How to clean and replace your air filter

Autoblog may receive a share from purchases made via links on this page. Pricing and availability are subject to change.

Clogged air filters can reduce your miles per gallon and cause your vehicle to run rough because your engine can’t breathe! Don’t let that happen. Learn how to fix it here.

Watch all of our Autoblog Wrenched videos for more tips on how to diagnose, fix and modify cars from professional detailer Larry Kosilla. While you’re at it, check out Larry’s other car cleaning and maintenance video series Autoblog Details!

Materials Used:

Instructions (Video Transcript):

[00:00:00] – [Larry] Clogged air filters can reduce your miles per gallon and cause your vehicle to idle and run rough because the engine can’t breath properly. Installing a new filter is easy and will give your car the performance you’ve been missing. Here’s what you need to do the job: a replacement air filter, a vacuum and a flathead screwdriver. I’m Larry Kosilla, pro-detailer and trainer for the last 15 years, but when it comes to what’s under the hood, I’m the student. Follow me, as experts teach me how to diagnose, fix and modify cars on Autoblog‘s Wrenched.

[00:00:30] Replace your filter more often if you regularly drive in dusty or dirty environments. While OEM quality filters are a perfect replacement, you can also consider performance filters and longer life options. Performance filters use a synthetic material that allow better air flow versus a standard paper filter, thus improving power and performance of your engine. Filters come in all shapes and sizes, some are horizontal, vertical and even cone shaped.

[00:01:00] Likewise, washable filters can be reused and last longer than paper filters between servicing. Spencer, replacing the air filter seems pretty self-explanatory, but can’t I just take it out and shake it or do I actually need to change it? – Well the paper element, after a lot of moisture and rain and everything else, gets clogged up, gets a lot of debris in it, and the paper starts to degrade, so you really don’t want to reuse it. What you want to do is replace that about once a year or every 15,000 miles. You can replace one with a brand new one that you can find locally, or they make washable filters

[00:01:30] that are from the performance industry, but those you can reuse. They’re good for I think 100,000 miles and there’s a procedure on how to do that. – [Larry] Visit your local auto parts store and look up your make, model and year car and find your replacement filter. Open the hood and locate your air box. On modern, fuel-injected cars, the filter is in a plastic box-like enclosure. It’s typically easy to find, as it will be connected to a flexible hose running into the top of your engine. Most boxes have plastic clips or metal tabs

[00:02:00] holding the filter in place. You may need to use a screwdriver to pop open these clips. While each car and engine might have a different shape, color or size filter, the basic principles are the same. Be sure to use care when removing the cover as the tabs tend to bend, break or fall to the bottom of the engine compartment. With the clips off, push the plastic air box back to relieve the squeezing pressure on the filter’s crown. Slide the old filter out, and put it to the side.

[00:02:30] Before replacing the new filter, clean out the bottom of the air box with a vacuum and not with compressed air, as you do not want to blow dust around without the filter installed. If you’re not using a washable filter, now is the time to install a replacement, attach the clips, re-install the boot and, guess what? You’re done. However, if you have a washable filter, liberally spray filter cleaner on both sides and allow it to soak for 10 minutes to loosen the dirt, but do not allow the cleaner to dry.

[00:03:00] Next, rinse out the filter with cool, low-pressure water from the clean side, going outwards, in order to push out the dirt. Continue until all traces of the cleaner are gone. After cleaning, shake off the excess water, and allow the filter to completely dry. Never blow washable filters out with compressed air, as you’ll ruin the paper inside. If it’s a sunny day, leave the filter outside to speed the drying process. Do not apply oil until the filter is completely dry.

[00:03:30] Apply the oil to the tops of the filter crowns on each pleat, holding the nozzle about three inches away. Touch up any dry areas until you have a uniform coating, then allow the oil to wick for approximately 20 minutes. Excessive oil, or not allowing sufficient time for the filter to completely dry, may actually cause the mass airflow sensor to fail, so follow the directions carefully. The air filter is like the lungs of your car. If it’s clogged, your car is gonna be wheezing

[00:04:00] and having trouble performing. Change your filter often, to keep your car running smoothly. For more how-to car repair videos, visit I’m Larry Kosilla from As always, thanks for watching!