What You Need to Know About Your Vehicle’s Filters

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By Courtney Evans   2 wrench difficulty 2money

Automotive Filters

Automotive Filters

Filters and more filters.  Filters are important.  Have you ever met someone that didn’t seem to have an internal filter?  By internal filter, I mean a filter that screens out the bad thoughts so that they don’t reach your mouth, therefore preventing them from being unleashed upon the world around you.  I’m sure you can relate.  You probably know someone like that.  Maybe a relative or a close friend?  You can always count on them to insult someone or embarrass you in some way.

Filters screen out the bad so that the “good stuff” can flow.  Whether that “good stuff” is pleasant thoughts or transmission fluid, their function is equally critical.  Automotive and motorcycle filters keep your engine and transmission running properly.  Period.  They also play a major role in fuel efficiency.

Your car, truck, or motorcycle has 4 or 5 different types of filters that need to be changed at regular intervals to keep everything in tip-top shape.  These filters are for oil, transmission fluid, fuel, and air (engine and cabin).  The degree of difficulty for changing these filters varies very easy to moderate.  The degree of difficulty is based on accessibility.  The concept of changing a filter is easy, but getting to it could be difficult.

What we’ll do in today’s essay is discuss the different types of filters in detail, the recommended change intervals, the degree of difficulty for replacement, general expense, and the amount of savings in labor for doing the job yourself.

Oil filter
You engine’s oil filter is used to trap and store dirt, metal fragments, sludge, and more.  The filter material is typically bonded paper.  This paper is normally incased in a metal cylinder and is self-contained.  Some engines have an oil filter housing in which the bonded paper filter media is inserted.  Oil filters also include a rubber o-ring that is used to create a tight seal to prevent leakage.

Oil filter quality can vary widely.  Obviously, OEM (original equipment) quality is recommended.  You can find filters that exceed OEM requirements and these are considered the best.  You may also find sub-OEM quality oil filters.  These filters may not have critical parts that the high quality oil filters have, such as check valves, or an ultra-fine filter material.   They will be cheaper, but remember that you really do get what you pay for, so buy the best you can afford.

A good indicator of oil filter quality is the outside casing.  If the manufacturer has put in the research and development needed to add the little things that make installation and removal a breeze, it is more than likely a quality product.  These “little things” might be an ergonomic filter shape, notches for your oil filter wrench, or even a non-skid type surface for gripping while hand tightening the filter.

Your oil filter should be changed at every oil change and the interval is 3,000 to 5000 miles, or as your service manual dictates.  Degree of difficulty is easy.  It is inexpensive.  DIY savings are minimal but savings nonetheless.

Transmission filter
Your automatic transmission’s filter is used to trap and store materials that break off gears and other transmission parts during the normal life of your transmission.  The filter can be made up of a porous material that is similar to a sponge, it can simply be a fine-mesh screen, or a tube with a porous or screen material.  You’ll also find different quality transmission filters in the marketplace.  OEM is definitely recommended.  Get the best you can afford.

The task of changing the fluid and filter can be quite involving but definitely within the ability of the do-it-yourselfer.  For more detailed information on the process of changing your automatic transmission fluid and filter, refer to the issue “Changing Your Automatic Transmission Fluid“.

Automatic transmission service which includes changing the fluid and filter is generally recommended every 25,000 to 30,000 miles. Degree of difficulty is moderate. It is inexpensive.  DIY savings are moderate to big.

Air filter
Your air filter is used to keep airborne contaminants out of your engine.  Your engine requires fresh, clean air to run properly.  It also requires a certain volume of air to ensure the proper air/fuel mixture for normal operation.  If the engine is not getting the right amount of air, the engine’s management computers will make adjustments to the fuel and ignition to compensate.

This compensation or overcompensation leads to a host problems.  The result of these adjustments by the computers result in poor fuel economy and decreased engine performance.  Basically, your engine will run poorly.

Air filters are made of resin-impregnated paper that looks like a pleated sheet.  These pleats trap particles just like the filter in your home’s HVAC.  You know, the filter that should be changed monthly.  Some air filters are moistened with special oil that aids particle trapping.  The air filter’s pleats will be incased in rubber or plastic forming a ring, cylinder, or a square to rectangular box.

The recommended interval for replacing the air filter is 12 months or 10,000 to 15,000 miles.  Whichever comes first.  Changing your air filter is one of the easiest tasks in engine maintenance, so very easy.  It is inexpensive and DIY savings are minimal, but again, savings nonetheless.

Cabin air filter
Your cabin air filter(s) serve one or two purposes.  First, your cabin filter allows your HVAC to perform at its peak, ensuring a good air flow for your defrost and other air conditioning.  Second, it can keep foul odors from entering the cabin.  Its importance is obvious and most people don’t even know they have one or two cabin air filters.

They are made up of similar materials to engine air filters with one caveat.  Cabin air filters may be charcoal infused for trapping odors.  For more detailed information about cabin air filters and their replacement, refer to the issue “Changing Your Cabin Air Filter”.

The recommended interval for replacing is 12 months or 10,000 to 15,000 miles.  Just change it whenever you change your engine’s air filter.  Changing the cabin air filter(s) is very easy to easy, depending on the location.  It is inexpensive and DIY savings are minimal to moderate.

Fuel Filter
Your fuel filter traps dirt and particles and prevents them from reaching your fuel injectors or carburetor.  This material generally comes from deposits and build up inside your fuel tank.  Clogged or dirty fuel injectors are a major cause of poor drivability.  Again, the engine management computers will make adjustments to compensate for these clogs which snowballs into other issues.

Fuel filters come in many different shapes and sizes.  They are generally cylindrical.  They are made up of paper or screen elements incased in plastic or metal.  The location of your fuel filter can be under the hood, underneath the vehicle, or closer to the fuel tank.  Refer to your owner’s or service manual for the location.

The recommended interval for replacement of your fuel filter is 2 years or 20,000 miles, whichever comes first.  The degree of difficulty is easy and really depends on the location of the filter.  It is inexpensive but the DIY savings moderate.

Well, that sums up the filters in your vehicle.  They play a major part in the symphony that makes up your vehicle’s operation.  As a whole, they are easily accessible, inexpensive to replace, and definitely within the ability of the do-it-yourselfer.

Now, if only I could find a filter for that mouth to keep those thoughts from escaping.  Indeed, if you or I had a dime for every time we found a need for someone to use one, we’d be millionaires!  Ain’t it the truth?  Until next time.





1 Comment:

  • By Saving Real Money by Doing-It-Yourself. Really? 11 Mar 2014

    [...] Changing Air Filter ($25)-  As mentioned above, this is probably the easiest maintenance item on the list.  You shouldn’t need any tools for this one.  If anything, maybe a screwdriver.  You can find the replacement air filter at your local auto parts retailer.  See,  What You Need to Know About Your Vehicle’s Filters. [...]

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