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Can a Bad Air Filter Cause Rough Idle? (All You Need to Know)

Transportation is one of the most vital aspects of millions of people’s busy lives, regardless of their professions or ages. Some of us favor public transportation, while others prefer private transportation. 

Both have advantages and disadvantages, but possessing a private mode of transportation, such as a car, includes the responsibility of diagnosing it, which you can read more about in the article below.

Can a bad air filter cause rough idle?

Bad filters can cause rough idle because the free flow into and out of the engine has been obstructed. If the engine does not get sufficient airflow in them, they will overheat and cause fatal engine issues which will lead it to have a rough idle with the car tremendously shaking.

Air filters are an important component of a car as it is responsible for ensuring that a clean and proper amount of airflow is maintained into the engine as well as preventing dirt from getting into the engine. 

The fibrous filter traps the dirt from the air flowing through it and accumulates the dirt in its folds. When the air filter gets completely clogged with dirt, sufficient air cannot flow through it and fails to reach the engine.

When that happens, the engine faces a lack of airflow and begins to overheat which causes a rough idle. A bad air filter not only causes a rough idle but gives rise to other issues as well such as it puts additional stress on the engine and increasing your vehicle’s fuel consumption.

Dirty air filter cause rough idle: 

One of the most obvious and noticeable ways to detect a car’s rough idle is when your driving experience no longer feels smooth and you feel your engine cause your car to shake. The RPM of the engine will drastically rise and fall hence the shaking of the car. 

This is usually due to a dirty air filter that is preventing air from flowing into the engine which ends up overheating the car engine. Due to the high engine temperature, the RPM will fall below the normal range and cause the car to shake.

How does a bad air filter cause rough idle?

The car engine is dependent on a good circulation of cool air in order to prevent it from overheating. If the car engine overheats, the overall driving performance will be poor and many engine-related issues will start to arise.

A rough idle occurs when the RPM of the car engine is falling lower than the average range and is facing high fluctuations as well. This is because the engine is overheating and the air around the engine is hot as well. 

The reason behind this trapped hot air is caused by a bad filter that is not allowing sufficient air to flow through the engine.

A bad or dirty air filter would not be permeable to airflow either due to dust, dirt or other debris stuck in them. As a result, little or no air will flow into the filter and reach the engine to cool it down – causing the engine to have a rough idle.

Can no air filter cause rough idle?

An air filter is an enormously important component of a car because not only does it ensure the proper and clean flow of air into the engine but also protects the engine against dust, dirt, and many types of debris. 

Without the air filter, the engine will be exposed to all sorts of dirt and debris which could cause serious internal damage.

Initially, for a short while, the vehicle will work fine without an air filter but eventually, you will face rough idles followed by even more severe issues such as damaged or clogged pistons, valves, and cylinder walls. 

Besides that, the engine will also lose its efficiency as it will consume even more oil and have to work under stress leading to an engine failure.

What are the symptoms of a bad air filter?

There are several obvious signs other than shaking of your car to identify whether you have a bad filter or not. The symptoms are listed below:

Loss in engine performance:

A lack of air supply will result in incomplete combustion inside the engine which will cause improperly burnt fuel to leave soot residue to form on the spark plug. A sooty spark plug fails to properly initiate the combustion process in the engine.

Lower acceleration:

If your car doesn’t accelerate immediately upon pressing the gas pedal, then it is probably because the bad air filter is not providing sufficient air which is preventing the engine from getting enough power to respond immediately.

Check engine lights on:

The check engine lights get turned on whenever there is an issue in the engine, therefore the issues in the engine caused by the bad air filter will be identified by the sensors and will turn on the check engine lights.

Car shaking and popping noises:

The most obvious symptom that you can notice is when your car starts to shake abnormally and make popping noises that are coming from the engine compartment. This is caused by a dirty air filter that caused the spark plug to get sooty.

What can a bad air filter do to your car?

If your car has a bad air filter, many problems will arise that could be detrimental if left unnoticed. The problems are:

Cause the engine to overheat:

Bad air filters will prevent proper air circulation into the engine which means the air around the engine will be hot and therefore the engine will not get to cool down. 

This will result in the engine getting overheated and as a result, the engine performance and fuel consumption efficiency drop drastically.

Cause soot buildup in the spark plug:

Due to lack of sufficient oxygen, the engine cannot properly combust the fuel which causes it to produce soot as a result of incomplete combustion. This soot blocks the spark plug which causes issues in fuel combustion.

Cause misfires and rough idles:

If the engine is not properly burning the fuel as well as overheating, that means the engine is under high stress in order to operate. The stressed engine can then cause misfires and the sooty spark plug will cause rough idles.

How often to clean the air filter on a car?

If you notice any of the symptoms which are caused due to a bad air filter then you should immediately clean the air filters. Checking the air filters does not require much expertise and you can check the air filters yourself.

If you live in a rural area, then your car is more prone to dirt and dust which will require you to check and clean the air filters more frequently. But normally, you should clean your car’s air filter once every 15,000 miles.

How to know when to change the air filter in a car?

You can easily identify when it is time to change your air filter because there will be many visible and noticeable signs that your car will exhibit if the air filter is bad. Such as your car’s engine will have higher fuel consumption whereas the engine will struggle to accelerate. 

You will also feel unusual vibrations from your car as well as hear popping noises coming from the engine compartment. 

Sometimes you can also notice smoky gas coming out of the exhaust which is due to the incomplete combustion in your car engine which results in sooty accumulation.

Final thoughts

Rough idle can occur when the free movement of air into and out of the engine is blocked by fouled filters. If the engine does not get enough airflow due to bad filters, it will overheat the engine and produce fatal engine issues, resulting in a rough idle and the car trembling severely.