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How Often to Replace Air Filter in Car

How Often to Replace Air Filter in Car Blog Header

By Ryan Ellis on January 12, 2022 in Life Hacks

Just like other car parts, air filters need to be replaced regularly. The more you drive, the more wear and tear your car endures, and in turn the more often parts need replacing. We’ll explain what air filters are, their purpose to your car’s overall performance, and when and why to replace your car’s air filters.

What’s an air filter?

Air filter’s main purpose is to stop debris from entering places where it shouldn’t be. Every car has two air filters – a cabin air filter and an engine air filter.

According to Firestone, cabin air filters, “help prevent dust, pollen, dirt, and other pollutants from entering the cabin through your A/C and heat vents” and engine air filters, “help to keep harmful contaminants from entering your engine, ensuring only clean air, without debris, reaches this vital component.”

When they’re new, air filters are usually white or off-white. However, as debris is stopped from entering the cabin or engine, the filters become dirty and darken in color.

How often to replace air filter in your car?

The cadence of how often to replace filters varies on your driving habits. If you often drive on gravel or dirt roads, your air filters have to work a lot harder to keep dust and dirt from your cabin and engine.

Jiffy Lube suggests “your vehicle’s engine air filter should be inspected/serviced once a year or every 15,000 to 30,000 miles.” So, if you’re an off-the-beaten-path driver, you’re looking closer to the 15,000-mile mark. If you mostly drive on paved roads, you’d be closer to the 30,000-mile mark. A couple of signs that indicate the filter needs changing are dirty filter, misfiring engine, lower fuel economy, and odd noises coming from the engine.

For your cabin air filter, there’s a similar range for replacing, between 25,000 and 45,000 miles. The roads you drive on also affect this filter, so keep that dirt and gravel in mind here too! The signs that indicate this filter needs changing are a dirty filter (again), unusual odors, weakened airflow, whistling noises, and more dust.

Why should you replace air filters?

We hope between describing their purpose and what happens if they become dirty, the decision to replace air filters when it’s time is a clear choice for you. However, if not we’ll quickly cover a couple more reasons.

For engine air filters, if your filter is clogged and not working properly, debris can get through to the engine which can cause serious damage to the cylinders or pistons. These are expensive parts to replace in terms of part cost and labor cost, so avoid the extra expense and replace your filters on time. For the cabin air filter, it’s more about the experience of riding in your car. Over time, the musty smell might have your passengers deeming your car the “stinky car” and smog and exhaust from other vehicles will sneak in a lot easier. Trust us, you do not want to be breathing that in every day on your commute.


Let’s do a quick recap. Car air filters prevent debris from getting either in your vehicle’s cabin (for cabin air filters) or in your vehicle’s engine (for engine air filters). Overall, you want to change them in between 15,000 and 45,000 miles with a slight difference for each filter and based on your driving environment. Be sure to replace when it’s time to avoid engine damage or a stinky car.

Ryan Ellis is Say's Front End Product Owner. He graduated from William Woods University with his bachelor’s in Graphic Design and Master of Business Administration, with an emphasis in Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations. Prior to joining Say, Ryan worked directly with customers as an Automation Specialist at a commercial insurance carrier in Columbia, MO. He has a passion for servant leadership and creating easy to use applications for our customers.