Engine Air Filter Replacement

Engine air filter replacement is one of those things that most people think is a super easy job and anyone should be able to do it. In most cases anyone with the right tools and some mechanical ability can change an engine air filter.

The fact is, however that sometimes it can be much harder than you would think. Older cars have very easy filters to replace. You usually would only need to remove one wing nut and slip another one in.

Many newer cars have filters that are hard to get to and usually you will have to remove one or more electrical connector to get the housing far enough away to have enough room to remove the old air filter and replace it with a new one. Let's take a look at some of the things you need to know about this job.

What You May Have Heard

  • Air filter replacement is easy!
  • Anyone can do it.
  • You don't even need tools.

Most people are well meaning and truly want to help you with their knowledge. Keep in mind however, that even though they may be well meaning and they may think they know what they are talking about, but just because they think they do does not mean they are right! It's always best to get the advice of a trusted auto mechanic.

The Truth

Bottom of Air Filter

Engine air filter replacement is indeed usually easy! Most new cars are made with the air filter easy to get to, but not all. Many of them are tucked inside the engine compartment in such a way that it is hard to get the air filter housing open to get to the actual filter.

If you have never done one before or even seen them done then you should either find someone who knows how to change air filters or read an air filter replacement guide so you can see how it is done. You can read mine here.

It is important that you do this job right. The air filters job is to make sure that the air going into your engine is really clean. The reason for this is because if there are dust particles in the air it will cause the engine to wear out prematurely. Dirt is one of the #1 causes of engine failure. The air cleaner helps to prevent dirty air from entering the engine. 

Sometimes when you try to change your air filter yourself the two halves of the filter housing don't match up quite perfectly. This will create a scenario where it will seem like it is closed properly, but it really isn't. This, in turn, will let unfiltered air into the engine. It is extremely important to make sure that everything is lined up correctly and that all the latches work how they are supposed to. 

Air filters will only go into the air cleaner housing one way so you don't need to worry about getting it in backward or upside down. If you try to put it in and it doesn't seem to want to fit, then just re-check it to be sure that it is oriented the right way and try again. 

Another common cause of problems when doing air filter replacement are hoses and electrical connections that are not put back properly.

Most connections on newer cars have two halves that will not fit with any other connector nearby so there is no way to get them switched. It is important that you get the two halves pushed together all the way. Also, if there are multiple hoses that are the same size you can just mark them with tape or paint pens. Most hoses these days only fit easily in one place so it is hard to get them in the wrong place.

Keep in mind though that with both hoses and electrical connectors it is essential that they are routed correctly. If they are not they can rub on moving parts of the engine and cause bad connections.

Should I Try Air Filter Replacement?

If you have some mechanical ability, the right tools and the desire to learn how to do this then you should definitely do it yourself.

Be sure to buy the right air filter for your car before you try replacing it (any auto parts store can help you find it, or you can go to the air filter aisle and look in the application guide) and make sure you know how the two halves of your air filter housing connect. Most of them connect with screws, bolts or snaps (my favorite!).

To save time and money, I would recommend buying your engine air filter from Amazon - Click here to find the right air filter for your vehicle make and model.

Be sure to read my air filter replacement guide first. It will probably not be exactly like your vehicle, but is a great general guide and will show you how to to the hard parts. I've included great pictures to help you understand as well.

Knowing how to replace your own air filter can also save you money. One of the most common auto repair scams is a mechanic or oil change shop telling you that your air filter needs replacing when it really doesn't. Having seen what a good and bad air filter look like, you will know whether you will really it or they are just trying to get you to buy one.

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