What’s An Air Filter / Air Cleaner In Cars? Look, Cost, Replacing, etc.

An air cleaner in your car plays an essential role in maintaining the performance and longevity of your vehicle’s engine.

Let’s dive into what air cleaners are and how they work.

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What Is the Air Cleaner in a Car?

The main function of a car’s air cleaner is to filter out dust, debris, and other harmful particles from the air that enters your engine. This ensures that only clean air is used for combustion, which can significantly improve the overall efficiency and performance of your car.

The air cleaner contains a replaceable filter made of high-quality materials, such as paper, foam, or cotton. These filters are designed to capture and trap particles as small as a few microns in size, preventing them from entering the engine and causing damage or reduced performance.

Air filter explained

In addition to protecting your engine, a clean air filter can also contribute to better fuel economy and lower emissions. By allowing your engine to use only clean and uncontaminated air, the combustion process becomes more efficient, producing less waste and harmful emissions.

What’s the Difference Between the Air Filter and Air Cleaner?

The air filter is also sometimes referred to as the “air cleaner”. It’s the same thing. Sometimes, though, people will refer to the “air cleaner” as both the air filter and the box or case that holds it.

What Does the Air Cleaner Look Like?

changing air filter / air cleaner

The car air cleaner is typically a box-like or cylindrical component found in the engine compartment.

The housing is usually made of metal or plastic and may be black, gray, or silver in color. It’s connected to the intake manifold through a rubber hose or duct, and you might see an air inlet or hose attached to it as well.

The size can range from a few inches across for smaller cars to much larger for trucks and SUVs. If you’re looking to locate the air cleaner in your car, look for this distinct box or cylinder in the engine bay.

Do All Cars Have an Air Cleaner?

All newer modern cars come equipped with an air cleaner, also known as an air filter. It’s a vital component that has to be there.

Electric cars, however, do not have internal combustion engines and thus do not require air cleaners for the engine. They may, however, have cabin air filters to clean the air inside the vehicle.

Some very old cars, particularly those built in the early part of the 20th century, may not have air cleaners as we understand them today. However, these vehicles are rare and usually seen in museums or antique car shows.

Where Is the Air Cleaner Located in a Car

The air cleaner is almost always located under the hood. It is typically housed within a recognizable air filter box. To find it, you’ll want to locate your vehicle’s engine, which is generally in the center or off to one side of the engine compartment.

Accessing the air cleaner in your car is usually quite straightforward. In most cases, you can release the latches or tabs on the air filter box by hand, without the need for any special tools.

Once you’ve opened the box, you’ll find the air cleaner inside, which is a flat, papery element that resembles a folded accordion.

However, some vehicles might have the air cleaner situated in a less accessible location, requiring you to remove other components to reach it. For example, you might have to loosen the hose clamp connecting the air inlet duct (intake hose) to the air filter box and remove fasteners or screws that secure the lid. In such instances, safely store any removed fasteners to avoid losing them during the process.

How Long Does an Air Cleaner Last?

Air filters typically last around two years or 20,000 – 25,000 miles, whichever comes first, depending on your driving conditions.

Air filters should be inspected at every 6,000 miles (9,656 kilometers) or at every oil change, whichever comes first.

The lifespan of an air filter depends on factors such as your driving conditions and the quality of your filter.

How Much Do Air Cleaners Cost?

A new air cleaner for your car costs between $20 and $70. Keep in mind that this range is for more standard vehicles, and luxury or specialized cars may have higher costs.

The price range for used air cleaners from scrap yards can be anywhere from $10 to $40, depending on the make and model of the car it was taken from.

Here’s a table summarizing the costs:

Source Price Range
New Air Cleaner $20 – $70
Air Cleaner From Scrap Yards $10 – $40

How Much Does It Cost to Replace an Air Cleaner in a Car?

On average, labor costs for air filter replacement range between $25 and $100. This price might differ based on factors such as the difficulty of accessing the air filter box or the mechanic’s experience.

It’s a good idea to ask for quotes from multiple local repair shops or mechanics to get the best price for this service.

What Happens When an Air Cleaner Doesn’t Work?

When an air cleaner fails to operate properly, it can cause a reduction in your car’s fuel efficiency. When the air cleaner is not working correctly, your engine has to work harder to draw in the air it needs for combustion.

This, in turn, means that your engine uses more fuel than necessary, leading to increased fuel consumption and higher expenses at the gas pump.

Secondly, when the air cleaner doesn’t work, your engine suffers from reduced power output. A clogged air filter restricts the airflow to the engine, resulting in less oxygen available for the combustion process. This can cause your engine to struggle when delivering power, especially during acceleration.

A malfunctioning air cleaner can also cause the spark plugs to become dirty, leading to misfires and potentially damaging your engine.

Can You Replace a Car’s Air Cleaner Yourself?

You can definitely replace your car’s air cleaner yourself. Begin by locating the air filter box under your car’s hood. It should be easily identifiable and can typically be opened by releasing latches or tabs by hand.

Once you have located the air filter box, follow these steps to replace your car’s air cleaner:

  1. Turn off your vehicle: Ensure your car is off and the engine has cooled down before attempting to replace the air filter.
  2. Open the air filter box: Carefully release the latches or tabs that secure the air filter box. This will give you access to the air cleaner inside.
  3. Examine the existing air filter: Take a look at the current air filter to determine if it needs to be replaced. A quick shake should help you assess its condition – if it releases a significant amount of debris, it’s time for a new one.
  4. Swap out the old filter: Remove the old air filter, ensuring you note its orientation within the filter box. Place the new air filter into the box, maintaining the same orientation as the old filter.
  5. Secure the air filter box: Reattach any latches or tabs to secure the air filter box. This will keep the new air cleaner in place.

And that’s it!

Replacing your car’s air cleaner is a simple and straightforward task that you can easily accomplish on your own.

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