Is Your Air Filter Dirty? Here's How to Tell

If you're wondering if your air filter is dirty, there are a few telltale signs that can help you determine if it's time for a replacement. Flames or black smoke from the exhaust pipe, engine misfires, rough idling, and hard starts can all be attributed to a clogged engine air filter. The dirty air filter restricts air supply to the engine, causing unburned fuel to form a soot residue that accumulates in the spark plug. This fouls the spark plug (s) and decreases its ability to produce the spark needed for the combustion process.

The most obvious sign that you need a new air filter is if the one you have is gray and dirty. Be sure to take out the air filter and check it out at least once every two months. If it looks dusty or dirty, it's time for a change. A smart way to determine if the air cleaner is dirty is to test the white foil.

This involves hanging a clean white sheet approximately 5 inches from one of the vents for at least an hour. If the sheet turns gray, you have a dirty air filter. The greyer the leaf, the dirtier the filter will be. Another symptom that your engine is having trouble breathing can be found when you step on the accelerator pedal. If the car moves forward and doesn't move as smoothly as you normally recognize, check the air filter further for dirt buildup.

If the surfaces closest to the vents are more dusty and others appear cleaner, it's a sure sign that the air filter needs to be replaced. A dirty air filter reduces the amount of clean air that reaches the engine, which decreases its power and performance. While manufacturers vary in their recommendations for how often the air filter should be changed, if you notice any of these signs that the air filter is dirty, it's time for them to inspect it. However, if the air cleaner is not the problem, an experienced HVAC service technician should investigate the problem and perform the necessary maintenance. Once again, that rich fuel mixture that is a real problem characteristic of a blocked air filter will appear when starting the car.

If you start to hear coughing or clicking noises coming from the engine compartment, or if your vehicle vibrates excessively, it can be a symptom of a dirty air filter damaging a spark plug. If the air quality in your area is poor, it's obvious that you'll need to change the air filter much sooner. It would be easier to change all air filters on a set schedule, but, unfortunately, there are many variables that affect how often a filter needs to be changed. Lower emissions: Unburned fuel and other particulate matter in exhaust gases increase when there is not enough air. A dirty air filter is one of the things that can cause the Check Engine light to come on, due to an inadequate supply of air to the engine that causes carbon deposits to build up. When you press the accelerator, the engine is required to draw in more air to burn the fuel that is injected for power.

Typically, your home's air filter needs to be replaced between once every one and six months, with an average of every three months. Improved fuel economy: When the filter supplies the exact amount of air needed to drive combustion in the engine, it means that every drop of available energy is extracted from the fuel. However, beyond that, there are other compelling reasons why you need to replace a dirty air filter. But in case your air filter is old and seems to be heavily clogged, you may want to consider replacing it as soon as possible as it could make driving much more difficult and cumbersome for modern vehicles.