10 Minute Finance Fix: Clean Your Car Air Filter

The 10 Minute Finance Fix series focuses on topics you can learn in ten minutes or less to help improve your personal finances. In this 10 Minute Finance Fix, you will learn how cleaning your air filter can increase your gas mileage and reduce your auto expenses.

Your car’s engine mixes air and fuel to burn at the right mixture to maximize efficiency and provide your car the power it needs to drive. The air intake flows through a filter to catch impurities to keep your engine burning as clean as it can. When this filter gets clogged, your engine has to work harder to try to maintain the right mix of fuel and oxygen.

In general, most cars should have their air filter replaced every 15,000 miles. What most people don’t realize, though, is that their car’s air filter begins to get clogged with dust after just a few thousand miles – and when it begins to get clogged with dust, the air flow under your hood slows down and your automobile quickly becomes less fuel efficient. How much less efficient? A dirty air filter, even after just 5,000 miles after a change, can cost you up to 7% of your gas mileage. If you are driving a car that normally gets 20 miles per gallon, your car is now getting 18.6 MPG. Over the next 10,000 miles, that’s an extra 37.6 gallons of gas, which with gas at $2.10 per gallon, costs you $79.03!

Cleaning off your air filter is easy (can you turn a wing nut with your hand? If you can, you can handle this) and it only takes about five minutes. All you need is your car, your owner’s manual, and a vacuum cleaner. I usually do it when vacuuming out my car normally, so I usually don’t even have to worry about pulling out my vacuum, making it a two minute task.

How to Clean Your Auto Air Filter

1. Open your car’s hood.

2. Take a peek in your car’s owner’s manual to see exactly where the air filter is. It’s usually right on top under the hood and easy to reach. On my truck, it happens to be in a round metal container that’s right in front of my face; on other cars, it can be square or rectangular, but still right in front of you. Locate it under the hood.

3. Take off the top of the metal container that the filter is in. It’s either held in place by some clamps that you can flip up with your finger or a wing-nut that you can unscrew with your hand.

4. Pull out the filter. It’s just sitting in there, so you should be able to pick it right up.

5. Use a vacuum cleaner to clean off the filter. I usually tap it a few times on my car’s bumper, then vacuum it for a minute or so.

6. Vacuum out the inside of the chamber where the air filter sits. There’s usually a bit of dust in there. Vacuum it for fifteen seconds or so to get any dust you see.

7. Wipe off the inside of the chamber with a rag or a paper towel. You should be able to get a bit more grime with this. Don’t scrub it or anything, just get any grime that’s easily accessible.

8. Put the air filter back in place, put the cover back on the air filter chamber (don’t forget to put the clamp or screw back in place!), and close your hood. You’re done!

I recommend doing this every 5,000 miles or so. You don’t need to pay a mechanic to clean your air filter, on most cars it is a simple process to clean it. Cleaning your air filter will help improve fuel efficiency and decrease your auto expenses.

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