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Easy DIY Car Maintenance: Replace Your Air Filter in Five Steps

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Possibly one of the easiest car maintenance tasks besides topping off fluids is replacing the air filter. It is a quick and easy task (it takes only about five minutes at most), and economical, too, since labor costs at a mechanic’s would double the expense. So, to save yourself a trip and a few dollars, as well as to get that rosy glow of taking care of your car all by yourself, follow these five steps to replacing your air filter.

1. Assemble Your Tools

Air Filter Replacement Tools

When it comes time to replace the air filter on your car, the tools you will need are fairly simple, although this will vary somewhat from car to car. For my 2007 Pontiac G6, I needed to have a hex-headed screwdriver (which I learned by reading online and from looking under the hood at the filter cover), so I picked up a set on the cheap from Wal-Mart. While I was there, I also managed to grab the other thing I would need for this task: a new air filter. This is also variable, and most stores that sell these will have a book, kiosk, or bright-faced person in a polo shirt to help you find out which one goes to your car. The ’07 Pontiac G6 uses a CA 9948 filter that costs about $10.

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2. Locate the Old Filter

Pontiac G6 Engine Bay

Next comes actually finding where the old filter is, which should be fairly evident under the hood. This location, like many other things related to air filters, will vary from car to car, so if you don’t see it, consult your owner’s manual. On the G6, the air filter goes under that big, black plastic hood on the left, helpfully inscribed with a drawing of an arrow passing through some sort of filter.

3. Free the Filter

Pontiac G6 air filter cover

My car’s filter cover only really has two screws to hold it down – the third broke through the plastic at some point during my or the previous owner’s time. After loosening, I took each and set it carefully in a conspicuous location away from where my arms were waving to prevent myself from accidentally swinging an arm and winging one off into the grass or dropping it into the engine bay (which is exactly what happened last time). Properly loosened, I could lift up the hood and reveal the old filter.

4. Replace the Filter

Old filter exposed

The air filter should just come right out, and then you can just slide the new filter in its place—oh, and make sure it’s facing the correct direction, of course.

Side note: here is a side-by-side comparison of what driving pizzas around for over a year while driving two separate 20-minute commutes to two jobs will do to your air filter:

new vs old air filter comparison

Yeesh. You would think I live next to a smoke factory. Honestly, I probably waited a little too long to replace this filter—most places recommend that you replace your air filter every 30,000 to 45,000 miles (or every 3 years, if you don’t drive it very much), and I believe I have ticked a few thousand past that point since my last replacement.

5. Retrace Your Steps

New air filter installed

With the new filter in place, you can simply put back the cover (with the screws that you set aside and didn’t accidentally lose), and you are all set. Congratulations!

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