Can a Dirty Air Filter Damage Your Engine?

Your engine needs a lot of air to run properly, and your air filter will eventually fill up with dust and dirt floating around. Over time, a dirty air filter can choke the engine and even cause damage. Engine misfires, rough idling, and hard starts can all be attributed to a clogged engine air filter. The dirty air filter restricts the air supply to the engine, causing unburned fuel to form a soot residue that accumulates in the spark plug.

This fouls the spark plug(s) and decreases its ability to produce the spark needed for the combustion process. Changing the affected air filter and spark plugs will restore your engine's performance. Something as simple as an air filter can cause a range of issues, from harmful emissions and fuel waste to damaged spark plugs and engine buildup. That's why it's important to monitor parts that suffer from a lot of wear and tear. Engine misfire can significantly increase vehicle emissions.

For this reason, the ECM (Engine Control Module) constantly monitors the misfire status of the engine. If it detects an engine misfire, it will turn on the CEL (Check Engine Light). A dirty air filter reduces the amount of air supplied to the engine, which can cause an increase in unburned fuel that turns into soot residue. This soot can build up on spark plug tips, making them unable to produce a proper spark.

As a result, your car may move abruptly, idle poorly, or even fail to start. If you start to hear coughing or clicking noises coming from the engine compartment, or if your vehicle vibrates excessively, it could be a symptom of a dirty air filter damaging a spark plug. Most people know at least the basics about oil and tires, but the air filter is one of those parts that is often overlooked. Once an air filter is too clogged and no longer working, it can lead to decreased car performance and even engine damage. Designed to allow clean air to enter the engine, the air filter is your vehicle's first line of defense by preventing air pollutants such as dirt, dust and leaves from entering the engine compartment. If the air filter becomes clogged with dirt and debris, it can have a profound effect on the performance of your car's engine. All dust particles, grease and other contaminants captured eventually clog the filter so much that it blocks the flow of clean air to the engine.

When the engine air intake is not completely covered by a filter element, significant damage can occur. Before reaching the engine, the filtered air passes through a mass flow meter which measures how clean the air is and determines the correct air-fuel ratio for the mixture to maximize fuel efficiency and performance. Driving with a dirty air filter may seem like no big deal, but doing so can have a negative impact on your health and that of your vehicle. Like other car maintenance services, air filter replacement costs vary depending on the model of car and where you request help. To do it yourself, first refer to your owner's manual for the location of the filter and refer to this step-by-step guide to removing the air filter. Note that even in bright light, inner layers of filter paper inside an air cleaner may have no visible debris or dust and dirt. If your engine's air cleaner is clogged, then it won't be able to get enough airflow into its combustion chamber.

You may hear bursting, sputtering or coughing noises as a result. Therefore, for safe and optimal performance of your engine make sure to address dirty air filter symptoms immediately and always have a clean air filter in place. Improper or incorrect installation of an air filter can leave your engine exposed to dirt and debris. So make sure you follow instructions carefully when replacing an old one.