Daniel Susco
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What Will Happen If I Don’t Change My Car’s Air Filter?

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Your car has a few simple preventative maintenance items that just about anyone with the a few basic tools can perform. Of those, one of the easiest is changing your car’s air filter.

However, while people always nod and harrumph along when the importance of oil changes and new windshield wipers are discussed, it isn’t usually discussed why the air filter change is so important.

So, let’s fix that.


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New air filter installed

The air filter resembles an accordion-folded bunch of stiff fabric, and acts just like the one on your house does—it catches incoming debris so that it doesn’t get into the rest of the system. Without it, whatever dirt or assorted schmutz that gets kicked up on the road would get into the combustion chambers of your engine.

So, what happens if you just, like, never change it?

new vs old air filter comparison

A few things could happen. One that definitely will happen is that the engine will have a hard time getting air in. Since the engine needs that air to mix with the fuel to combust, the gas won’t ignite as well or burn as strongly, leading to a drop in engine power. This could also make the engine start running roughly, and will lead to an overall drop in fuel economy as you need to use more gas to reach the same speed.


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Sooner or later, your engine may start working so hard to pull air through the filter that it might start pulling debris through, which can start damaging the engine’s internal components.

Finally, eventually the amount of harmful contaminants getting past the hopelessly clogged filter will cause your car to stop running altogether, possibly causing permanent damage (although apparently that’s unlikely).

So, there you have it. Change your air filter—it is inexpensive, super easy, and helps your car breathe way easier.

News Sources: Automotive Training Center, CarTalk.com

Daniel Susco is a native of the Dayton-Cincinnati area, and has written on a multitude of subjects. He can discuss Shakespeare, expound on Classical Mythology, and even make witty jokes about Pliny the Elder (More like “Pliny the Rounder,” right?). In his free time, Daniel enjoys reading, cooking, woodworking, and long walks on the beach (just kidding – sunburn is no joke). See more articles by Daniel.