than simply changing your filter out.

Knowing when to change your car’s air filter

Earlier, we stated that most automotive experts suggest changing your air filter every two years or 30,000 miles. We are going to dive deeper in this topic, however, given that there are other variables that might come into play.

The two-year or 30,000-mile rule should be thought of as a guideline. Ultimately, how often you should change your dirty air filter will vary depending on your driving habits and vehicle condition. For this reason, it is strongly recommended that you check your air filter every 12,000 miles or every time you change the oil in your car.

To check your air filter, lightly tap on it to remove any loose dirt or dust. From there, shine your smartphone flashlight behind it. Your air filter is likely in good shape if you can clearly see the light. However, if the light is very dim or wholly obscured, you should replace your filter as soon as possible.

A few circumstances in which you might need to change your car air filter more frequently include if you regularly drive on dusty, sandy, or gravel roads, if you live or work near a construction zone, if you often drive in extreme temperatures, and if your commute involves lots of idling or stop-and-go traffic.

Factors that influence when your car air filter should be changed

Consider the factors below for further insight into when your car filter should be changed. Each of these factors can impact when and if your air filter needs changing:

What material your air filter is made of

The type of air filter in your car is one factor that can be used to determine when it needs to be changed. Filters can be made of different materials, such as pulp paper or synthetic materials. The latter tends to last longer than the former. Therefore, synthetic filters may not need to be changed as frequently.

Driving conditions

Regularly driving on dirt or gravel roads can necessitate more frequent air filter changes. This is because there is a higher concentration of pollutants for your filter to trap, thereby decreasing the amount of time it takes for it to become dirty or clogged.

How old your air filter is

The age of your air filter is another factor to consider when deciding whether to swap it out for a new one or not. Most air filters are not designed to last more than two years with regular use, so if you haven't changed your air filter in a while, then it’s probably time.

Auto manufacturer recommendations

One last variable to consider is the auto manufacturer’s recommendation. Each manufacturer recommends a frequency for vehicle owners to change the air filter on the specific make and model of the car they drive. Following these instructions is generally recommended.

At the end of the day, if you aren’t sure whether your car air filter needs changing, take it to a licensed mechanic. They can explain when and how to change your air filter and even perform the task for you. A licensed mechanic can also help you with other summer and winter car maintenance types.

It is also worth noting that car insurance does not typically cover air filter changes unless your filter was damaged in an accident. In such an instance, third-party liability car insurance may pay to replace your air filter or another type of coverage under your policy.

How to maintain your car’s filter

If you want to avoid changing your car’s air filter more than necessary, read through the following maintenance tips:

  • Check your air filter regularly, inspecting it for dirt and performing the flashlight test
  • Avoid driving on dusty, oily, or dirty roads that may cause the air filter to become clogged faster
  • Wash your air filter gently and only if approved by your automaker, as not all air filters are meant to be washed
  • Read through your car manufacturer’s guidelines for air filter changes and follow them

Contact BrokerLink

Want to learn more about your car’s air filter? Contact BrokerLink today. As automotive experts, we can help you decide when is an appropriate time to change your filter. Plus, thanks to our insurance expertise, we can also explain the types of auto insurance that are available through car insurance in Toronto. Some of the most common types of car insurance coverage in Canada include:

In addition to helping you find a great policy, you can also request a free car insurance quote at BrokerLink. A licensed insurance broker provides all quotes and are accurate and reliable. A quote is the best way to find out how much car insurance costs per month in Ontario.

On top of the free quotes we offer, another service we provide is offering all kinds of tips and advice. For example, one of our licensed brokers can give you tips for driving on icy roads, explain the steps to take if you’re trapped in a vehicle in the snow, or even provide more information on how snow tires protect winter drivers. Reach out to us today, and let us answer all of your car insurance-related questions!

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