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8 Dirty Air Filter Symptoms: How to Know When to Clean Your Air Filter

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If the engine of a vehicle is its heart, the air intake is the lungs. When we breathe in air, we deliver life-giving oxygen to our entire bodies. Just as we need oxygen to live, so do our vehicles- but what happens when a dirty air filter blocks that necessary oxygen out?

Combustion engines rely on air to function, and a bad air filter can suffocate a vehicle. This can lead to extensive problems down the road. Luckily, dirty air filter symptoms are easy to identify once you know what to look for.

Read on to learn the signs your vehicle needs air filter maintenance, so you can keep it healthy and on the road for years to come!

1. Air Filter Appears Dirty

One of the easiest symptoms to recognize is the appearance of the filter itself. Brand new filters appear nearly white. Over time, contaminants in the air will dirty your filter and turn it brown or black.

A visual inspection can be your first confirmation of a bad filter. Always examine your filter under adequate light. If it appears contaminated with dirt, dust, and debris, it could be time to clean it out.

2. Decreasing Gas Mileage

A decrease in gas mileage is usually a sign that something is amiss. Your air filter contributes to your fuel efficiency, but a dirty filter can cause reduced oxygen flow. A vehicle must make up for this by burning more fuel to compensate.

A clean air filter keeps the air flowing, and keeps your fuel economy right where it should be.

2. Your Engine Misses or Misfires

Does your car have a hard time starting? Do you have to make multiple attempts or rev the engine to get it going? If your car has trouble turning over, it could have a low air to fuel ratio.

When the ratio is too rich with fuel, it can cause engine flooding and spark plug pollution. This can result in misfires or trouble starting. If you've got a rough idle or a reluctant start, the air filter is the first place you should check.

3. Strange Engine Noises

When your car is in park, what does it sound like? An engine that has a good oxygen flow should have a smooth and even purr. If your idle is rattly, or you hear a vibration or hiccup, you could be facing a bad air filter.

A common culprit of this issue is polluted spark plugs from air intake issues. If you discover your air filter is in need of a change, it's wise to also check the condition of the spark plugs to see if they have suffered any damage as well. Replacing these two parts can help your engine idle much smoother.

4. Check Engine Light Comes On

Your check engine light can illuminate for many reasons, one of which is deposits in the engine. When impurities get inside, it can cause a buildup over time that triggers the service light once it starts having an impact on engine performance.

For every gallon of gasoline consumed by a car, it must be able to intake thousands of gallons of air to process that fuel efficiently. Combustion engines can't function without an essential component- air!

If your check engine light comes on, you should have it read right away to identify the culprit. A professional can read your service code and help you determine if it is related to air intake issues.

6. Reduction in Horsepower

If your acceleration seems sluggish, your horsepower could be suffering from oxygen deprivation. If your car jerks when accelerating or responds slower than normal, chances are it's not getting the air it needs to function at peak performance.

Horsepower in a vehicle is completely dependant on how well the engine functions. The engine is fighting harder by dumping more fuel to keep up with the reduced oxygen. That power being diverted will decrease your horsepower significantly.

7. Flames or Black Smoke from Exhaust Pipe

When oxygen struggles to reach the engine, fuel may not be burning off at an adequate rate. This can result in some of the fuel leaking through the system and out of your exhaust pipe. You may also hear popping sounds as super-heated fuel is expelled through your exhaust system.

This issue wastes fuel and can be very dangerous to your vehicle and the environment. Make sure to check into any unusual exhaust emissions.

8. Strong Fuel Smell

When gasoline is leaking from the exhaust pipe, it will have that telltale smell to notify you that something is off. While a smell can indicate a fuel tank leak as well, you can confirm your suspicions of exhaust leakage by checking for the signs of black smoke.

Dirty Air Filter Symptoms Are an Easy Fix

All the parts in a car work in harmony with one another. When one piece is malfunctioning, you'll see a chain reaction of issues building from one system to the next.

Something as simple as the air filter can cause everything from harmful emissions, wasted fuel, damaged spark plugs, and engine buildup. That's why it's smart to keep an eye on parts that suffer a lot of wear and tear.

When you notice dirty air filter symptoms, don't worry. It's an easy and relatively inexpensive fix. As long as you keep your filter clean and maintained, you'll prevent some of these easily avoidable issues and extend the life of your vehicle.

Need tips on how to change and clean your air filter? Visit us at Air Filter Blaster!

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