How To Change The Air Filters In Your Car

June 27, 2019

It seems like every time you take your car into the shop for some maintenance, the mechanic comes out after finishing up and tells you that your air filter is looking nasty. He shakes it around in your face to prove it; it’s full of dust, leaves, feathers, and regret. But here’s the thing, you’ve already committed to paying for whatever previous maintenance you wanted done, and you’d really rather just be back at home carrying on with your day at this point. Fortunately, unlike other complicated car matters, changing the air filters in your car is really a simple task that almost anyone can do. 

Here is the number one reason you should replace your own air filters: IT'S CHEAP. When you go to a shop or mechanic, you’re going to be charged extra for labor of the employees there. However, if you purchase your own air filters, you can skip out on the labor costs and pocket the extra cash. You can easily find the right air filter you need from shopping for parts online. You literally don’t even have to leave your house! You can find out what kind of air filter you need by searching your car’s make, model, and year here on our website - or by plugging in your VIN number. (More on that here here.)

What Types Of Air Filters Are In Your Car

You may not realize it, but your car actually has two different types of air filters that it uses, which are the engine air filter and the cabin air filter.

Engine Air Filter example

The Engine Air Filter is what removes impurities in the air that your engine uses for the combustion process. Abrasive particles and dust could cause harm to this area, so keeping your engine air filter in good condition and changing it often is a very important maintenance step!

Cabin Air Filter example

The Cabin Air Filter in your vehicle is what keeps the air that flows inside your car free from particles and pollutants. It works in the same way your engine air filter does, but to the benefit of you and your passengers. You want the air in your vehicle’s cabin to be clean!

How Often To Change Car Air Filters

You might be asking yourself how often you should change your cabin air filter or engine air filter. There’s a variety of opinions within the car community regarding the time frame you should give these parts before swapping them out.

For your both your engine air filter and cabin air filter, the average time frame is typically between 15,000-30,000 miles, but this can definitely vary.

You should factor in the road conditions that you typically drive on. For example, if you’re going on a lot of unpaved streets, then you may need to change these filters more often due to the buildup of dust. If you’re not driving a ton, you may be able to go longer without a replacement. The best thing to do is consult with your owner’s manual and even check the condition of the filter if you’re unsure.

Here are 5 Benefits To Changing Your Vehicle's Air Filters

How To Install Your Engine Air Filter

Find Your Air Filter Box

This is the trickiest part of the process, as the location of your air filter box may differ depending on your vehicle. For most newer vehicles, the air filter box is located under your car’s roof, near the front of the vehicle, with a tube sticking out of its side. Usually, it will look like a black plastic box. 

For some older vehicles with carburetors, the air filter is circular and can be found in the air cleaner, which is on top of your engine. If you’re ever unsure of where to locate your air filter box, you can look up or check your vehicle’s manual to be sure.

Removal And Installation

Unclasp the clips that hold the top of the air filter box down and take out your dirty air filter. You can do this by sliding a butter knife or flat end screwdriver under the metal clasps to pop them open. If you have an older vehicle, your air filter box should be openable by a single wing nut that you can twist off. 

Once you have it open, a clear way to know that you need to replace your air filter is by holding it up to the sunlight. If light shines through it, it’s clean, or at least clean enough to wait another month. If light doesn’t shine through, it’s definitely time to change it out. Before installing a new filter, clean out excessive dirt or debris in the compartment itself.

Now that the compartment is cleaned out, place your new air filter into its casing with the colored side facing up and lock those clasps back up or screw the wing nut back on if you’re working with an older vehicle. And that’s it! You now know how to change your own car engine’s air filter!

Changing A Car Air Filter steps

How To Change Your Cabin Air Filter

Locate Your Cabin Air Filter

On most vehicles, the cabin air filter is easy to access. It’s typically located behind your glove box - just open yours up, remove the contents, and find the arm that supports it (usually on the right side). Once you release the support arm, you can release the entire glove box by squeezing two small plastic tabs inward. This will allow you to see the faceplate for your cabin air filter that you can remove to access the filter itself.

Removal And Installation

Now that you have the air filter exposed, you can remove the old cabin air filter by pulling it out slowly. You don’t want to scatter dust and dirt everywhere. Once you remove the old filter, it’s smart to clean out the housing so it’s nice and fresh for the new filter - you can vacuum this space.

Once the space is clean, all you have to do is slide the new filter in the spot where you removed the old one. Just make sure that the airflow arrows on the edge are facing the correct way. Replace the cover and snap it back into place.

All that’s left to do is put your glove box back in. Secure it by sliding the pin back into the support arm or screwing it back into place. Close the glove box, and voila! You’ve successfully changed out your cabin air filter - and will be enjoying clean air in your car’s cabin once again.

The Importance Of Car Maintenance

Apart from changing your air filters, there are many car maintenance services that you can complete with just a tool box and the internet. This will save you both time and money that you would be spending going to a mechanic every couple months. As long as you are being cautious and ordering the right parts, you might be quite surprised at how self-sufficient you’ll feel by learning to take care of your own car. We make it easy here at Suburban Auto Parts to find the specific air filter (or other maintenance parts) for your car that will be the perfect fit.

Want More Vehicle Maintenance Advice? 

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