Change your Engine Air Filter Regularly

This is an inexpensive maintenance item, but often ignored until problems show up. We will consider 3 critical reasons why engine air filters should be replaced regularly. Air filters (aka air cleaner element) are critical to the optimal performance of any combustion engine. That of your car is no different! Remember, fires CANNOT burn without oxygen (air)! Therefore no matter the amount of gas you have in your gas tank, if there’s no oxygen, your car won’t fire up. And I can also say that if oxygen were not present in the atmosphere, cars would have had oxygen tanks (Guess we wouldn’t have been here anyway)! Engine air filters serve to rid the air of impurities to ensure that clean air gets to the combustion chambers. However, just like most filters; they clog with time. Majority of car manual I’ve come across recommend changing the air filter every 15,000 miles and that the change interval be reduced if the car is driven in dusty environments or consistently in heavy traffic. Clogged filters mean air starvation and engines have a tight air-fuel ratio that must be kept for optimum performance. Below are some of the benefits of having a clean engine air filter.

1. Improved Acceleration: Nothing can be more annoying to a passionate driver than pushing on the pedal and the and the car responds hang on I’m coming. I hate it! A clean filter will ensure the correct volume of air is delivered at the right volume per time for near-perfect combustion. This will improve acceleration. A compromise in air supply to the engine will lead to sub-optimal, below par acceleration.

I had a nasty experience with this some years ago. Hadn’t changed my engine air filter in a long while, although I cleaned it a bit regularly with compressed air. It suddenly got to a point where if I needed hard acceleration, once my RPM got above 4000 I would loose power despite having my throttle floored. RPM readings on my tachometer will just drop on its own till I lifted my foot off the pedal and stepped on it again to accelerate gradually. Because it appeared the car couldn’t move into next gear, some mechanic was thinking of a problem in my automatic transmission! It then progressed to the point where I would hit a rev limiter even in standstill position. Yet this scenario didn’t trigger a check engine light! No codes at all! Finally, my mechanic upon hearing my account of the ordeal immediately pulled off my air intake hose and voila! Rev limiter gone!

The lesson from this short story is that filters should be replaced at the recommended intervals and not just air cleaned. You may air-clean midway to the recommended change interval, but always replace once its time. Funny thing is, the old filter may still look good to the naked eye but for the engine, its starving it of air!

2. Improved Engine Efficiency: This would result from a more efficient combustion process and will improve your gas mileage.  It should also be noted that when engines are starved of air, the air/fuel mixture can become rich (more fuel than usual in the air-fuel mix) and this will foul spark plugs. Fouled spark plugs will cause engine misfires ad hamper performance.

3. Engine protection: Air filters prevent debris from getting into the where they cause engine wear. You may be surprised but its been said that debris as small as a grain of sand can cause piston wear. You really don’t want that.

In conclusion, do make the change! Replace your engine air filter regularly according to manufacturer recommendation.

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