Your vehicle’s air filter plays a large part in keeping it running properly. The air filter filters and cleans the outside air before it makes its way into your engine where it burns with fuel to create combustion. It also protects your fuel injection system by preventing debris from entering. An added benefit is that your car’s performance and fuel economy increase when the filter is clean. Some filters are disposable and must be changed instead of cleaned, but if yours is washable, it can benefit from cleaning regularly. Follow these steps to clean your car’s air filter and keep your vehicle running in optimal shape.
1. Take the Filter Out
The first thing you need to do is take the dirty air filter out. Open your hood and locate the filter housing, which is usually in a rectangular or round box. Consult with your owner’s manual if you’re unsure of the exact location. The canister should have either clamps or wingnuts keeping it closed. Remove them and take the old filter out.
Use your vacuum’s hose attachment and vacuum each side of the filter out for a minute per side. Check your work under a bright light and clean up any areas you might have missed. You’re less likely to damage the filter if you vacuum it than if you decide to wash it.
If you have a dry filter and vacuuming isn’t doing the job, you might need to wash the filter to get all the dirt and debris out. Fill a mop bucket with a mixture of soap and water. Gently swirl the filter around in the water, shake the excess soapy water off, and then rinse it under a faucet. Repeat if needed. Then allow it to air dry on a towel. Never put a wet or damp filter in your car because you could damage the engine.
4. Clean an Oiled Filter
An oiled filter requires you to shake off excess dirt and dust before applying a special cleaning solution to the outside. Allow it to sit for ten minutes and then rinse it off under cool water. Allow the filter to dry completely and reapply air filter oil in an even thin layer if necessary. Give it 20 minutes to absorb the oil before putting it back in the vehicle.
5. Clean the Canister
Cleaning the filter is important, but a dirty housing negates your effort. Use your vacuum to clean any dirt and debris out. You can also use a soft automotive cloth or paper towel to clean it out. Do not put your filter back in the vehicle until you’re certain it is completely dry.
6. Replace the Filter
Put the filter back in its housing. Lock it into place and replace the cover. You’re ready to cruise down the road with a newly cleaned air filter.