Engine air filters on a car.

Filter Maintenance: When Should You Change Your Filters?

Proper filter maintenance is essential for keeping your car in working order and each needs to be changed following the manufacturer’s recommendations. Even following those guidelines, how you use your vehicle might mean you need to change some filters more often.

If you drive in harsh conditions, then your filters may need more frequent attention. Here’s an explanation of what the filters in your car do and when they need to be changed.

Cabin Air Filters

cabin air filterThis filter keeps the cabin air clean and helps minimize dust, smoke and odors. Each manufacturer has guidelines for how often the cabin air filter should be replaced, so start by checking your owner’s manual. Usually, it’s around every 15,000 to 25,000 miles.

If you drive someplace where there’s more dust in the air, like a desert or a city, you may want to change it more often. At a minimum, change your air filter once a year.

Your owner’s manual will tell you where your cabin air filter is located. Checking it is as simple as giving it a good look. If it’s dirty or covered with debris, then it’s time to swap it out for a new one.

Engine Air Filters

Your engine needs air and it runs best with clean air. An engine air filter removes dust particles that would otherwise be sucked into your engine. If your engine air filter is dirty, then it can cause all sorts of problems.

It leads to reduced power, poor performance and lower fuel economy. That’s if you’re lucky. Over time, a dirty air filter lets dirt into your engine, which can cause expensive damage.

There are a variety of filters available at a range of prices. Most are made of a paper-like material folded into pleats, but foam filters are also available, and even some that are soaked in oil to grab more dirt and last longer.

Always check with your owner’s manual to see what is recommended for your vehicle and follow the maintenance schedule suggested. If you drive in heavy traffic, the desert or off-road, then you’ll want to change this filter more often rather than risk having it get clogged with dirt.

Fuel Filters

It’s not just the air coming into your engine that needs to be clean and free of dirt. The fuel coming into your engine also needs to be clean. The fuel filter catches any impurities in your fuel, which otherwise could impact performance.

This filter lasts longer than the cabin air filter, but once again you should follow the manufacturer’s recommendations for how often it needs to be changed. Wait too long and you risk sluggish performance and engine damage.

Oil Filters

Clean engine oil keeps your engine lubricated. Keeping the oil clean is the job of the oil filter. When oil gets dirty it gets sludgy and this can cause a multitude of engine problems.

This is an easy one to remember. Simply have the oil filter changed whenever you get an oil change. Follow the manufacturer’s recommended intervals for oil changes and you’ll keep your oil clean.

Filter maintenance is an essential part of routine car maintenance. Make sure you check your filters at the recommended intervals to keep your engine running smoothly. When was the last time you checked your filters?

Check out all the filters available on NAPA Online or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on how to maintain all of the filters in your car, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA AUTO PARTS store.

Photo Courtesy of Flickr.

about author

Nicole Wakelin

Nicole Wakelin covers the automotive industry as a freelance journalist for a variety of outlets. Her work includes news pieces, podcasts, radio, written reviews, and video reviews. She can be found in The Boston Globe, CarGurus, BestRide, US News and World Report, and AAA along with lifestyle blogs like Be Car Chic, The Other PTA, and She Buys Cars. She is active on social media with a large following on both Twitter and Instagram and currently serves as Vice President of the New England Motor Press Association.

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