Internal combustion engines require a decent amount of air in order to keep themselves running. Unfortunately, things like dust and pollen in the air are not good for your engine. This is where the air filter is essential in collecting any debris floating in the air and preventing it from getting inside your engine.

Over time, all the collected debris will clog up the filter reducing airflow into the engine which in turn reduces performance. To help maintain your vehicle, the computer monitors the amount of air going through the filter and into the engine. If it detects reduced airflow going into the engine, the computer warns the driver with a light on the dash.

What the dirty air filter warning light means

This dashboard light only has one function, to warn the driver of reduced airflow into the engine. If this light comes on, you should have the air filter replaced or at least inspected. Once the filter is replaced, you may need to turn the warning light off using a reset button. Refer to the owner’s manual of your car or perform an online search to find the location of the button.

If a new filter and resetting the button doesn’t turn the light off, then there is likely a connection issue somewhere that is throwing a false positive. Have a certified technician inspect and test the connections and wires associated with the air filter minder.

Is it safe to drive with the dirty air filter warning light on?

Yes, this light indicates reduced airflow which should only affect your gas mileage and performance. You can still use the car normally, but you will need to get the filter replaced at the earliest. Lower gas mileage makes the car more expensive to run so keeping the air filter maintained can help you keep money in your wallet.

Your vehicle’s manual should tell you how often the filter should be replaced so you have idea of when you’ll need to replace it. If you’re experiencing any issues with your air filter, enlist one of our certified technicians to help you diagnose the problem and replace it.

This article originally appeared on YourMechanic.com as What Does the Dirty Air Filter Warning Light Mean? and was authored by Spencer Cates.


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