The air filter in your car is an essential component of the engine, as it helps to keep the air clean and free of debris. A dirty air filter can have a significant impact on engine performance, leading to decreased fuel efficiency, increased emissions, and even engine damage. When the air filter is clogged, it restricts the amount of air that can enter the engine. This causes an imbalance in the air-fuel ratio, resulting in unburned fuel being released from the engine.
This unburned fuel can form soot residue that builds up on the spark plug, reducing its ability to produce the spark needed for combustion. In some cases, a dirty engine air filter can reduce a vehicle's fuel consumption by up to 10%. This is because the vehicle must compensate for the lack of oxygen by burning more fuel. In addition to decreased fuel efficiency, a clogged air filter can also lead to extraneous noises and excessive vibration.
Aftermarket air filters can lead to increases in engine performance and an increase in fuel mileage rating. However, these may be more noticeable on older cars, where the general air intake is formatted differently than newer models. For newer models, some “performance” air filters may only make a negligible difference. It's important to get into the habit of changing your vehicle's engine air filter regularly, as specified in the owner's manual.
An air filter won't be changed as often as oil, but it should be done several times a year (approximately every 3,000 miles). If you keep up with regular maintenance, it's not difficult to keep up with proper air filter changes. As a car owner, you need to be aware of the symptoms of dirty air cleaner to ensure your engine stays free of debris. If you experience low fuel consumption or any other signs that something is wrong with your vehicle, consult with an automotive professional about air filter options.