person holding car air filter
Automobile Maintenance DIY Auto Repair

5 Essential Tips on Cleaning Your Car Air Filter for Better Performance

Is it worth it to clean your car air filter? Spoiler: yes it is.

By spending a few minutes of your life cleaning your car air filter, you’re making your vehicle more gas-efficient. And that puts several dollars you would have spent on gas right back in your pocket.

What have you got to lose, then? Read on to learn the top five tips on keeping your car air filter clean.

1. Why Clean a Disposable Filter?

We know what many of you are thinking. “Aren’t I just going to replace the car air filter anyway?”

Of course you are, every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Well, you better, anyway.

The filter keeps dirt from getting into the engine and ruining it. But, after a while, that dirt clogs up the filter, blocking airflow to the engine. Since engines need airflow to function, your clogged filter will significantly decrease the performance and efficiency of your engine.

Now, back to the question at hand. Why should you clean something you’re going to replace soon anyway? For the exact same reasons you replace it, that’s why.

Think about it. It’s not like your filter stays totally clean for 9,999 miles and then, on mile 10,000, is instantly dirty.

In reality, at mile 5,000, your filter is about 50% clogged. That’s still clogged enough to decrease your engine’s efficiency.

2. Know How to Check Your Air Filter

Modern car manufacturers have made it really easy for you to access your engine air filter. To find out how to get to it in your particular make and model, simply look it up in your vehicle’s user guide or online.

Next, open up the hood, remove the air filter, and take a look at it. If it looks dirty, clean it.

3. Know What Type of Air Filter You Have

There are two main types of filters in cars today, dry and oiled. It’s easy enough to tell the difference.

Dry filters, obviously, will feel dry and are usually made of paper. These are the standard filter type that comes factory-equipped in today’s cars. They are cheap to replace and easy to clean but clog faster than oiled filters.

Oiled air filters are usually made of foam or some other material and are covered with sticky oil to catch air contaminants. They are said to be more efficient for your engine, but are slightly less convenient to clean.

4. Vacuum or Wash

To clean dry filters, it’s best to simply vacuum the dirt out of them and put them back in.

Some people choose to wash them in soap and water. This will get more dirt out, but it puts your engine at risk. If the filter is not 100% dry when you reinstall it, it will damage your engine.

For oiled filters, you need specially-made oiled filter cleaning solution. Completely saturate the filter with the cleaning solution and let it soak for ten minutes (or according to the cleaner’s labeled instructions).

Totally rinse out the cleaning solution and debris in cold water. Don’t turn the water on too high or it can damage the filter. Once again, you’ll have to wait for the filter to be 100% dry before you reinstall it.

5. Get an Air Filter Cleaner

For heavy-duty air filters, like those in diesel engines, make things easier by getting an air filter cleaner. These powerful air filter blasters can be used for diesel trucks and several other types of equipment that use a cannister style air filter.

Clean Your Car Air Filter Regularly

Don’t forget: this article’s not gonna do you much good just sitting around in the back of your mind. Now that you know how, it’s time to keep your car air filter clean.

For more maintenance tips, check out the rest of our blog!