Car Air Filter Replacement Guide

March 13, 2012

The cost of an air filter replacement, especially if you do it yourself, can easily pay for itself in fuel savings after a couple of months.

Car Air Filter Replacement

Air filter replacement is one of the keys to obtaining the best mileage possible. A clogged air filter means your car is not receiving full airflow and consequently may run rich.

Cost Involved
You will find that you can replace your car's air filter for about $30 when using an aftermarket air filter and doing the job yourself. Your dealer will charge a minimum of half an hour for the engine repairs, plus parts, which could push this cost to well over $80 to have it done professionally.


  • Phillips head screwdriver
  • Replacement air filter
  • Open-end wrench
  • Ratchet wrench drive and proper socket
  • Flat-bladed screwdriver

Air Filter Replacement, Step by Step

  • Locate the filter. Given the almost sealed nature of today's engine, you will have to find the location of the air filter in the owner's manual. You will likely find it close to the throttle body or injection body on the intake manifold
  • Obtain the proper air filter. Your next step is obtaining the proper air filter. You can go to your car's dealership, where you will likely spend top dollar. Use one of the discount auto supply stores such as Pep Boys or AutoZone and you can save substantially on an aftermarket air filter. One caveat is to make sure that it has a brand name
  • Open the air filter cover. Usually secured by four clips or screws, remove the air filter cover with a flat-bladed screwdriver, exposing the air filter so that you can perform the replacement
  • Remove the air filter. Remove the air filter by pulling upward or outward, depending on its orientation within the engine
  • Determine the conditions in which you drive. With the air filter removed, you can determine if your vehicle is used in "heavy duty service" by tapping on the filter. If you have replaced one within 6 months and tapping on the current one releases a large volume of dust, you know that you should be changing the air filter more frequently; every three months is recommended for this type of use
  • Insert the new air filter. Remove the new air filter from its container and insert it into the air filter holder, ensuring that it slides in correctly. Usually there is only one way for it to slide in, so this is an easy step
  • Re-secure the air filter cover. Simply slide the hold-down clips back into place with your hands or, if you need to, the flat-bladed screwdriver. Be aware that some air filters are held down by Phillips head screws, so you will need a Phillips screwdriver for this. On some vehicles, if a hex-head screw is used, you may need an open-end wrench or a ratchet wrench with the properly sized drive to complete this

How to Find the Right Air Filter

Here is a quick step-by-step guide to help you find the appropriate parts that will be required when replacing your vehicle's air filter.

Determine the Exact Model of Your Vehicle
Before you can begin searching for the correct parts for your vehicle, you need to know the exact model name and engine size of your vehicle. There are many different engine sizes that are used in the same model. Therefore, you need to know your car's actual model and engine size before you can find the correct air filter.

Check the Owner's Manual
Your owner's manual car will list the correct manufacturer part number for the air filter and any associated components that go with it. As changing the air filter is a common part of maintaining your vehicle, most manufacturers include this information, as well as how to change the filter.

Check Local Parts Stores
If you visit your local auto parts store, and you know your vehicle's name and engine size, the parts store's staff will generally be able to direct you to the correct air filter parts for your vehicle. Most of these auto parts stores have computerized databases that allow them to quickly search for and find the correct part numbers for use in a specific make and model vehicle. However, local auto parts stores generally will not have the original manufacturer's air filter parts on hand, and usually sell aftermarket parts.

Visit the Dealership
Probably the easiest way to be assured of purchasing the correct air filter for your vehicle is to visit a new car dealership that sells your make and model vehicle. New car dealerships will almost always have new air filters on hand for your vehicle.

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