Does a Dirty Air Filter Affect Horsepower?

Learn how dirty air filters can affect horsepower and how clean filters can increase power by up to 11%. Find out how often you should replace your car's air filter.

Does a Dirty Air Filter Affect Horsepower?

Air filters are designed to clean the air entering the engine's combustion chamber, providing a good supply of air and oxygen for the engine to burn fuel efficiently and give you the power you need. However, when air filters become dirty, they can restrict the amount of air entering the engine and affect the resulting power. If your car is having trouble accelerating or responding slower than normal, it may not be getting the air it needs to run at peak performance. A clean air filter can increase power by up to 11%, as it won't allow as much air resistance as a dirty filter. Without this resistance, air can flow more freely into the engine and give it more power.

Engine misfires, rough idling, and hard starts can also be attributed to a clogged engine air filter. When replacing an air filter, some people opt for non-standard aftermarket air filters to help improve the performance of their car. A new air filter is white or off-white, while a dirty air filter will appear darker with visible dirt and debris. If the air filter is full of dirt, insects, or other obstacles, the engine may not receive as much oxygen as it needs. The inner layers of filter paper inside the air cleaner may have no visible debris or dust and dirt, even in bright light. To prevent this from happening, automotive experts recommend replacing filters every 12,000 miles or 12 months, but always remember to consult your owner's manual for details of your vehicle's air filter replacement programs.

If you find that your air filter needs a change, it is advisable to also check the condition of the spark plugs to see if they have also suffered any damage. Designed to allow clean air to enter the engine, the air filter is your vehicle's first line of defense by preventing air pollutants such as dirt, dust and leaves from entering the engine compartment. When there is an inadequate air supply, your car's engine makes up for the deficit with too much fuel (known as “running rich”). Aftermarket air filters can lead to increases in engine performance and an increase in fuel mileage rating. If it seems like your car is running slower than usual, checking the condition of your air filter should be the first step (always look for the cheapest and easiest cause possible when diagnosing ANY automotive problem). However, as with any “replacement estimate”, you can't really pinpoint a precise date on when to change the air filter.

Replacing the dirty engine air filter with a new, clean one can improve engine acceleration.

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