The Filters in Your Car That Need Regular Replacement
Did you know it has been estimated that the average car has something like 30,000 parts in all? That’s taking into account every single, nut, bolt and screw, of course, but what it really shows us is that your car is incredibly complex. All of its components have to be functioning properly for it to work well, and when one component goes wrong, the disease spreads and affects the rest of the car.
In today’s blog, we are looking at filters. Your car has several, and they need changing from time to time. We will explain which ones they are, what they do, and how often they need to be changed.
What Filters Does Your Car Have?
The cabin filter is one of the principal filters of dust, pollen and other contaminants that enter your car through the heating and a/c system. More modern cabin filter systems are known as “carbon activated” which means that they also capture exhaust fumes and similar unpleasant gases and smells.
Changing the cabin filter is important for those with allergies, asthma and respiratory sensitivities. It could be dangerous if you’re driving a car but suddenly had an attack of hay fever. In addition, the filter helps to make the cabin more pleasant in general; free of bad odours and other unpleasant air.
The air filter is a prominent feature of your car’s engine. Its main function is to ensure that enough oxygen is available for the combustion process, and perhaps more importantly that foreign objects that shouldn’t be within the engine don’t make it through. These foreign objects include dust, sand and other contaminants, as well as insects.
If you’ve seen a car’s air filter before, you might notice its shape. The three main shapes used are circular, cylindrical or a flat panel air filter. Their special pleated material allows air and its vital oxygen to get through while keeping everything unwanted out.
When the air filter becomes clogged, it will adversely affect the performance of your car. If you’ve ever seen dark exhaust smoke coming from your tailpipe, then a clogged air filter in need of changing could be the cause behind it. A clogged filter will also increase fuel consumption as the engine works harder to compensate for the lack of an optimum fuel/air mixture within it.
As you probably know, your engine oil works to keep the engine parts lubricated and thus moving smoothly. Over time, however, the oil picks up bits of debris and dirt, which you can see for yourself if you remove the dipstick before an oil change and see its consistency and colour. The filter helps to catch these impurities and allow the oil to keep doing its lubricating.
Sooner or later, however, the filter will reach its capacity and won’t be able to filter any more of these contaminants from the oil, and so the debris-filled oil will circulate through the engine. It might appear that things are still working, but your engine will have to work harder. As each day passes without proper clean oil being in place, the risk of serious engine damage increases.
The main role of the fuel filter is to protect the integrity of the all-important fuel injectors. As with just about every other part of the car’s internal system, dust, grit and similar contaminants, sometimes even rust, can build up and get into the fuel. The fuel filter ensures that none of these impurities reach the fuel injectors.
If these things were allowed to slip by the fuel filter, the result would be a significant drop in the car’s performance, and even a serious impact on the car’s overall lifespan. If you’ve noticed that your car is stalling more than usual, or the acceleration has become sluggish, then one explanation could be a need to change the fuel filter.
Failing to change the filter on time can allow that debris build up to start impacting expensive components of your engine, the repair bill of which would be much larger than that to conduct a simple fuel filter change.
How Often Should You Change Your Car Filters?
The four filters above don’t all follow the same pattern for changing. We’ve detailed the most common advice from mechanics as to when is the best time to change them:
- Cabin filter – Every 15,000 miles
- Air filter – Every 15,000-30,000 miles (more often for turbo engines)
- Oil filter – Every 3,500-7,500 miles depending on oil*
- Fuel filter – Every 24,000 miles
*Oil filters are usually changed along with your oil; synthetic oil may last for 10,000 miles or more
Estimates are one thing, but if you want to be very precise about when it’s time to change a filter in your car, you can consult your owner’s manual. The maintenance schedule should make it explicitly clear when your specific model requires filter changes.
Look out for some of the signs we mentioned above like sluggish acceleration and black exhaust smoke. These are warning signs that the filters are not able to do their job properly. If the recommended mileage for changing is still some way off, then an inspection by the mechanic could be in order.
Keeping Up with all Regular Car Maintenance
Your car’s various filters are just one among many of the regular maintenance jobs that need doing on your car. When the car is brand-new, these jobs are few and far between. That’s why when you look at Edmunds “Real Cost to Own” figures, the first year maintenance figure is always so low. That number suddenly jumps up in year 2, and then again in years 3 and 4 because this is when more work has to be done.
Skipping routine maintenance like changing a filter might feel like a win for your thrifty budgeting lifestyle, but in fact you are just subjecting your car to the risk of greater damage further down the line. This damage will cost you a lot more to fix. Don’t fall prey to false economies, check in with your mechanic and make sure your filters are in good order.