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Here's what you should know about cleaning heavy equipment air filters

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Engines operate more efficiently and more powerfully when air flows through unrestricted. To allow for proper air flow, heavy equipment air filters must remain as clean as possible.

That means that heavy equipment and other machinery operators must keep a close eye on air filters to determine whether they be dirty enough to warrant cleaning.

But what’s the best way to monitor air filter conditions? How dirty does an air filter have to be before its performance begins to decrease? And how should the filters be cleaned in order to avoid damaging it?

After reading this, heavy equipment operators will have the answers to those questions.

How heavy equipment air filters work

Air filters are the are one of the engine’s primary defenses against contaminants. They keep potentially harmful and unwanted particles from getting to the equipment’s engine block.

Today’s large equipment and machinery that are used in off-road conditions, such as on construction sites or farm land, most often have a two-stage filter system.

The inner stage is more of a safety element. It’s there to protect the engine in case the first filter - which is larger and outside the inner element - fails.

Should the air filter fail or not operate as efficiently as possible, contaminated air reaches the engine and disrupts its combustion process. Filter failure can also lead to very large amounts of dust entering the engine, causing a lot of harm, including damage to rings, cylinders and other vital parts of the engine.

Remove guesswork with an air filter gauge

One of the easiest ways to know whether an air filter is too dirty to function efficiently is to install an air flow gauge. These monitor air intake and circulation, and will tip off operators to any problems. Typically, air flow gauges are mounted inside the cab, so they are easy to see when the equipment or machinery is in use.

Newly purchased construction equipment air filters often come with restriction gauges. These are found in one of two places: on the filter housing itself or near the housing on the air duct. Some of the more sophisticated restriction gauges come with indicators that may be inside the cab and, in some instances, not only alert operators to the issue but also can prevent equipment from being driven if there is an air flow issue.

When in doubt, check the air filter

Sometimes, a visual air filter inspection is warranted. Take caution not to remove the air filter from its housing in the field, though. This could lead to overexposure to dust and other particles, making it even dirtier than when it was first removed.

When you must check the air filter, or are preparing to clean it, first clean the outside of the housing, remove the primary filter and then clean the inside surfaces and seal tubes.

How much dirt is too much?

Air filters become more efficient as they are used. Dust particles will be removed from the air and accumulate on the filter media, and while some of the tiny openings will become obstructed, this actually helps the filter capture even smaller materials that may otherwise reach the engine.

After some use, dust will gather like a film on the filter. This improves the filter’s performance even more. However, eventually, the air filter will collect too much dirt, dust and other material to operate efficiently.

That’s when it needs to be cleaned, or sometimes replaced.

It should be noted, though, that many professionals warn against checking air filters too often because of the potential for more unintentional damage, the amount of time it takes to check a filter and the use of materials that go into checking and servicing. Over-servicing an air filter can result in it being re-installed incorrectly and decreased efficiency following a servicing.

Is it time to clean the air filter?

An air flow gauge will let operators know when it is time to clean an air filter. However, there are also some signs to keep an eye out for that will suggest the time is right.

For example, there could be a performance decrease in the machinery. There could be a noticeable difference in fuel efficiency or engine power. Many modern engines will begin to derate once the filter reaches its point of maximum restriction. After that, the engine could force operators to limp the equipment back home. The engine does this in an effort to prevent further damage.

Benefits of a clean air filter

A clean air filter provides numerous benefits to engines.

First of all, an engine that is operating with a clean air filter is far more powerful. The increased air flow to the engine improves performance, reduces the cost of maintenance over time and extends the life of the engine.

There are environmental benefits, as well. A clean air filter results in reduced oil consumption. Engines also burn cleaner, creating less pollution and meeting tougher government fuel efficiency standards.

Perhaps one of the most important benefits, though, is heavy equipment that runs smoothly and saves money on repairs that result in down time. That’s why it’s a good idea to get on an air filter cleaning schedule, much like you would with any other sort of preventative maintenance.

Filter Blaster cleans and won’t damage air filters

With the right product, heavy equipment operators, farmers and fleet managers can keep the air filters protecting their engines cleaner, longer. And, yes, with a well-designed product, it is perfectly safe - and smart - to clean a heavy equipment air filter.

Our Filter Blaster is proven to provide the benefits of newer air filters without having to go through the hassle of spending money to replace air filters. The Filter Blaster regulates low pressure to ensure that the air filter is not damaged during cleaning, is designed to direct air flow where dirt is located within the filter and is equipped with a tall lid with multiple edges, which prevents users from accidentally striking the inside of the filter.

Check out more of the advantages of cleaning with Filter Blaster.

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