Changing Your Car’s Air Filter Is More Important Than You Think

A mechanic will often tell you to change the air filter when your car is being inspected or repaired. When you drive out of the Toyota dealer in Lancaster, CA, the engine and cabin air filters are fresh. Over time, these become dirty, which can lead to various problems. Filters can be changed at a regular service appointment; our Toyota Service Center can provide the necessary work and help you get more out of your investment—even when you buy local and save.

What Does an Air Filter Do?

Air filters in your car capture dirt, dust particles, pollen, and other unhealthy compounds. While clean air is important for occupants of the vehicle cabin, it is also important for an internal combustion engine. Parts of the engine will wear out more quickly if dirt and dust get inside, and performance and efficiency will decline if airflow is restricted. The time between filter replacements depends on the type of vehicle and engine, so is generally determined by your individual car’s maintenance schedule.

There are four types of car filters:

  • Engine air filter: As it burns fuel, an automotive engine requires a steady flow of air. An engine ideally requires 10,000 gallons of clean air for every gallon of fuel burned.1 Outside air must pass through a filter, or else dust and all kinds of debris will clog the engine. The engine filter is located inside a metal housing or black box; it not only blocks dirt but also helps manage the combustion process and air/fuel ratio.

      A 2009 study by the U.S. Department of Energy found that changing a dirty air filter can improve acceleration time by 6 to 11%, while a 2 to 6% increase in fuel economy can be expected.2

  • Cabin air filter: This is the only filter in a vehicle that impacts the health of its occupants. Filtering the same particles as the engine filter, this device prevents airborne particulates from entering the cabin and potentially causing irritation and/or health problems. The benefits are particularly noticeable for people with allergies. Unless you drive your Toyota in Lancaster, CA often in polluted or dusty areas (warranting more frequent replacements), the cabin air filter, along with the engine filter, should be replaced annually.
  •  Oil filter: Automotive oil is essential for lubricating moving parts and slowing down wear and tear. Tiny pieces of metal normally break off, which the oil filter collects. Therefore, the oil cycled back is clean and helps the engine run cool and efficiently. A clogged oil filter can lead to significant damage, as metal shavings can block the normal flow of oil, the operation of engine components, and any buildup in the oil pan—but this is easily avoided with regular service.

  • Fuel filter: A gasoline fuel filter removes impurities found naturally in petroleum-based gasoline. In a diesel engine, the fuel filter helps remove water with its bowl-like configuration, thereby preventing corrosion. This filter collects water at its bottom, which is removed using a drain plug. Both devices are important for fuel quality and engine performance.

An engine air filter, however, is most important in terms of the performance and quality of your ride. It is a vital maintenance part for any Toyota in Lancaster, CA or anywhere else. Any restriction of air to the engine will disrupt the air/fuel ratio, and the engine will be stressed to the point major components wear out sooner than expected. As a result, these will likely have to be replaced more frequently than usual.

Maintenance requirements vary with each make and model, and driving conditions also play a role. In general, the engine air filter should be replaced every 8,000 miles.3 However, Toyota puts put it at about 30,000 miles, or 36 months, depending on your car and where and how you drive. In dusty environments, filter inspections and replacements every 15,000 miles or 18 months are recommended.4

Driving conditions affecting the air filter range from heavy traffic to frequently traversing unpaved, dusty roads; ask your Toyota dealer for more specific timeframes for your make and model based on your driving habits. However, the air filter should be checked at least once a year and replaced if it’s been three years since you got a new one.

When Should the Air Filter Be Changed?

With a bad filter, dirt can enter the engine, damaging vital and expensive components. Filters are much cheaper to replace than engine hardware. A mechanic at your Toyota dealer in Lancaster, CA can spot a dirty filter with a quick look (a new one is usually a white or off-white color). You can also tell there may be an air filter problem if:

  •          Your car’s gas mileage starts to go down
  •          The engine idles roughly, or the spark plugs don’t work properly
  •          Acceleration is rough or not as robust as it was
  •         The “Service Engine” light illuminates, indicating possible dirt on the engine


In many cases, you can tell the filter needs to be replaced by inspecting it visually. A professional inspection can reveal it is dirty, such as during Toyota service. Sections of the filter membrane will appear black or dark gray. This means dirt is blocking some of the material air passes through on its way to the engine. The cost of changing an air filter is generally low—often between $20 and $50,5 although access to its housing and the make and model of your vehicle can impact parts and labor costs.

