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Automotive Air Filter Maintenance

Cadillac SRX
2009 Cadillac SRX

This next article about automotive air filter maintenance is just an opinion from a mechanic. Sometimes since mechanics are educated in the ways of the automobile they may find themselves becoming more vigilant when it comes to their own maintenance of their beloved personal automobile or cars that belong to family members.

My latest vehicle a 2009 Cadillac SRX recommends in the service manual that the air filter be replaced every 25,000 miles. In my opinion this would just be a guideline because the operating conditions may require that the air filter be replaced more or less. When I bought the vehicle used it had 22,000 miles on it. I pulled the air filter for inspection and it was 90% blocked.

So before we get into the article about automotive air filter maintenance keep in mind that your results may vary depending on your operating conditions and what kind of air filter your vehicle is equipped with in addition to its physical size. Smaller air filters will become blocked easier than large surface area air cleaners.

What is an automotive air filter

checking automotive air filter
checking automotive air filter

The primary function of the automotive air filter is to prevent airborne contaminants from entering the engine. If these contaminants are not filtered out they can cause serious damage and even shorten engine life.

Let me give you an example that I recently dealt with of a worst-case scenario. The county I work for has three trolleys that operate up-and-down the beach. Although they have bus bodies they have diesel pusher engines.

The air filter assembly that came from the factory had an air pickup that was mounted low to the ground on the right side of the engine compartment. This was a very bad position for these vehicles as the air filter would pick up sand and dust from the beach.

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The air filters would become plugged quickly and some developed holes that aloud raw sand to be sucked into the combustion chamber of the engine. It wasn’t until the first engine failed within 15,000 miles that we notice what was going on. We changed the air filter design and relocated the air intake and the problem was solved.

How an automotive air filter works

Air filters are basically assemblies of pleated paper supported by a layer of fine mesh which can sometimes be made out of nylon or wire that resembles a screen. The screen provides the paper with some strength and also helps to filter out the extremely large particles such as leaves and big chunks of dirt.

Again your air filter may vary but it will have some kind of thick plastic or rubber like gasket material on the ends of the filter. This thick silicone or plastic like gasket also add strength to the automotive air filter and assures a good seal so that all air is filtered through the paper before it enters the intake manifold.

If the filter does not seal well in the housing dirt and dust can be pulled into the air stream and into the combustion chamber as I described in the problem with our trolleys above. The shape and size of the air filter element depends on the housing itself the two most common designs in modern vehicles would be a flat paper type like in my 2009 Cadillac SRX or a round or cone type automotive air filter that is popular with pickup truck manufacturers.

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On some vehicles checking air filters is an easy operation. On the other hand some vehicles make it very difficult to remove the air filter for inspection. Check your auto repair manual for the procedure as well as the recommended guidelines for inspection and replacement. For more of the latest articles to this website you can visit this next link that takes you back to the auto repair information blog home page.