The average person may not devote a lot of thought to car air filters, but this item is crucial to the smooth operation of a vehicle. The car air filter cleans the air that enters your engine by removing, or filtering, dust and debris that is potentially damaging to the powerhouse of your vehicle. Once a filter becomes especially grimy, however, it isn’t as efficient in doing its job. This can result in poor gas mileage or fouled-up spark plugs, which can ultimately cause bigger problems like engine misses or ignition issues. That is what makes proper car air filter maintenance so important and may prompt you to consider what are bad conditions for a car air filter.
You can lengthen the life of this integral part of your vehicle’s health by following these guidelines:
Avoid dusty or pollen-laden environments. While it’s impossible to avoid such conditions entirely, it is possible to reduce your vehicle’s exposure. Something as simple as parking your car or truck in your home garage instead of driveway or seeking covered parking lots when you’re away from home, can greatly reduce how much dust or pollen makes its way into your car air filter. That way, every time you start your vehicle and allow the engine to warm, you are in a cleaner environment than in the great outdoors.
A too-rich air-fuel mixture is another, more internal, condition to avoid when seeking the best environment for your air filter’s longevity. This situation occurs any time the air to fuel mixture is below the ideal ratio of 14.7:1 and is often caused by issues like a thermostat stuck in the open position, leaking fuel injector, or damaged fuel pressure regulator. Problems like this increase the amount of debris passing through the air filter, eventually leading to the need to change your car air filter.
Avoid stop-and-go driving conditions. While all drivers will have to use their brakes and accelerators, choosing the least traffic-laden routes can be positive for both your car air filter’s health and your nerves. When vehicles have to frequently stop and accelerate, as in heavy traffic or in regions with lots of stoplights or stop signs, more dust and unwanted particles are stirred up and sucked through your vehicle’s systems. This is among the most undesirable bad conditions for a car air filter and is often preventable.
Drivers can’t entirely avoid bad conditions for car air filters, and – even with the most ideal environments – it will still be necessary to change your car air filter from time to time. Some indications that it’s time to replace the filter include reduced gas mileage efficiency, rough idle or the Check Engine light coming on. As part of your car air filter maintenance, you should change it every 12,000 to 15,000 miles even if there are no indications of a clogged filter. Our mechanics are very knowledgeable about car air filter issues and are happy to consult with you about related maintenance and repairs.
This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Conditions Are Bad for a Car Air Filter? and was authored by Elan McAfee.