Bad Air Filter Symptoms You Should Look Out For

People tend to forget about how important an engine air filter is in maintaining an engine’s ability to function properly. The air filter works by trapping any dirt and debris preventing it from entering the engine. If dirt gets into the engine, the contaminants can have negative impacts on the engine’s ability to do combustion effectively and can damage the system. This is why you must know the signs of a dirty air filter.

Bad Air Filter Symptoms You Should Look Out For

How do you know if you have a bad air filter?

There are many signs and dirty air filter symptoms to recognize that suggest that your engine filter might need replacing. Some important things to look out for are listed below with the effects they can have on your vehicle.

Engine misfiring

If you notice or hear your engine misfiring, it might suggest that there is a build-up of unburned fuel that has turned to soot. This build-up of soot residue can clog the spark plugs reducing their ability to create a proper spark leading to the engine misfiring. The presence of unburned fuel can occur as a result of reduced airflow from a dirty air filter.

Strange engine noises

When the car is running but remains stationary then there should be a low hum sound. When an air filter becomes clogged up, it limits the supply of air to the engine. As a result, combustion within the chambers of the engine will make sputter sounds as it struggles to function properly.

Dirty air filter

One of the main signs to look out for is by actually lifting the hood of the car and inspecting the air filter directly. If the air filter appears dirty then it might be time to replace it. The air filter should be white and you should be able to illuminate it with a torch.

Check engine light

If your check engine light comes on it is a strong indication that something is not working as it should. This may be a result of a dirty air filter so do not ignore the check engine light.

What causes a car air filter to go bad?

Several causes might make air filters go bad including how often you operate a vehicle and the climate you are running the car in. Below we discuss some of the main causes.

Warmer weather

In hotter climates, the air being sucked into the car is a lot more humid and as a result, has a lot more water particles than in colder environments. The water particles can displace the oxygen reducing the actual supply of air to the engine and reducing the lifespan of the filter.

Polluted air

If you are operating a vehicle in areas that are overall more polluted, the amount of contaminants entering the air filter is greatly increased. This will make it become a dirty air filter much faster.

Wear and tear

Using your vehicle a lot will speed up the deterioration of the air filter meaning that you will have to replace it much sooner than someone that drives less often.

Type of air filter

An air filter can be made from different components and as a result, some are a lot better than trapping contaminants. A filter will protect your engine the best however they will become clogged and dirty a lot quicker.

Bad Air Filter Symptoms You Should Look Out For

What problems can a bad air filter cause?

Several problems can arise as a result of a bad engine air filter. Below we discuss some of the main issues that can happen if you don’t look after your engine’s air filter.

Black smoke

The inadequate supply of air will cause the engine to use a lot more fuel that won’t all burn before it goes into the exhaust pipe. This causes the smoke being released out of the exhaust pipe to become black due to the presence of soot residue.

Reduced fuel economy

For an engine to function efficiently, there needs to be a good supply of fuel as well as clean air. When an air filter becomes clogged, the amount of air reaching the chambers of the engine becomes reduced and the engine has to compensate by burning more fuel. The result is reduced gas mileage and fuel economy.

Reduced engine power

If your vehicle does not have an adequate air supply to the engine, it will not run as efficiently as it is meant to be. This can occur as a result of a dirty air filter blocking the flow of air into the engine meaning the air-fuel mixture is off-balance.

What to do if you have a bad air filter

If you suspect that your engine air filter is not functioning as it should then you should get it replaced as soon as possible. Replacing your air filter is fairly inexpensive and will protect your engine and the overall performance of your car.

Is it better to have a dirty air filter or no air filter?

A dirty air filter is better than no air filter at all. This is because although the engine might not function efficiently with a dirty filter, no filter will cause contaminants to build up. This can cause irreversible damage to the engine.

How much does it cost to change car air filters?

It is not expensive to replace an old air filter with a new one. The prices for a new filter typically range from $20 to $60. This is cheap when you consider the consequences of not changing the filter concerning increased fuel consumption and eventually engine damage, which would incur a much greater cost.

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Author: Dave Johnston

Dave Junior is a hands-on automotive technician with experience in performing service, diagnostics, and repairs on domestic and imported vehicles. He enjoys writing and sharing his knowledge far and wide.

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