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Checking and replacing a car’s engine air filter is often overlooked. You may even be able to DIY a car’s air filter with no tools. Today we look at why checking and or replacing your engine air filter is so important. A dirty air filter can lead to reduced performance in your car. In really bad cases if can even cause a check engine light on your car. The folks at Fram asked me to talk about just how important air filter replacement is, and demo replacing mine.

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K&N Air filter

Hey everyone. Today I am traveling with my boss out to NASCAR Technical Institute in Charlotte,NC. We are planning to hire a few rookie techs. For me it’s about a two and a half hour road trip. I will also be taking a little detour to see some folks at a certain tuning shop in Charlotte, NC. For those of you that know what I mean 😉 more to follow.

As many of you know I am currently in the process of building of restoring a 1988 VW Cabriolet aka project “Luv A Dub”. Not only am I bringing this Cabby back to life, I am installing a freshly rebuilt VR6. This will take the horsepower from a weak 90hp to 172hp. That is a nice increase in power, especially from a ~2300lb car.

The awesome folks at AutoAnything.com asked me if K&N Air filterthey could help out with the project. As their name says, Auto Anything sells just about anything your car might need. We decided that putting a K&N air filter on the Cabby was the way to go.

If you are not familiar with K&N filters, they are a filter that never needs to be replaced. Instead of replacing the filter you can clean it. I will put some videos about cleaning a K&N filter at the bottom of the post. Not only are K&N filters reusable, they also let more air flow through than many disposable air filters. For all the stats on K&N filters check out their site KN Filters.

After We decided on going with K&N for the filter, Kelly from Auto Anything helped me pick the right filter for the Cabby. This was not your average task. This is a custom application. After some measuring on my end, and a few emails, they got me the exact filter I needed. Don’t worry, if you are replacing your factory size filter, getting the right one is much easier.

There is some controversy about using oil charged filters on VWs. I can tell you I have replaced tons of air flow sensors on cars with K&N filter. I have also replaced tons of air flow sensors with out K&N filters. Just like any part you use, you must make the choice on your own.

K&N Air filter

This is a close up of the filter element of the K&N filter.

if you have any questions, thoughts or comments about K&N filters, post them in the comments below. I will also tell you guys that I am also traveling on Wednesday and Thursday this week. Be sure to follow the Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram. I will be posting picture from the road. One last thing. My wife and I had a chance to check out the Porsche By Design exhibit at the NC Art Museum. It was awesome! I posted a bunch of pictures on FB. When I get back, I will post more on the blog.

Dirty Engine Air filter
Dirty Engine Air filter

Top is a dirty air filter, the bottom is new

The engine air filter may be one of the most up sold items in the entire automotive world. But do you really need to have your air filter replaced? Today we will talk about some of the reasons why you may need a new engine air filter. We will also look at how you can be sure you actually need a new one.

What is the Engine Air Filter
It may come as a big surprise, but the engine air filter, filters AIR! Yes that is me being slightly sarcastic. There is really no need to over complicate what an air filter does. As air is pulled into the engine, the filter prevents debris from getting in the engine. It really is as simple as that.

Why is it important?
Well we answered this question above. The better question is, what happens when an air filter is bad. In this case bad means:

  • Dirty
    A dirty air filter will cause your engine to work harder. That can mean decreased MPG, and a reduction in power
  • Wrong, or improper fitment
    This can cause a number of issues. An air filter that does not fit properly can allow debris into the engine. It can also alter the flow of air into the engine. In some cases this can fool the sensor that monitors the flow of air into the engine. This can lead to a check engine light, and poor MPG.
  • Old and damaged
    An old air filter can actually come apart. On top of allowing debris in the engine, the engine can suck parts of the air filter in to the engine. This can cause damage to the engine.

How do I know if I need a new air filter
The great thing about air filters is it can be easy to tell if you need a new one.

  • Follow the owners book
    Most car manufacturers have a replacement interval. That interval is a great guideline to follow. Just remember that manufacturer inOtervals do not apply to everyone. For example if you live near the beach you need to replace your filter more often. Sand will clog a filter pretty fast.

    Dirty Engine Air filter

    Here, the top filter is new, and the bottom one is dirty

  • Visual inspection
    This is the only way to if you need a filter replacement. Here are a few things that you can look for:

    • Excessive dirt or sand
    • Oil saturation, this is can be the result of another problem. Do not just replace the filter if you find oil saturation.
    • Foreign objects, yep, it could be anything from a little critter to a Hot Wheel. None of those things belong on your air filter.

Do you REALLY need a new air filter?
This one depends on the condition of the air filter in your car. If the filter is dirty replace it. If it is clogged up, or falling apart replace it. Let’s say that a service place recommends you replace the filter because “it is dirty”. You should do what I always recommend and ask to see it. If the service department does not have the filter at the ready, they may not have inspected it. If they can show you the dirty filter from your car, ask to see a new one. This will let you see how bad the filter is. It will also let you check and make sure they are using the right filter.

If you have any further questions about replacing or inspecting an engine air filter, please post them in the comments below. Odds are if you have a question, tons of other folks have that same question. So please feel free to post them below.

I also want to take a second to thank you all for hanging in with me while I moved. It was a crazy busy, and stressful time. We are finally getting things back on track. I should be bringing the Cabby, aka Luv A Dub, home this week. I can’t wait to get back to working on her.