By not acting, you face the risk of impurities entering the engine, causing wear, damage, corrosion, and engine failure. A poor fuel mix can cause ignition and engine problems as well, and, ultimately, cause the motor to fail. If your car drives rough or the engine light comes on, have a mechanic investigate the problem; it could be a dirty filter that hasn’t been changed in a while.

Other possible signs of a bad filter include:

  •         Misfiring
  •         Coughing/popping sounds
  •         Jerky motion
  •         Limited horsepower
  •         Black soot from the exhaust pipe
  •         A gasoline smell when starting the car

As for your cabin air filter, it should be replaced regularly to avoid potential health issues due to dust, pollen, mold spores, and particles you shouldn’t breathe in. The effects of unclean air and signs it’s time to replace the filter include:

  •         Less air coming through the fan and air conditioning vents
  •         Sneezing, sore throat, or other allergy symptoms
  •         Shortness of breath for unexplained reasons
  •         A buildup of bacteria and contaminants in cabin air

Airborne contaminants can lead to respiratory irritation and aggravate respiratory conditions. They can set off asthma attacks. Dirty air and mold increase the risk of children developing asthma. If mold is allowed to enter the cabin air, a range of allergy- or cold-like symptoms may occur, including coughs, runny noses, sneezing, itchiness, and red watery eyes.

An AC system also cools less efficiently without a clean filter. During a hot day, interior temperatures may remain high. For most people, this can cause sweatiness and discomfort inside a Toyota in Palmdale, but heat stroke and heat exhaustion can occur if conditions are severe enough. The excess heat and cabin air pollution can exacerbate other conditions as well. Then again, you risk the catastrophic failure of crucial and expensive AC components if they’ve been overworked due to a clogged air filter.

An air filter should be replaced long before any car performance or health issues occur, but, if you experience symptoms, don’t hesitate to check the filter and replace it if necessary. Doing so is generally inexpensive and quick.

To put it into perspective, a new engine costs about 10% to 20% the price of a new car. That’s just for a remanufactured engine, which can cost as much as $4,000.6 Even for major engine components and labor, repairs can range from several hundred into the thousands of dollars. Given the minor expense of a filter, avoiding service can hit your wallet substantially.


Buy Local and Save with Toyota of Lancaster

Shop with us for a Lancaster Toyota, CA drivers can depend on. When you buy local and save, you not only get the car you need within your budget but also maintenance and upkeep service to keep it going. Toyota service is important, especially for components you don’t normally think about. A proper inspection will save you money, in the long run, but also prevent premature failures and breakdowns that can cost you dearly.

An inspection saves you money and improves your safety. When mechanics check your vehicles, they can easily spot clogged air filters. They can also look at your brakes, AC system, fluids, battery, tires, and hoses for any problems, and fix potential issues before they cause more serious problems. In the case of your brakes and tires and other systems—even your air filters—inspections can keep you safe as well.

The peace of mind of knowing your vehicle is properly inspected and less likely to break down is also worth it.


With Toyota of Lancaster, you can find a vehicle locally and save on your initial investment and with maintenance and service. This can increase the longevity of your vehicle. That is another significant advantage to checking your air filter often. Plus, you get high-quality parts, affordable prices, and parts specials that save you even more while helping your vehicle last and potentially benefiting your health.

Special deals are updated frequently and include components such as filters, batteries, tires, and brakes, which are often serviced. Coupons can be printed off our website and used at our service center location. If you are looking to service your Toyota in Lancaster, CA or if you own a Toyota Palmdale customers rely on, talk to an agent or technician and schedule a service appointment today by calling 855-682-2777.









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