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How Often Should You Change an Air Filter in a Car? Facts & FAQs

car air filter

Regular maintenance is the best way to keep your car running in peak condition. Most people know that they have to change their oil regularly, but it’s easy to forget that replacing the air filter is also vital for maintaining the engine, especially since you don’t need to do it as frequently. Many people want to know when they should change their filter, and the short answer is about every 30,000 to 50,000 miles, but it can vary depending on several factors. If you are unsure when to change your filter, keep reading as we go over recommended guidelines and explain how the air filter helps your car.

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How Often Should You Change an Air Filter in Your Car?

Engine Air Filter

Every engine has an air filter that helps protect it from dirt, dust, and other contaminants that can get into the engine and gunk it up internally, increasing the rate of wear and tear. Most filters will last quite a while, but they will get dirty over time, and you will need to replace them. Checking your owner’s manual is the best place to start, as many manufacturers recommend a specific changing interval. For instance, you only need to change your filter every 45,000 miles if you drive a Chevy, but if you have a Hyundai or Ford, you should change it every 30,000 miles.

Factors That Affect How Often You Need to Change the Filter

Since the air filter’s job is to filter out contaminants, it will need to be changed more frequently in areas with more pollution. For example, sitting in heavy traffic can clog your filter quicker because there isn’t much fresh air moving through the engine. Frequently driving down dirt roads will also clog the filter quicker, and putting strain on the engine by towing or racing will require it to draw more air through the filter, increasing the number of contaminants that it catches.

person holding a dirty cabin air filter
Image Credit: wellphoto, Shutterstock

Cabin Air Filter

The cabin air filter filters the air inside the cabin, so you breathe in fewer contaminants. Its location can vary, but you will usually find it behind the glove box. You will need to replace this filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles, but like with engine filters, several factors can cause you to change it more frequently.

Factors That Affect How Often You Need to Change the Filter

Dusty dirt roads can quickly clog your cabin filter, just like the engine filter. Traveling with your windows down will also allow more contaminants into the compartment, which wind up in the filter, clogging it more frequently than driving with the windows up. However, the fastest way to clog your cabin filter is by smoking cigarettes, so make your car a no-smoking vehicle.

person replacing the cabin air filter
Image Credit: Jitti-narksompong, Shutterstock

Is It Difficult to Change the Filters in My Car?

Changing the engine and cabin filters in your vehicle is not difficult and usually doesn’t require any tools. Check the owner’s manual that came with your car for easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions. In some cases, the filter can be unreachable without removing components, so you may have to take it to an authorized mechanic.

car and road divider

What Other Regular Maintenance Should I Perform on My Vehicle?

Regular Maintenance
  • If your vehicle does not automatically check your tire pressure, check it every week.
  • Inspect all four tires every week to check their condition.
  • Check all lights every week to make sure they’re working properly.
  • Check your wiper blades and washer fluid every week.
  • Check other fluid levels, like oil and coolant, every month or two.
  • Have the oil and oil filter changed every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
  • Rotate or balance your tires every 3,000 to 5,000 miles.

car and road divider Summary

You should change the filter in your engine every 30,000 to 50,000 miles and the cabin filter every 15,000 to 30,000 miles. If you live in a small town with good air and don’t drive hard, you won’t need to change it as frequently as someone who races or tows vehicles. People who live on a dirt road will need to change their filters more frequently, as will smokers.

Featured Image Credit: Charles Knowles, Shutterstock


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