CarInspector.US -- Learning Center -- Episode 2
by Jim Stone
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 Episode 2 -- Automotive Filters

The Learning Center

Your car needs clean air, fuel, and oil.  Today we will learn about some of the different filters your car has and why they are important.

Engine air filter: Every engine has one and it should be kept clean. A dirty air filter can reduce engine power, increase engine wear, and decrease throttle response. Your air filter should be checked every 3,000-5,000 miles and should be changed every 10,000 miles.  If you drive in dusty or dirty conditions you may need to change it more frequently. Always check your owners manual for the manufacturer's recommendations.

Cabin air filter: These are used to filter out pollen, dust, and other debris from  the air coming into the passenger compartment. Although some cars do not have them, most modern cars have at least one cabin air filter. As with the engine air filter, driving conditions and environmental factors will determine how frequently this filter will require replacement.  We recommend checking it at least yearly.  A rule of thumb for both cabin filters and engine air filters is to hold it up to the sun or a bright lamp.  If you can not see light through the filter element, it is time for a replacement. 

Fuel filter:  Located in the fuel line, fuel filters prevent sediments such as dirt and rust from getting into your fuel injection system (or carburetor on older models). It should be replaced every 20,000 to 30,000 miles. Failure to change the fuel filter could result in contamination of the fuel injectors, fuel pressure regulator, or pump causing a variety of drivability issues such as skipping, poor throttle response, poor fuel economy and more.    

Transmission filter:  Transmission filters constantly remove clutch debris, contaminants, and metal from the transmission fluid.  This debris, if left in the fluid, would certainly cause premature transmission failure.  Changing your transmission filter every 30,000 miles will greatly increase its performance and longevity.  A note on transmission fluid exchange procedures.  Most manufacturers recommend NOT to use transmission fluid exchangers because it does not properly clean the fluid or filter. You service department may try to sell you this service, but make no mistake, they do this because it is a huge profit center, not because they want the best for your car.  If they were truly looking out for you, they would offer a traditional transmission service which would involve replacement of the fluid and filter. 

Engine oil filter:  I have much to say on this topic.  So much, in fact, that I devoted an entire article to it.  The engine oil filter is probably one of the most important and most neglected items on vehicles today.  The oil filter removes soot, metal, and other contaminants from the engine oil.  If it is not changed regularly, catastrophic engine damage will occur.  See my previous article for a more in-depth discussion about the importance of this filter.

Just like your body uses your kidneys, liver, and sinuses to keep you healthy, cars use filters to keep it healthy.  Unfortunately, we have not yet developed a filter which cleans itself; therefore, we must change them periodically.  Do not neglect them.  Just like your body, if you take good care of your car, it will last you a lifetime.