All internal combustion engines need air along with the fuel to create a mixture they can combust in order for the engine to rotate the crankshaft. The downward motion of the piston creates the vacuum, sucking the air in while the injectors spray the fuel to make a charge. The spark plugs then ignite the charge, making a bang that pushed the piston down once again. This creates a self-sustaining cycle, and your vehicle’s engine starts making power that then propels the car with the help of a transmission case.
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The air taken in by the car’s engine is just as important as the fuel itself. And one thing that stands in front of dirt, and mud, and sand to get into the combustion chamber is your car’s air filter. The air filters are usually made up of paper that is thin enough to let the air pass easily, and thick enough to block the impurities. Most paper-based disposable filters work as a barrier. The element works as a physical barrier and stops the dust from entering the air. This can lead to restricted airflow since the pores in the material keep closing due to the dust and dirt particles. Then there are fabric based reusable filters that actually absorb dust particles. Such filters are available as an aftermarket upgrade.
It is recommended to inspect your car’s air filter after every 5000 kilometers and change the element after every 15,000 to 20,000 kilometers depending upon the atmospheric conditions you drive your car in. People who live in and around desert-like areas, of course, need to be more vigilant with the status of their air filters. And if you live in a relatively cleaner region, you can drag the replacement time a bit forward.
Back in the days where there were mostly carbureted cars, it was fairly easy to check the air filter. You had one of those circular metal air intake boxes with an intake barrel sticking at one side. You had a simple butterfly screw on top of the box. Just unscrew to pop the cover off, inspect or replace the air filter, pop it back in and tighten the bolt back on, and you are done. Then with the dawn of modern cars with EFI and engine programming, things changed from metal boxes to thick black plastic boxes. Depending on the car and design, you would either have just metal clips that you can push off or on easily, or there might be a couple of 10 mm bolts holding one or two sides of the air intake box.
Inspecting the air filter routinely and changing them as soon as they require a replacement is only going to prolong the life of your car engine. All the dust and dirt mixing in the fuel charge is not only going to reduce the performance of your vehicle, but it will shorten the engine oil change intervals as well. And if you are not careful with regular maintenance, it will slowly start to reduce the life of your vehicle’s engine.