By David Norris

DriveSafe Online Contributing Writer

It’s important to take care of your car. After all, it’s likely one of the most expensive items you own, so it’s smart to protect your investment.

In this article we’ll look at the four filters you should routinely change in your vehicle:

  • Oil filter
  • Engine air filter
  • Fuel filter
  • Cabin air filter

All of these filters are essential to the operation of your vehicle and its long-term health.

Cheap Preventive Maintenance

Oil Filter

We know that engine oil is necessary to keep all the moving parts well-lubricated. It’s also important to know that engine oil cools those parts and helps keep them free of foreign matter.

Dirt and the by-products of combustion are picked up in the oil and carried to the oil filter where they are trapped and kept away from the rest of the engine.

But, over time, all that foreign matter builds up to the point where the filter can no longer perform its function. In such a case, the oil system’s built-in filter bypass system doesn’t bother with the clogged filter. Instead, the hot oil with the foreign matter is sent right on back to the engine’s moving parts. That’s not good.

When the filter is dirty, foreign matter clogs up oil tolerances causing oil to be denied to critical areas of the engine. When this happens, metal-to-metal contact between moving parts rapidly increases wear and dares those hot parts to meld together, which ultimately can cause the engine to seize.

Oil Filter Change Intervals

How often should you change the oil filter? It seems a straightforward question but always brings out a variety of answers.

Automotive manufacturers typically recommend the oil filter be changed at every engine oil change. Oil and parts manufacturers tend to agree but recommend changing both every 3,000 miles to 5,000 miles. And some automotive technicians recommend even more frequent oil and filter changes if the vehicle is operated routinely in extreme conditions (towing heavy loads, driving in extreme temperatures, etc.).

But it’s safe to say that frequently changing your oil and oil filter is sound advice to maintain the health of your vehicle.

Engine Air Filter

You can think of the engine air filter as your car’s nostrils. When we humans breathe in smoke, dirt, dust, smog, it’s hard for us to function. Our nostrils try to filter out impurities in the air before it reaches our lungs.

Car and truck engines like to breathe in clean air too, for essentially the same reasons. Engine air filters remove the impurities in the air before they’re taken into the engine and combusted with the fuel. Dirty air in the fuel-air mixture in the cylinder isn’t good for the engine operation, its performance output, or its long-term health.

Not only that, but dirty air and a blocked engine air filter can also reduce fuel efficiency and increase pollution.

Engine Air Filter Change Intervals

The recommended engine air filter change intervals are less defined than those for oil filters. It usually is not necessary to change the engine air filter as often as the oil filter.

Some engine manufacturers recommend every 30,000 miles, while others propose every 50,000 miles. All seem to agree that “severe” driving conditions, including frequent driving in sandy/dusty environments, on unpaved roads, or in heavy traffic in hot weather can cut those intervals by as much as half.

You can typically determine if an engine air filter needs changed just by looking at it. Whether your vehicle has a circular, square panel, or cylinder type filter, if you see any black areas on the air intake portion of the filter, it’s a good bet that it is time for a change.

Even if there are no black areas visible on the filter, but it’s been at least three years or 30,000 miles since the filter was last replaced, you should change the engine air filter.

Failure to keep a clean engine air filter in your car can mean restricted airflow into the engine, which will reduce engine acceleration and harm fuel economy.

Fuel Filter

By now, it’s become obvious that filters remove impurities and prevent engine damage. Any impurities in the fuel system can clog injectors, enter the engine in the combustion chamber and wreak havoc on engine power and efficiency.

At that point, you may be forced to schedule an appointment with your friendly, local car repair shop. And that appointment could end up costing you a lot of money.

Fuel Filter Change Intervals

Expert recommendations for how often to change the fuel filter in your vehicle can vary between every 20,000 and 60,000 miles. Of course, the type of car your drive, its age, and where you drive will play a key role in determining when to make that replacement decision.

Like all maintenance, it’s always wise to consult your vehicle’s owner’s manual for recommended replacement intervals.

Cabin Air Filter

So far we’ve focused on engine filters, but let’s not forget the occupants of the vehicle. Many drivers forget, or simply don’t even know, that their vehicle has a cabin air filter. And many older cars don’t have one of these filters at all.

Just like the engine doesn’t do well breathing in dust, dirt, insects and pollution, cabin air filters capture all those things (and more) and prevent them from entering the car. Cabin air filters strive to keep the air inside the car clean and breathable.

Cabin Air Filter Change Intervals

Recommendations for changing cabin air filters vary from annually to every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. Again, the dustier the environment, the more frequently the filter should be changed.

Clean Filters Save Money

These filters aren’t expensive – when compared to the costs of the maintenance repairs they can help prevent. Adhering to a regular, recommended filter replacement regimen just makes good automotive sense. Diligent preventive care will keep you safe on the road and extend the life of your car.

Want to learn more about protecting your vehicle investment and how you can save money on car insurance? Just click here.