Air Filter Maintenance

What Is an Air Filter and When Should You Replace It?

Automotive air filters come in two basic categories, each with a very specific purpose. Engine air filters protect the vehicle, while cabin air filters protect the vehicle's occupants. Both are relatively easy to change yourself, with the degree of difficulty varying from vehicle to vehicle.

DIY Newbie? Start Here!

Are you looking for a quick and easy DIY project? If you've never worked on your car, air filter changes are a great place to start. You'll save a nice little chunk of cash each time you change a filter, and common hand tools are the most you'll need to get the job done. You'll find a plethora of vehicle-specific how-to videos on YouTube.

How Often Should You Change Your Air Filters?

Air filter change intervals depend on miles driven or yearly milestones. The more miles you roll up, the more frequently you should change your filters. If you're driving in a dusty or pollen-infested environment, filter replacement should take place more regularly, possibly on a seasonable basis. Although it's good to rely on the vehicle owner's manual for the recommended service intervals, it's best to inspect the filter visually. Pop the hood, open the air filter box, and take a look. If the filter is dirty, it's time to swap it out.

What's the Difference Between an Engine Air Filter and a Cabin Air Filter?

Engine air filters and cabin air filters have a similar structure. Both use pleated fabric surrounded by a plastic frame.

Engine air filters prevent dust and dirt from entering your vehicle's fuel injection system. You should never run a car, truck, or SUV without an air filter. These filters eliminate the potential for clogging, which causes poor performance and potential engine failure.

Cabin air filters capture dust, pollen, smog, mold spores, and all kinds of nasty stuff, including rodent droppings. They are found most often behind the vehicle's glove box. If your vehicle's ventilation system is blowing foul-smelling air, you should pop in a new cabin air filter before resorting to air fresheners.

Quality Air Filters Make a Difference

Original equipment manufacturer (OEM) air filters are produced to each auto manufacturer's exact specifications by a range of well-trusted suppliers. These firms tend to vary based on the manufacturer, on a country-by-country basis. For example, BMW OEM filters roll out of a MANN factory, while General Motors OEM filters get built on an ACDelco line. Jeepers take note: Purolator produces filters for Mopar. While some of these name brands reside on the shelves at your local auto parts store, the products at Advance Auto Parts, Pep Boys, and AutoZone can have notable differences in construction from the OEM filters. The safest bet is to stick with OEM.

A word to the wise: Stay away from the cheap no-brand filters that you might find on eBay and Amazon. While the thought of saving a few dollars may be enticing, it's not a bargain if a low-quality knockoff filter causes poor performance, or — worse yet — engine failure down the road. A few pennies "saved" at the time of purchase can cost a whopping amount in repair costs if dirt and debris enter your vehicle's fuel injection system. As the old saying goes, you can't put a price on peace of mind.

Why You Should Buy Your Air Filters from The Dallas Parts Distribution Center (DPDC)

The Dallas Parts Distribution Center specializes in OEM air filters for Audi, BMW, Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler brand vehicles. You'll find a full range of filters in stock at, with Audi, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge, Fiat, Ford, GMC, Jeep, Lincoln, and Ram filters ready to ship or pick up at one of our dealerships in the Dallas area. DPDC is an integral part of Group 1 Automotive, a member of the Fortune 300, and one of America's most extensive dealership operations, with locations in the United Kingdom and Brazil, as well as across the United States.

One last word of advice. The next time you purchase air filters for your car, think about ordering two sets: one set for now and one set for later. In today's world, to be safe, it's good to keep the extra set of filters on the shelf.