Change Your Car’s Air Filter

I love my car. I have a 1998 Ford Escort ZX2 that I call Bert. It’s bright blue and sporty and zips around town. It has 168,000 miles on it and it’s never had any major problems. I’ve only ever had it in the shop for minor issues and routine maintenance (knock on wood). I just put on my third set of tires about 3,000 miles ago.

My car isn’t worth anything to anyone except me. It has a ton of sentimental value to me and I dread the day that I have to get a new car. I acquired this car right after I graduated high school. My dad made me a deal when I was a kid that if I got enough scholarships to pay my own way through college he would use my college fund money to buy me a brand new car for graduation. Well I did it! I got enough scholarships to pay almost my entire way through my undergraduate degree and then took money out of my savings to pay for the rest. I have always felt so blessed to have my car.

Anyway despite loving my car, I know nothing about working on my car. I put gas in it and drive it and take it to the mechanic for anything else. But last weekend I decided to change Bert’s air filter. Bert has been getting not so great gas mileage lately and I thought the air filter might be the problem. I knew that air filters were relatively easy to change but I’ve never actually done it myself. I was going to write a very detailed post with pictures and everything about how to change the air filter, but then I realized that unless you drive the exact same car as I do then it wouldn’t help you much.

What I will do is provide some general tips that would apply to everyone. First you need to go buy an air filter. The easiest way to do this is to go to Autozone or Advanced Auto Parts or a similar place. All you do is go up to the counter and tell the clerk the year, make and model of your car and what part you need and they will pull up the exact item that fits your car and ring it up for you. Piece of cake! That way you don’t have to figure out which air filter you need on your own.

Next you need to open your hood. Pretty easy except it took me a few minutes to figure out where the latch was that unhooked the hood after I popped it open. Now if you are not familiar with your engine it can look pretty intimidating when you first open the hood. What you need is a guide. The Haynes Repair Manual is a good resource. They have books for all sorts of different cars. The first part of the book is on routine maintenance and in that section is a part on changing the air filter.

The book had a good explanation of how to change the filter. On my car I had to unsnap this band thing and unhook this one piece to reveal the filter (like my technical terms here?). Then all I had to do was take out the old filter, pop in the new filter and then do the reverse of what I had just done – hook the piece back up and snap the band thing back on.

Depending on the size and shape of your air filter, I would recommend writing the mileage and the date on it so you know when you changed it last. My new air filter was black so I wrote on it with my silver Sharpie. Side note – a silver Sharpie is fantastic to have around the house to write on dark items. I also saw that the last time the air filter had been changed was almost 2 years ago and 30,000 miles. Eeeeep! It was way overdue according to my maintenance guide.

So is it worth it? Yes! Changing the air filter was SO easy. It took me about 15 minutes and that including looking in my book about how to do it. And I know absolutely nothing about cars. The air filter cost me about $15.00 with tax. I know that places like Jiffy Lube have charged me at least $20-22 in the past. So by doing it myself I’ve saved $5-7. It’s not a lot but it’s a little something at least. That savings could be a lunch out with a friend.

I will always change my own air filter from now on. And I promise not to wait two years until the next time I change it, if Bert makes it that long! Tear….


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