Your engine requires a precise mix of gasoline and air in order to run efficiently. The fuel side of this equation always gets attention, but the air side needs attention too. An air filter that is clogged will affect the acceleration performance of your vehicle and result in more fuel burned in order to maintain the same level of performance. In addition, if there are any breaks or tears in your air filter, dust can enter the engine and when mixed with the oil, it acts like sandpaper on the moving parts of your engine.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, replacing a clogged air filter can increase your fuel use by as much as 10%. This increase is more significant with older vehicles with carbureted engines.


Check your air filter every 3 months, more often if you are in a dusty area. As a general rule, you should change your air filter when you cannot see light through it. Simply hold it up to the light and see if it is plugged with fine dirt and particles.

Dirty Air Filter

Photo: Green Action Centre

How do I do this?

Replacing the air filter is relatively easy to do, however it can also be challenging depending on the design of you vehicle. If you are not familiar with where the filter is located or how to remove it, go to your local garage and ask them to check the air filter. This can be done easily outside where you can watch and learn. The next time you can check it yourself.

  • Locate the air filter housing. It is generally a large black plastic box shape and located close to the front of the engine compartment
  • Remove the top from the housing. There are a few different ways that these are attached and may involve either spring clips, screws, or bolts. If screwed or bolted you will need the appropriate tools to remove it.
  • Lift away the top of the housing to reveal the air filter.
  • Remove the air filter making note of which side is facing up so that you will reinstall it the correct way.
  • Inspect the filter for any cracks or tears and hold it up to the light to see if you can still see light through the element. If not or if it is worn in any way, replace it with a new filter.
  • Reinstall the filter making sure that it is seated properly on the frame of the housing and has the correct side up.
  • Line up the top of the housing carefully so as not to damage the filter or rubber seal around the outside.
  • Reinstall the clips or fasteners and you are done.

Want to see a video on how to check and change your air filter? Click here!