What Happens When You Don't Clean Your Air Intake?

When contaminants accumulate in your system, they can be forced through the vents and into the air in each room. This can interfere with how your lungs work, and a visual inspection of the filter can be the first confirmation of a defective filter. If it appears to be contaminated with dirt, dust, and debris, it might be time to clean it. When the air filter becomes too dirty, it will clog and the engine won't be able to draw enough air into the combustion chamber.

This will result in poorer performance and lower fuel efficiency, and the engine check light will likely come on. Neglecting the air filter long enough can cause the engine to stop working completely. Outdoor debris can build up over time and wreak havoc on the combustion chamber. The air filter contributes to fuel efficiency, but a dirty filter can reduce oxygen flow.

If you suspect you're dealing with a clogged or dirty air filter, you can take your car to the local mechanic or check it yourself. Advanced filters can last a little longer between cleanings and replacements, so check with the manufacturer for a recommended program. A good air filter helps prevent dust and dirt from accumulating on all internal components of the unit; a bad one will cause additional wear and tear that can lead to serious maintenance problems in the future. Before reaching the engine, the filtered air passes through a mass flow meter, which measures how clean the air is and determines the correct air-fuel ratio for the mixture to maximize fuel efficiency and performance.

Most air filters are made of a combination of paper and synthetic fibers that trap harmful particles. But over time, the air filter becomes less effective due to all of the captured dust, grease and other contaminants particles that can build up and clog the filter so much that it blocks airflow to the engine. This can cause harmful emissions, fuel waste, damaged spark plugs and engine buildup. That means you'll need to go to a local factory authorized dealer to get models directly from your air conditioner manufacturer, not one-size-fits-all air filters from a hardware store.

But while most people know at least the basics of oil changes or tire rotation, the air filter is one of those parts that can often be overlooked. Not cleaning your air intake can have serious consequences for your car's performance and fuel efficiency. You might end up having to replace your air conditioner a year or two early, and in the meantime, you're likely to pay for costly air conditioning repairs.

Elisa Michocki
Elisa Michocki

Devoted tv junkie. Proud web maven. Lifelong tvaholic. Subtly charming social media fan. Incurable internet practitioner. Amateur beer geek.