83 your cars filters: what you need to know

your cars filters: what you need to know


By Jessica Howe on 2018-04-06 19:44:45

Every car has similar filters on board. When broken down into the basics, they are easy to remember and maintain. You will find two types of filters, fluid filters, and air filters. Both are present for a reason, and they should be serviced regularly based on your manufactures recommendations. Below we break down the difference between the types of filters on your car, and what their purpose is.

Fluid Filters

Several fluids in your vehicle are filtered in order to provide longevity to the fluid and the system it works with. For example, your engine oil is filtered due to the contamination that results from the combustion inside the engine. Your fuel is filtered because it can collect debris in transport or from storage tanks. Even your transmission fluid is filtered from potential debris. All fluid filters need to be serviced at a different time or mileage intervals, so it is beneficial to understand the difference between them.

Oil Filter

The most important fluid filter on the vehicle is the oil filter. Your engine oil is responsible for keeping the engine components moving smoothly, reducing heat, and cleaning the inside of the engine. Engine oil is working constantly, even when the engine is off. An engine oil filter is responsible for pulling large particulates out of the oil so that they are not recirculated back through the engine. Large debris can clog oil passages, cause engine damage, and cause premature wear. Replace the engine oil filter every time you change the oil on your vehicle.

Fuel Filter

Fuel can become contaminated in many ways. Typically, dirt and small particles collect in storage tanks or are accidentally introduced during processing or transportation. Although fuel does have to pass quality standards before it can be sold at the pump, small debris is not regulated, and it will cause problems for the engine. Vehicle manufacturers know the importance of keeping this debris out of the combustion chambers in the engine and have designed fuel filters to minimize the threat. Fuel filters are designed to last, and will only need to be replaced once, or twice at a maximum, during the lifetime of the vehicle. Again, always replace fuel filters based on manufacturer recommendations.

Transmission Fluid Filter

Transmission fluid is used to shift the gears inside of the transmission. In automatic transmissions, in particular, the transmission fluid is critical for shifting. The transmission fluid will typically stay clean for many years. The filter is there as a precaution, but typically the transmission fluid breaks down before the filter needs to be replaced. When the vehicle enters into ‘high mileage’, the filter will need to be replaced eventually. You will likely only have to replace your transmission fluid filter once, and that will not be until over 100,000 miles if not more. Always follow manufacturer recommendations when it comes to servicing the transmission fluid and filter.

Air Filters

The air filters in your car make a huge impact on how you and your car breathe while on the road. Seasonal changes, in particular, can bring windy conditions, which means the amount of matter coming into the engine and into the cabin increases dramatically. Vehicle manufacturers know how important it is to keep airborne materials out of the vehicle, and designed air filters to prevent degrading contaminants. Every driver should be aware of their air filters age, location, and know when to change them or clean them. Check your air filters often, particularly if the vehicle has been in an area with poor air quality, on dirt roads, or it has been windy.

Types of Air Filters

There are two types of air filters, your cabin air filters, and engine air filters. Just as their names suggest, the cabin air filter filters all air that comes into the cabin of the vehicle where you and your passengers sit. The engine air filter is responsible for cleaning all air that is being sucked into the engine. They are both important and will make a difference in driving quality.

Cabin Air Filters

Cabin air filters are important for you and your passenger’s health. While on the road, you are subjected to numerous types of contaminants that can make their way into the cabin through the vehicle’s HVAC systems. These contaminants range from organic matter like plants and bugs to non-organic matter like dirt and pollution. The cleanliness and quality of your cabin air filter will determine that quality of the air that you are breathing while inside. There will be at least one, if not multiple, cabin air filters. The newer your vehicle is, the more likely you are to have more than one. Use your owner’s manual to help you locate the cabin air filter(s) in your vehicle.

Engine Air Filters

Engine air filters clean the air entering the engine. These filters are the only defense your vehicle has against small bugs, dirt, leaves, and other debris from being sucked into the engine. Large debris typically gets stuck on the front grille before it can make its way into the air intake. This small debris will damage the very small components and passageways within the engine, as well as contaminate the engine oil, and make for poor combustion in the engine. As a general rule of thumb, the cleaner your air and fuel are going into the engine, the cleaner your vehicle will run, and the more efficiently your engine will run.

In Conclusion

Every filter in your vehicle plays a role. Vehicle manufacturers would not install them in the vehicle in the first place if they did not believe they were necessary. Knowing the difference between your air and fluid filters, and what they do, will help you remember when they need to be serviced. Remember, you have oil filters, fuel filters, and transmission filters that filter their respective fluids. You also have air filters that protect you and your engine. The two filters you will have to pay attention to most often are your cabin and engine air filters, as well as your engine oil filter. Always follow your manufacture recommendations for each filter’s service intervals.


The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details
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