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The short answer to this question is yes. However, if you are worried that your driver information system says to change the air filter and you skip the chore for a few weeks, you can stop panicking. Air filters work by trapping dust and debris and do not have a magical expiration date. However, they do wear out and that’s when they can start affecting engine performance and longevity.

What Kinds of Air Filters are in My Car?

Most cars have more than one air filter. They can include:

                     • Engine air filter
                     • Cabin air filter

Your mechanic might mention your oil and fuel filter, but these are not air filters. Your cabin air filter helps to maintain your air conditioning system and provide clean air inside the passenger compartment. It does not affect your engine or its performance.

Your engine air filter helps to prevent debris from entering into the combustion chamber and provides a vital role in maintaining the life of your engine. It should be changed out according to your owner’s manual, usually about every 15,000 to 30,000 miles.

Your Engine Air Filter is Designed for Your Vehicle

There is not a generic air filter that fits all cars. If you drive a Chevrolet Tahoe, you need to get the filter that matches your model and engine combination. When properly installed it only allows filtered air through to the engine. If debris sneaks by the wrong filter, it can pit and scratch your cylinders, which lowers horsepower and can lead down the path to overheating the block, cracking or even seizing.

We Both Drive Fords–Can’t I Use their Engine Air Filter?

The air filter designed for your Taurus is likely not the same one that the Ford Fiesta will need. Along the same line, the filter designed for a Silverado 2500 HD will not necessarily work for the F250. Check the owner’s manual for each vehicle for the right part number and description, or check with your parts supplier.

What Happens if I Use the Wrong Filter?

The wrong air filter will not protect your engine. Its frame will not match up to the mounting points on your engine, leaving gaps where dirt and dust can slip by. When dirt gets into your engine, it mixes with the oil and can be deposited on the piston, cylinder walls, and any other surface. It can then scratch the surface of the engine, which will lower horsepower, cause blow-by, and shorten the life of your engine.

Ultimately, it’s an inexpensive part but one that provides important protection to the heart of your car. When it’s time to change it out, make sure to spend a few minutes to locate the correct part. It really won’t cost any more and will end up saving you big bucks on serious engine repairs in the future.

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