What Happens When a Car's Air Filter is Clogged?

A clogged air filter can have serious consequences for your car's engine. When the filter is blocked, it restricts the amount of air that can enter the engine, leading to an increase in unburned fuel. This unburned fuel forms a soot residue that accumulates on the spark plugs, preventing them from producing a spark. As a result, the car may experience misfires, rough idling, and hard starts.

In extreme cases, the engine may even fail.The most obvious sign of a clogged air filter is a decrease in engine performance. The restriction in airflow forces the engine to run at low power to maintain the stoichiometric fuel ratio. This can lead to slower driving performance and decreased fuel economy. Most automotive companies recommend changing the air filter every 10,000 to 15,000 miles or every 12 months.

However, if you drive in dusty or rural areas or in busy cities with lots of traffic, you should have your mechanic check and change it more often. Additionally, many cars have a cabin air filter that needs to be changed at different intervals.One of the best ways to improve your car's performance is to buy a reusable air filter, such as a K&N filter. However, even these filters need to be checked and cleaned regularly. If you don't replace the air cleaner at the suggested intervals, you may notice distinctive signs that it needs to be replaced.Replacing the air filter before it becomes clogged ensures that you don't have to change the spark plugs.

Therefore, for safe and optimal performance of your engine, make sure to address dirty air filter symptoms immediately and always have a clean air filter in place. Most manufacturers recommend replacing the air filter every 12,000 miles (approximately 19,000 km) or every 12 months, whichever comes first. However, you can clean reusable and foam filters with specific applications and you must dry them before replacing them.