How Often Should The Engine Air Filter Be Changed?

Last Updated on April 15, 2023 by Paul S.

Your engine air filter should be changed as often as every one to two years or every 12,000 to 45,000 miles but that depends on your manufacturer and environmental conditions. You should change the engine air filter more frequently if you reside in a dusty environment a quick check of the filter can tell you everything. 

Your engine stays in optimal operation by having a clean air filter. If you haven’t changed it in some time, maybe now is the time to do so.  

Read on to learn a little bit more about your engine air filter and some more interesting and important facts.

What Does An Engine Air Filter Do?

An engine air filter prevents insects, dust, particles, sand, or debris from entering the engine. Without the engine air filter, all the debris would enter the internal parts of the engine. Numerous issues would occur if that were to happen and that may result in loss of power, engine idling difficulty, and eventually failure.

Replacing the engine air filter can enhance fuel efficiency and acceleration, lower emissions, and extend engine life.

What Does A Dirty Engine Air Filter Look Like?

Dirty Engine Air Filter
Dirty Engine Air Filter

Most brand-new air filters are white, extremely pale yellow, or cream in hue. A dirty engine air filter will appear brown or black with the dirt and particles visible not letting enough air into your engine, starving the car of power and decreasing fuel efficiency. There may occasionally be dirt in the deeper levels that are difficult to see. If this is the case, a mechanic can check.

The engine air filter will capture anything, even tiny insects or debris from the road surface. 

The best approach to determine whether your air filter needs to be changed is to perform a visual inspection through color signals. 

Avoid taking chances if your air filter’s physical state is out of the ordinary. 

Engine Air Filter VS Cabin Air Filter

A cabin air filter and an engine air filter are two different air filters that come with your car. These filters all function to keep dangerous debris out but to different parts of the vehicle. So what makes your cabin air filter differ from the engine air filter?

An engine air filter is a rectangular pleated filter that refines debris from the air before it enters a car’s engine. It is located under the hood and allows air in the combustion process. It acts as a layer of defense against particulate matter that could harm a car’s engine and ensures that the air entering the engine is clean enough to keep the job running smoothly.

The cabin air filter has a similar design to an engine air filter, but it serves a fundamentally distinct purpose. A cabin air filter is located near the glove box opening to purify the air entering your passenger compartment. Your cabin space will always have fresh, clean air thanks to its ability to capture dust, soot, pollen, and other environmental allergens. This filter also needs to be replaced because it loses effectiveness when clogged with particles.

Check out our more in depth article on cabin air filters here.

How Much To Change Air Filters In A Car?

Whether you hire a mechanic or do it yourself, an engine air filter replacement costs $20 to $85. Taxes, fees, and your specific make and model are not added to this price range, which is based on national averages for all automobiles.

Changing an air filter is typically a simple and quick task. The filter replacement will only take a mechanic a short time, ranging from $40 to $85, with $20 to $40 for parts and $30 to $40 for labor.

This is ​one of the simplest maintenance tasks you may perform on your own. Doing it yourself will save you both time and money, as it is easy to replace. The DIY cost ranges from $20 to $40 because you are only paying for a filter that can easily be ordered online or picked up at your local automotive store. To replace them, you don’t need any expensive tools at all. Depending on the vehicle, you might require a simple wrench or screwdriver, but nothing major. 

How To Change An Engine Air Filter?

Here are some basic instructions to help you change the engine air filter yourself. These are basic instructions and can vary from vehicle to vehicle. 

Changing Engine Air Filter
Engine Air Filter Replacement

If you’ve been driving, let the engine cool down for a bit before you work on replacing the filter. Some parts of the engine bay run very hot and without a complete understanding of everything you could burn yourself. 

Here is a 4-step instruction for changing your car engine air filter:

  1. Prepare and check your owner manual for reference. Open your car hood. Look for a big black plastic box at the top or right next to the battery. The location could vary. 
  1. Take note of the way the filter housing is fastened. For a cover with clips, simply unclip the cover to expose the filter. For screws, you may need safety glasses, gloves, and a screwdriver to remove the screws to expose the filter. Carefully remove the previous filter. Try not to shake the filter over the system to avoid dropping any debris into the filter box. 
  1. Before installing the replacement filter, clean out the compartment if it contains excessive dirt or debris. A shop vac could help if there is a lot of loose debris. 
  1. Install the new filter. Verify if it has air direction arrows to ensure you are installing it correctly or face the ribbed section of the filter towards where the air will be sucked in.  Cover it up and fasten the clips.


An engine air filter is vital because it removes impurities from the air and lets only clean air in. Remember, changing the engine air filter is not a costly repair. You must perform this routine maintenance to keep your car running well. Keep an eye on your car engine air filter and change it as soon as you notice any indications that it is clogged. 

As you take it to various maintenance shops they will definitely let you know it needs replacing whether it does or not but just know that it is an easy DIY job.