Replace Air Filters for Improved Vehicle Performance

A sluggish car could mean any number of things, each of which could be expensive. But drivers often overlook an inexpensive part of the car's mechanics that can be contributing to slower acceleration and overconsumption of fuel -- the air filter.

A vehicle has air filters and fuel filters that help to remove impurities and promote better engine performance. Over time, these filters can become clogged with grime and debris. A clogged filter cannot thoroughly do its job and impurities could be making their way into the engine and other systems of the car, compromising performance.

Experts say that thoroughly maintaining air filters is one of the single-most inexpensive and effective ways to improve overall vehicle performance. Changing a car's filters on a regular basis can have a significant impact on engine life. Understanding how an air filter works helps a person realize why replacing them when clogged is essential.

A vehicle's engine is a large, gas-fired air pump. Air comes through the air intake and travels through the air filter. Gas is added to the air and compressed in the cylinders. When the air-gas mixture is dense enough, the spark plugs fire to ignite the mixture and power the car's pistons. When all the pistons fire as they should, the driveshaft turns and the car moves.

Because this process requires a specific air and gas ratio, the air filter is important. Dirty filters can "choke" the engine, preventing it from turning over. It can also decrease the efficiency of the vehicle, thereby decreasing fuel efficiency.

Many oil change shops will offer to change an air filter at an additional charge. Some places will mark up the air filter replacement, and it could cost drivers a lot of money. Actually, replacing an air filter is a relatively easy procedure -- one most do-it-yourselfers can handle.

The air filter is generally housed in a large, plastic black box under the hood. The box cover is often held in place with large metal clips or screws. Therefore, bring screwdrivers along for replacement.

Once the box is located, open it up to reveal the filter. Inside the filter is often white, bright yellow, orange, or red. Remove the grimy filter and set aside. (Older cars may have a doughnut-shaped air filter housed in a round box).

A new filter costs anywhere from $10 to $15. Place the filter in the chamber and reseal the clips or screws on the cover. Give the car a test spin to ensure the filter is working as it should. A driver may notice improved pick-up on the vehicle.