How to Clean Your Air Filter

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How to Clean Your Air Filter

A clean air filter improves the performance and functionality of a car. It also enhances a car's horsepower, torque, and mileage capabilities. The noticeable change in your vehicle may surprise you once you clean out its air filter.


Determine the Air-Filter Type

Most cars come from the factory with paper air filters, an inexpensive option. Though they do not offer any performance enhancements, they work for most vehicles. Foam air filters are an aftermarket upgrade that provide additional airflow and dust protection, which suits those who go on country roads or off-road. Made of durable cotton gauze, performance air filters are favourites among sports car, rally car, and off-road vehicle owners. The cleaning methods vary based on the car air-filter type.


Locate and Remove Your Filter

Typically, the air filter is in an easy-to-reach housing under the hood. For the exact location, check your vehicle's manual. The housing is usually secured shut with either a couple of clamps that snap open or a wing nut that twists off. Once the canister is open, simply slide the filter out to clean.


Clean the Air Filter

First, tap the air filter on the ground. This jostles loose surface particles. Consider using a vacuum to suck dust out of the air filter. Additionally, you can use soap and water to clean any filter other than a paper filter. Simply submerge it in warm water with soap, and let it soak for 10 minutes. Afterwards, set it out to dry completely. Any moisture left behind risks engine damage. There are specific foam air filter cleaners as well as cleaners for performance air filters.


Clean the Air-Filter Housing

Any dirt or dust left in the air filter housing goes right back in the filter, or worse, into the engine. To clean it out, use a wet vac or wet paper towel. Once all noticeable dirt and dust is gone, dry it with a paper towel. Just as with the filter, moisture in the housing can harm the engine.



Each car manual includes specific recommendations, but the general rule of thumb is to clean your air filter at least as often as you change the oil. This means you should clean it every 5,000 to 6,000 km or every four months at the latest. Cleaning regularly also lets you know when replacement is necessary.

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