Your car’s air filters require regular attention. However, the owner’s manual and your mechanic may not agree on how much attention is enough. The shop may recommend engine filter changes every 5,000 to 8,000 kilometers, about the same mileage as regular oil changes, while your service manual may indicate a year’s worth of driving or more. There’s no harm in changing air filters more often. Replacing air filters is very quick and easy, and with a small markup on the supplier’s price, it’s a profitable way for the shop to upsell your service.

This short how-to will explain what you need to know to tackle this easy maintenance step in just a few minutes at home. A quick stop at an auto parts store, a rag and simple tools and you’ve saved yourself charges for extra time and parts during your next visit to the garage.

Step One – Purchase a New Filter

Check your owner’s manual for the part number of the air filter that fits your car. The clerks at the auto parts store will be able to help you with this as well. Large retailers that car auto parts will also have look-up charts so that you can easily locate your car by brand, model and year.

Step Two – Locate the Air Filter Housing

The air filter housing is usually easy to spot once you open the hood. You’re looking for a square or rectangular black plastic housing at the top of the engine. In much older vehicles with carburetors, the housing will be round and usually metal.

Step Three – Open the Filter Housing

Car Air Filter Housing

Take a rag and clean any dust and dirt on the outside of the housing. The goal is to keep the inside of the filter housing clear of any additional debris. Once the outside is tidied up, remove the clips, screws or clamps that hold the housing together. Once again, your owner’s manual will describe and likely illustrate what you need to do, if it’s not immediately apparent.

Step Four – Removing Old Filters

Check for loose dirt around the inside of the housing and remove any that may be likely to fall inside as you remove the old filter. The filter should lift out easily, though designs with an edge gasket may need a little persuasion. Wipe away any debris from the inside of the housing and around the edge where the housing seals. Take care to avoid knocking any dirt into the air intake.

Step Five – Replacing Air Filters

Take your new filter and put it in the same way the old one came out, minus the dirt of course. Check that the filter seal engages the housing, then replace the housing top and attach it with the screws, clips or clamps that you removed earlier.