What Happens When Your Engine Air Filter is Dirty?

A dirty engine air filter can have serious consequences for your car's performance. Learn about common signs of a clogged engine air filter and how to fix it.

What Happens When Your Engine Air Filter is Dirty?

A dirty air filter can have a major impact on your car's performance. It reduces the amount of air supplied to the engine, leading to an increase in unburned fuel that turns into soot residue. This soot can build up on spark plug tips, making them unable to produce a proper spark. As a result, the car may move abruptly, idle, and in some cases, the engine may fail.

Engine misfires, rough idling, and hard starts are all signs of a clogged engine air filter. The dirty air filter restricts air supply to the engine, causing unburned fuel to form a soot residue that accumulates in the spark plug. This fouls the spark plug (s) and decreases its ability to produce the spark needed for the combustion process. Changing the affected air filter and spark plugs will restore your engine's performance.

When your air filter is dirty or clogged, it reduces airflow by changing the air-fuel mixture. This rich fuel mixture creates a black soot residue that covers the spark plugs. The noise comes from the spark plugs not firing properly due to this residue. Dirty spark plugs can also cause problems when starting the car and failing.

The worst thing a dirty air filter can do to your car is cause it to collapse. If this happens, the air filter can detach from the seals and even disintegrate, spelling disaster for your engine. An unsealed air filter may not even be there, as it allows unfiltered air to enter the engine. Suspended debris accelerates wear and fouling injectors and sensors, leading to poor compression, oil leaks, oil burning, cylinder misfire, or fuel adjustment problems, causing the engine check light to come on.

This makes it essential for your mechanic to check the air filter when taking the car for maintenance. One of the best and easiest improvements you can make to your vehicle is to buy a reusable air filter, such as a K&N filter. Your engine sucks in a lot of air, and your air filter will eventually fill up with dust and dirt floating around. As a car owner, you need to be aware of the symptoms of dirty air cleaner to ensure your engine stays free of debris.

Most manufacturers recommend replacing the air filter every 12,000 miles (approximately 19,000 km) or every 12 months, whichever comes first. If you notice any of these signs that the air filter is dirty, it's time for them to inspect it. Like other car maintenance services, air filter replacement costs vary depending on the model of the car and where you ask for help Have your mechanic scan your vehicle to locate the source of the problem, as it could be as simple as replacing the air filter. If you can't add a new air filter right away, if you're off the road or you're running away, you can get excess dust out, but never use compressed air to clean a dirty air filter.

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