We now all wear masks because of COVID, because it helps keep the virus out. We never needed masks before, and hopefully quite soon won’t have to wear them anymore. So why has your car always needed a mask, the air filter, and will continue to need a fresh one for as long as you have it?
COVID aside, you and your car engine need the same thing: lots of air to keep going. The difference is that, unless pollution is radical, your nasal passages and lungs are able to clean themselves, and any cells damaged in the process will be replaced in the normal course of life.
Your car is different. It needs a vast amount of clean air that will be perfectly mixed with fuel, compressed, then ignited to cause an intense explosion in the cylinder to drive the piston to turn the crank, to make your car go vroom. We sometimes get very technical here.
The thing is, for these actions to take place optimally require incredibly tight-fitting components. A minute speck of grit in the inlet or outlet valve seat will turn your snarling beast into an asthmatic pug. Likewise, a tiny smut in the carburettor or injector will mess up the air/fuel mix will turn the growl into an expensive wheeze.
Your car will travel on roads used by other cars, all of them churning up the air and causing insects and bits of sand, grit and other debris to fly around. Without the air filter, your engine will quickly ingest enough of these to cause the negative effects described above. So, if you have an air filter, why change it?
Money. All that gunk that does not get into your engine will still sit on the surface of your air filter. With time, it will build-up to the point where your engine has to suck really hard to get enough air, and this will unbalance the fuel/air happiness. Air is free, fuel is not. Once your filter is dirty, it will soon cost you more to run with it rather than replace it.
The environment. If you care, even remotely, about the environment – please note that a dirty filter will cause your engine to emit more harmful gasses. If you don’t care about the environment, I won’t get all preachy here. Rather just read Reason 1 above and think about your poor wallet.
Give your engine a longer, happier and cheaper life. As mentioned above, your engine is a precision-built mechanism. Any deviation from optimum conditions will disturb this fine balance, causing wear and tear in places you did not even know existed.
It is not needed that often, and when it is, it is not expensive. Check your car’s manual – it is usually measured in thousands of kilometres and normally coincides with your scheduled service intervals.
But if at any time your car starts using more fuel, or feels sluggish, or emits smoke from the exhaust, it could be your air filter. Ask your friendly local dealer to check it out and if it is only the filter, no sweat. Happy driving.