How To Change your Car Air Filter

How To Change your Car Air Filter


If you have had your oil changed recently, chances are the mechanic working showed you just how dirty your car air filter is. Because you’ve got a busy schedule, you go ahead and give the mechanic the go ahead to add this to your bill. The problem is changing your car air filter is something that you can do in the ease of your own garage, and should take only 10 minutes for any shadetree mechanic.

So when it’s time to pay your bill at your local Speedy Lube-N-Change, you might get a bit of a shock to see how much the job cost you. Although most air filters only cost around 10-15 dollars, mechanics can charge you a half hour or hour worth of work which can push it well into 100 dollar territory.

All of a sudden the 45 dollar lube job just became a much more expensive maintenance item. This just isn’t a cost that you should have to endure when you all you are trying to do is change your oil. We’ve seen mechanics charge between $20-40 dollars for the simple task of changing your car air filter.

1996-2000 Honda Civic Air Filter shown



Avoid this oil change sticker shock and learn how to replace the air filter yourself with this set of steps. Don’t be afraid to undertake this very simple task by yourself, you’ll be surprised just how easy it is.

Today’s modern engine bay might seem daunting or overwhelming to anyone who wants to learn how to replace your air filter, but it doesn’t need to be. Using just a few tips, you can easily change your air filter and boost performance by providing your engine the cleanest air possible.

What is an Air Filter?

The air filter in your car is responsible for weeding out any dirt or impurities from the air that’s heading into your engine. Because these things will not assist in the combustion cycle, when your filter starts going south your engine and engine oil can become contaminated.

When you press on your car gas pedal, air rushes into the combustion chamber and mixes with the fuel delivered by your injectors. Once the spark plug ignites the mixture you have combustion and thus the methods of propulsion, so it’s important to keep the incoming air charge clean and free of garbage.



This results in less horsepower, less torque and contributes to the viscosity of your oil breaking down and possibly damaging your engine bearings or rings. Because it’s such a cheap part, there’s no reason why your car should be sucking in dirt particles so make sure your filter is clean and working properly.

Where is my Filter?

Finding your filter is the first step before learning how to remove and replace it. Your filter is housed in a air box that’s connected to the intake manifold through an intake boot or accordion like air intake tract. Most modern cars use a two piece air box design, with the bottom half bolted or connected to the chassis.

2004 Ford F-150 Air Filter Shown

The top half is removable, usually by undoing metal bands or clips and if you’ve got a truck or van this is usually a cone shaped filtration element. Your car air filter is usually mounted inside this air box or to your mass air flow (MAF) sensor, and it’s designed to draw air through it when your engine is on.

How Often Should the Air Filter be Changed?

If you have an aftermarket filter like a K&N or AEM, many of these filters are cleanable or washable. Because these aftermarket filters are built and engineered to filter smaller particles or microns, you should be cleaning the filter every few months.

For those who have the factory air filter element check your operating manual or car owners guide for the specific number of miles, but typically the rule of thumb is changing it once a year or every 12,000 miles. Of course if you own a work truck or van and drive through dirtier areas or put your air filter through more abuse, you might want to change it sooner than that.

Why Change Your Air Filter Regularly?

Increasing gas mileage – The cost of an air filter is so cheap that there’s no reason not to change it in all honesty. When you change your filter and keep your intake of air as clean as possible, your car or truck gets the maximum fuel efficiency possible. If the air rushing into your throttle body is dirty to begin with, your engine won’t be efficient in transporting you.

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Save money at the gas pump and change your car air filter regularly to avoid transforming your car into a gas guzzler. Easier and cheaper to buy a $10 dollar part now and save yourself hundreds and possibly thousands of dollars later.

Longer lasting engine – Dirty deposits and carbon buildup can severely decrease your engine life, and prematurely cause a host of other issues. Avoid this problem by changing your air filter frequently and keep your engine clean and running efficiently. You can also clean the engine with certain treatments like Seafoam to really improve how your car runs.

Lower emissions – Makes perfect sense doesn’t it? Cleaner incoming air means cleaner emissions and being responsible regarding your carbon footprint. Frequent filter changes keeps your tailpipe emissions low and your smog technician happy.

How to Change Your Air Filter

Before you begin this guide on changing your car air filter, make sure to buy the right replacement filter. Most auto parts stores have catalogs that you can look up to find the right part number you need. You’re usually going to find this huge catalog in poor repair and ripped up, but with any luck you’ll be able to find the right filter for you.

You could of course try and ask someone working at your average auto parts store for assistance, but that’s a crapshoot at best. You are just as likely to get the high school student that doesn’t know his headlight from his headgasket, than a bright counterman who is eager to help you find your part.

There are many online retailers, including Pro Street of course that will allow you to simply pick the year, make and model you need. Once you have your new car air filter, you can go ahead and begin replacing your part.

  1. Find it
    1. Open your car hood and safely prop it up before you begin. When working on your vehicle always be as safe as possible, for a quick guide on safety tips check here.
    2. Locate the air filter and air box in your engine bay, and undo the metal clamps that hold the two halves together.
    3. Remove your old air filter element and discard
    4. Install your new car air filter and make sure it’s seated properly before closing your air box
    5. Close your engine air intake box and snap shut the metal clamps to make a positive seal.

And that’s all it really takes for you to complete your first auto maintenance job or air filter replacement. It should really take you no more than 10-15 minutes at best and should have only cost around $20 dollars total.

Have any questions about our How To Change your Car Air Filter Guide? Let us know by leaving us a comment below!