One of the basic maintenance items on vehicles is the air filter. An air filter traps particulates before they can get into the engine. By design, this will eventually collect up enough particulates that the airflow through the filter becomes restricted; affecting how well the engine runs.
Another factor in the replacement is that an air filter on a very fine scale has a variety of air passages of different sizes. The finer passages tend to clog first, leaving the larger passages that don’t catch smaller particulates. It’s generally good to replace an air filter well before it looks visibly bad.
Cost of Air Filter Replacement
The different car air filter replacement costs on some common vehicles are illustrated below using a labor rate of $100 an hour:
For a 2006 Chevrolet K1500 with a 5.3-liter engine, the labor time to replace the air filter is estimated at 0.3 of an hour. A factory replacement filter costs about $41, and a Wix part costs about $15. The total cost to complete the job would be about $71 using OE parts, or about $45 using aftermarket parts.
For a 2006 Toyota Camry with a 3-liter engine, the labor time to replace the air filter is around 0.3 of an hour. A factory filter costs about $23, and a Denso filter costs about $6. The total cost to complete the job would be about $53 using OE parts, or about $36 using aftermarket parts.
For a 2000 Nissan Xterra with a 3.3-liter engine, the labor time to replace the air filter is estimated at 0.2 of an hour. A factory filter costs about $28, and a Beck/Arnley part costs about $7. The job would cost around $48 to complete using OE parts, and about $27 using aftermarket parts.
For a 2015 Mini Cooper with a 1.5-liter engine, the labor time to replace the air filter is estimated at 0.4 of an hour. A factory air filter price is around $42, and a Mann filter cost is about $16. The total cost to complete the job would be about $82 using OE parts, or about $56 using aftermarket parts.
Air Filter Replacement
There isn’t usually any fixed maintenance interval for air filter replacement. How often an air filter needs to be replaced depends very much on the kind of environment the vehicle drives in. In a very dusty environment, an air filter will clog much faster.
It also depends on the engine, which determines the volume of air that moves through it. A diesel engine moves a large volume of air and tends to have a large air filter with a substantial surface area. It will also clog quicker than most filters on smaller engines.
In any case, the air filter is usually inspected regularly at the time that the oil is changed and recommended for a replacement if it has an excess accumulation of blockage. That is usually sufficient.
A clean air filter protects the engine from particulates that can and will cause wear in the engine if they are allowed in. A dirty air filter can restrict the airflow, harm the performance, and reduce the mileage. The air filter is almost always designed to be easy and economical to inspect and replace.
Other Related Problems
The main thing that comes up with air filter replacement is that, in some cases, the airbox might be damaged during ordinary air filter inspections and replacements. An airbox is a plastic housing that holds the air filter and has levers or bolts and catches. These allow it to be opened for air filter service and sealed back up after replacement.
Usually, it’s reasonably durable but it’s not uncommon for the flanges or lever attachments to snap off, or the plastic holders for nut catchment to break off. If an airbox doesn’t effectively seal back up after the service, it should be replaced.
This is so as an airbox that doesn’t seal can allow unfiltered air into the engine. Usually, these are only available through factory sources.
For some examples following those above, the air cleaner assembly for a 2006 Chevrolet K1500 costs about $149 and takes about half an hour to replace. For a 2006 Toyota Camry, the air cleaner assembly costs about $868 and takes about half an hour as well to replace.
For a 2000 Nissan Xterra, the air filter housing costs about $75 and takes about half an hour to replace. For a 2015 Mini, the air filter housing costs about $116 and takes about a half an hour to finish.
Aftermarket Performance Filters
Most aftermarket air filters are designed to replicate the performance of the factory air filter. Depending on construction, some of the cheapest options may not filter quite as well, while others might do a little better as far as trapping particulates, maintaining airflow, and filter longevity.
In a separate class are air filters designed to increase horsepower. The main theory is that by decreasing the resistance of the airflow through the filter, more air can enter the engine with less effort.
In practice, the main way to do that is to compromise on the size of the particulates that are filtered, which is bad for engine wear. Another way is to use a filter with an oil product that catches particulates, which is a decent idea in principle, though higher maintenance to put into practice.
In some cases though, the oils used to improve particulate capture also wind up down the airstream where they can interfere with sensor operations. Mass airflow sensors are particularly sensitive.
Other modifications beyond that (such as aftermarket cold air intakes) are more or less beyond the scope, and various local emissions regulations come into play.