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Replacing Your Air Filter: A Step-by-Step Guide

Practically everyone who has taken their vehicle in for an oil change is asked, “Would you like to replace your air filter today?”

If you’re unfamiliar with car parts, you may shrug your shoulders and say, “Sure, go ahead.”

The truth is air filters don’t need to be replaced with every oil change. You typically have to change them every 15,000 miles – possibly more often if you regularly drive dusty roads.

Air filters keep airborne debris, such as dust and leaves, from getting into your vehicle’s engine. When your air filter becomes too dirty, your vehicle may run roughly and eventually may not run at all.

How to change your air filter

1) Gather supplies.

You’ll need:

  • The vehicle’s owner’s manual
  • Flat-head or Phillips-head screwdriver
  • Adjustable or open end wrench
  • Pliers
  • New air filter (as specified in the owner’s manual)
  • Rag


2) Get your vehicle ready.

Park on level ground, turn the engine off and pull the emergency brake.


3) Locate the air filter.

 Air filters vary in shape, from square on fuel-injected engines to round on carbureted engines, and can be located in different places – including the top of the engine or behind the passenger glove box. If you’re not sure where your vehicle’s air filter is located, consult the owner’s manual.

Still not sure where it is? Stop in at Auto Tire and Parts NAPA, and someone will help you.

Pro Tip: Shine a light from the inside of the filter to the outside. If you see very little light, it’s time to replace it.


4) Remove the filter.

 Air filters are secured by screws, clamps and/or wing nuts. Use a screwdriver, wrench or pliers to loosen the air filter cover. The owner’s manual may contain specific instructions on how to remove it.

Pro Tip: Because an air filter doesn’t contain hazardous material, you can dispose of it normally, with other trash.


5) Clean the air filter housing.

Use a rag to get rid of dirt, leaves and other debris from the housing. Make sure no rubble gets into the engine as you clean.


6) Install the new filter.

Place your new air filter in the housing, making sure the rubber rim is facing up. Then replace the cover, screws, clamps and/or wing nuts according to instructions in the owner’s manual, and close the hood.

As long as you have the correct size air filter for your vehicle, the replacement process should be fairly smooth. Stop by your local Auto Tire and Parts NAPA before you begin to ensure you have everything you need for successful vehicle maintenance.

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