What Happens When Your Air Filter Gets Clogged Up?

A dirty air filter reduces the amount of air supplied to the engine, leading to an increase in unburned fuel that turns into soot residue. This soot can build up on spark plug tips, making them unable to produce a proper spark. As a result, the car may move abruptly, idle, and in some cases, the engine may fail. A decrease in fuel consumption is often a sign that something is wrong.

Air filters contribute to fuel efficiency, but a dirty filter can reduce oxygen flow. To make up for this, the engine must burn more fuel with every revolution. A clogged air filter slows down airflow, making it difficult for the engine to breathe and generate power and torque. If you're an energetic driver, a filled air filter will drag you down and reduce your fuel economy.

Your engine compensates for this by consuming more fuel to produce enough power to move the same distance or speed as it could with a clean filter. Fans drive air through the filter. If the filter becomes too clogged with dust, dander and debris, then the blower has to work harder to get air through a clogged filter. With reduced airflow, you may experience hot and cold spots in your home, and it can be difficult to achieve desired indoor temperature levels. Over time, the air filter becomes less effective in carrying out its work.

All dust particles, grease and other contaminants captured eventually clog the filter so much that it blocks the flow of clean air to the engine. This can cause harmful emissions, fuel waste, damaged spark plugs and engine buildup. Replacing the air filter is actually one of the easiest DIY tasks you can perform on your vehicle. If the air filter becomes too clogged, it can detach from the seals and even disintegrate - spelling disaster for your engine. If you find that your air filter needs a change, it is advisable to also check the condition of the spark plugs to see if they have also suffered any damage.

Note that the inner layers of filter paper inside the air cleaner may have no visible debris or dust and dirt, even in bright light. A clogged air filter will allow all the dust and debris that needs to be filtered to circulate back into your home. Regularly replacing the air filter and checking it helps reduce the risk of this happening in the near future. However, you can clean reusable and foam filters, but only with specific applications, and you must dry them before replacing them. Running your car without an air filter allows dirt, leaves, debris, insects and a multitude of air pollutants to enter. If you suspect that the air filter has become dirty or blocked, you can take your car to the local mechanic or check it yourself.

Quite differently for older vehicle models, a clogged air filter won't deter you from driving, but will wreak havoc on the entire system. This inefficiency increases rapidly as the filter becomes more and more clogged, or until the filter is serviced.