Although you may not think about them very often, your car’s filters play a large role in how your vehicle performs. Most vehicles have four types of filters: the engine air filter, oil filter, cabin air filter, and fuel filter. When these filters become clogged, they can affect how your car runs—or, in the case of the cabin air filter, your cabin air quality. To help you understand why it’s important to replace these filters on a regularly, here’s a look at what each of them does.
Engine Air Filter
Just as we need clean air to breathe, car engines require clean air for the combustion process. The engine air filter plays a vital role in capturing dust, dirt, insects, and other debris from the air, and preventing them from entering the engine. It also ensures the engine receives the correct air-to-fuel ratio. Contaminants entering the engine can damage essential parts, like the cylinder walls and piston rings, which can be very expensive to repair.
Clogged engine air filters can cause sluggish acceleration, poor performance, and incomplete fuel combustion. When the fuel doesn’t combust properly, it creates harmful carbon monoxide and soot—and your fuel efficiency can suffer. Manufacturers typically recommend replacing the engine air filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles, but if you often drive in dusty conditions, you may need to replace your engine air filter more frequently. Common signs of a dirty air filter include:
- Unusual engine noises
- Reduced fuel economy
- A visibly dirty filter
Similar to the engine air filter, the fuel filter removes impurities such as dirt and rust from the fuel. It keeps the fuel injectors clean, which helps your engine’s power and fuel efficiency. When the fuel filter becomes clogged, however, the engine struggles to receive the necessary amount of fuel. This can cause the fuel pump to work harder and increases the risk of it failing.
Manufacturers usually recommend replacing the fuel filter every two years or 30,000 miles. Signs that indicate it needs to be replaced include:
- A rough idle
- Difficulty starting the engine
- Poor engine performance
Clean oil is essential for your engine to operate efficiently. Besides lubricating moving parts and pulling excess heat away from the engine, motor oil acts as a cleaning agent. Oil accumulates dirt, metal flakes, and other debris over time; the oil filter captures these contaminants and prevents the engine from clogging. However, all oil filters have a limited capacity and will need to be replaced, otherwise, the engine won’t be able to receive enough oil and may experience excessive wear or irreversible damage.
It’s recommended to replace the oil filter during every oil change. Consult your owner's manual for specific oil change intervals based on your vehicle's make, model, and driving habits, or ask one of our service advisors. Some common signs that you need to have the oil filter replaced include:
- The oil pressure light is on
- Knocking sounds from the engine
- Poor performance
Cabin Air Filter
The cabin air filter performs a similar function to the engine air filter, but its purpose is to maintain clean air inside your vehicle's cabin. It prevents dirt, pollen, and other debris from entering your vehicle's interior and helps keep the air conditioning system free from clogs. Regularly replacing the cabin air filter is crucial for maintaining good air quality, especially if you or your family members have respiratory issues like allergies or asthma.
Most manufacturers recommend replacing the cabin air filter every 12,000 miles. Signs that it’s time to have your cabin air filter replaced include
- Poor airflow
- Foggy windows
- Poor air quality
- Unusual noises when the fan is on
- Issues with the heating and cooling system
- Foul odors from the vents
- An increase in respiratory problems while inside the vehicle.
Keeping Up with Your Vehicle’s Maintenance
While filters may not be at the forefront of your mind when it comes to vehicle maintenance, they play a critical role in keeping your car running smoothly and comfortably. Follow the replacement intervals listed in your owner’s manual, or feel free to ask us for recommendations for your vehicle and driving habits.
If your car, truck, or SUV is due for maintenance, visit RPM Automotive Services! Family-owned and operated since 1982, we’re an ASE and ASCCA-certified repair shop that takes pride in helping you keep your vehicle running at its best. From routine maintenance and diagnostics to engine repair and rebuilds, we offer everything your vehicle needs to stay on the road. Contact us today at (707) 800-4586 or schedule an appointment online.