With roughly 10,000 gallons of air running through your engine to burn a single gallon of fuel, even the best air filters can quickly become clogged with contaminants and need replacing. Because of the volume of air required to burn even a small amount of fuel, unrestricted airflow is of utmost importance.
Much like a cabin air filter cleans the air you breathe, your engine air filter performs a similar task. It removes contaminants from the air the engine breathes by trapping all the dirt, road grit, insects, moisture and other particles that would otherwise work their way into the engine.
“If we allowed the air to go through the engine without filtering out all those things, the engine would wear our very quickly,” said Bill McKnight, team leader of training at Clevite Inc. “As a matter of fact, in tests years ago, experts found that a farm tractor in a dusty field using unfiltered air could be totally worn out in one work day!”
Sometimes it’s the littlest things that have the biggest impact. This is especially true when it comes to your air filter. Even a partially clogged air filter can have a significant impact on your vehicle’s performance, fuel economy and wear down fuel injectors and moving engine components.
When foreign particles are present in the engine, they move along with the engine components at a rate of roughly 40 times per second, wearing on the metal surfaces of pistons, cylinders and bearings—setting you up for larger engine problems (and larger repair costs) down the road. If replaced regularly, today’s filters capable of netting 98 percent of particles down to 20 microns in size.
Air filters should be changed every 7500 miles unless otherwise specified by the vehicle manufacturer. To protect against premature wear, experts also recommend having your service advisor check the air filter each time the oil and oil filter are changed.
When it comes to maintenance intervals, the environment you operate in is directly related to how often your filter needs changing.
“Most manufacturers also have a "severe duty" statement recommending a more frequent change interval,” McKnight said. “For example, in a pick-up truck used in the oil and gas industry, running 90 percent of the time on dirt roads, that interval might be as short a 3,000 miles.”
The above article was written by Erin Coldewey and was published in the Winter 2014 edition of Go Drive magazine.