Projects The Car Engine Clean Air Filter

Skill Level: Easy / DIY 0:30
This service requires a basic level of car knowledge and can be done easily in your garage.
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Cleaning / Changing Your Air Filter

Keeping the air flowing to your engine is critical to maintaining performance and extending the life of your internals. Lack of air to the engine can cause sputtering, loss of power, and damage to rings and the pistons.

Disposable or Reusable?

Most vehicles come with disposable air filters that are designed to be disposed of and replaced when they get dirty. Unless you are in a position where you need to quickly and regularly replace your air filters and can not wait for them to dry, I would highly recommend going with a reusable air filter. Not only are the reusable filters better for the environment, but you can easily clean them and save money in the long term. This is one of the first upgrades I do on all my vehicles.

Be aware that you will need to let your reusable air filter fully dry before you can oil it and re-install. I typically do this either in the evening so it can dry overnight or on a day when I won't need my vehicle. Having two (or more??) vehicles makes this a little less inconvenient, but if you only have one vehicle make sure you don't trap yourself at home if you have somewhere to be.

Step 1. Locating and Removing the Air Filter

Most air filters are pretty easy to find, they are usually on top and look like they are either feeding in to the wheel well or the front of the vehicle. Air intakes are designed to pull colder air from outside the engine bay because it can compress better and will give you better performance.

Once you find where the air filter is, unclip the cover and open up the housing to remove the filter.

The air filter housing is outlined in yellow, unless you drive a SN95 mustang, this will look different.

Once you have opened up the cover, you will see the internal filter screen (first picture). That is attached and does not come off. You can usually see some sensors behind the mesh. The air filter should be easily removable at this point.

Step 2. Replacing the Filter

If you have a paper filter and do not intend on using a reusable filter, check to see if the filter is clean. If it is you can reuse it, otherwise dispose of it and grab your new one.

If you have a reusable filter, clean it, let it dry, and replace it. I personally use K&N air filters. Their reusable one is nice, and they have recharge bundles that come with a cleaning solution and oil. This isn't sponsored or endorsed, just what I personally use.

Once your filter is ready, place it back into the housing, seal it back up, and you are good to for another 6 months / 15,000 miles.

Did you know?

After market cold air intakes are an easy and popular among car enthusiasts as its an easy bolt-on upgrade and adds instant performance. You may have also seen nitrous oxide systems (NOS) in movies where the driver pushes and a button and the car leaps forward. When they push the button extremely cold nitrous oxide is mixed into the air going into the engine and causes a more powerful explosion within the engine.


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