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Can a Dirty Air Filter Cause a Misfire? (Quick Answers)

Car owners need to change their car air filter regularly after about a couple of years. But what if you do not change your car’s air filter?

Here we will explain everything about car air filters and especially the risks and symptoms of a dirty air filter and some other facts you may want to know.

Can a dirty air filter cause a misfire?

A dirty air filter can cause a misfire if you have a backdated car. A misfire can happen if the air filter is too clogged to restrict airflow in the engine and there is no feedback control loop. But modern car engines have different technologies to stop air filter-related misfires.

Everything that burns needs oxygen. Car engines are not an exception. Air must be supplied continuously into the engine to help burn the fuel.

But think of our environmental air; atmospheres contain dust particles, water molecules, and other objects like bugs, leaves, etc.

We cannot use those air for running air as those particles can damage the engine. So, we use an air filter that passes clean air to the engine. The filter blocks the dust, humidity, and other things to keep the engine sound.

The filter needs to be changed after a particular time as the filter can become too cloggy and unusable. The particles that are blocked by the filter stay in the filter. So the filter gets dirty increasingly day by day.

When the filter becomes dirty, that may reduce the air passing slightly. Slight less air is not going to cause anything.

But if the filter gets too dirty that it entirely covers the whole filter with a few millimeters of dust, that can cause low performance and sometimes misfire.

Older model cars have less control over their fuel management. But modern car engines have intelligent technologies that can regulate fuel usage depending on available air, avoid over-rich fuel mixture for a long time, and stop misfiring.

Engine misfires can occur for many reasons. Air filter-related misfires happen when a car engine gets less air and passes more fuel than it can burn. When a misfire happens, it may find difficult to start the car or lose RPM while driving.

How does a dirty air filter cause a misfire?

When a car’s air filler becomes too dirty, it can reduce the air passing into the engine. After the air crosses the filter, a sensor calculates the air and necessary fuel. This system reduces fuel wastage and also helps to stop misfire.

When the engine tries to burn fuel but does not get sufficient air, that will fall out the spark plugs. As a result, a misfire can occur. 

It happens when the car does not have a regulating system or has a faulty one. All modern vehicles have these types of sensors. But if you have an older car, you should be more careful about changing the air filter before it gets too dirty.

If you have a problem like sudden misfires, visit the professionals to fix it. He can tell the exact reason for the misfire of your car. If you know that the dirty air filter is causing the problem, replace the filter. You can install a new filter easily by yourself. 

What are the symptoms of a dirty air filter?

Air entrance points are like the nose and mouth of cars. If the entrance is blocked due to a dirty air filter, the vehicle will suffocate by the lack of oxygen.

The air and fuel ratio must be almost perfect consistently for smooth engine performance. Various problems can occur when that does not happen due to a dirty filter.

But the good thing is you can easily recognize the symptoms of a dirty filter. Here are the symptoms of a dirty air filter,

Reduced fuel efficiency:

If you notice a reduced fuel efficiency of your car, that means if you find out your vehicle is providing lower mileage than usual, check your air filter first.

A dirty air filter can reduce the airflow inside the engine, and the machine does not get enough oxygen to burn fuel.

As a result, some part of the fuel can be unburned and released into the air or come out from the exhaust pipe. This problem can be hazardous for the environment too. 

Firstly, you are wasting valuable fuel and releasing harmful gasses. When the fuel burns completely, the car releases carbon-di-oxide but this type of incomplete burning produces carbon mono-oxide, which is highly dangerous for the environment.

Unusual engine noises:

If you are among the most people, you should know how your car sound while starting and running. If you notice any unusual engine sound from your car, you should check the air filter.

A dirty air filter reduces the engine’s efficiency, and the motor cannot work as it should be. So, it makes a different sound or hiccup sound while starting or moving.

Unusual smell:

If you notice an unusual fuel smell in your car, that can cause two reasons. One is a dirty air filter, and another one is tank leakage. Both problems are pretty severe, and you should take steps to fix them as soon as possible.

So, how does a dirty air filter cause fuel licking? The car uses fuel but does not get enough air to burn it; some of the fuel can leak from the engine, which can cause a fuel smell in your car.

What problems can a dirty air filter cause?

A dirty filter can be pretty problematic for the car. Here is a list of problems that cloggy filters can cause.

Reducing performance:

Dirty filters can disturb your car’s overall performance. It can cause a sudden loss of RPM and reduce the acceleration power. Your fuel cost will also increase as the engine uses more fuel than usual.

Trouble starting:

The fuel and air ratio needs to be right when starting a car. A dirty filter limits the available air to the engine, so it becomes harder to start a car.

However, many other issues can cause the problem, but check the air filter first when you have a hard time starting a vehicle.

Black smoke:

When the engine cannot burn the fuel property, it creates black smoke. If the filter is too dirty, it can minimize the air that helps the motor burn the fuel and causes black smoke. 

The black smoke contains various harmful gasses and particles that harm our health and the environment. So, everyone should take the lousy filter problems seriously.

Can you drive with a dirty air filler?

Yes, you can drive with a dirty air filter for a few days if the filter is not too dirty. Suppose that your car air filter is clogged; you can use it for a few days before getting some free time to fix it.

But do not forget about the filter; the car may run with it now but can create further problems if left dirty.

How often to change the air filter in a car?

Generally, it’s better to change your car’s air filter every two years. But it entirely depends on how much you drive your vehicle and the air quality where you drive your vehicle.

If you use your car every day of the week or there are many dust particles in the air, you may have to change the filter earlier.

How much is a car air filter?

Car air filters are not expensive. You can get one for your car for only 15$ to 25$. You can find car air filters at the car parts shop or online. 

You can change your car filter alone. That will help you to save some money. Check out the next part to learn how to change a car’s air filter.

How to replace the car air filter?

The replacing process of car filters is relatively straightforward. You can replace the air filter without any tools or just a screwdriver. Here are the steps,

  • Find the hood release and pop the hood. 
  • Open your car hood and find a box connected with a long tube.
  • Find the opening clips of the box. You may need a screwdriver to open the box.
  • Open the box and remove the old air filter.
  • Clean the box with a vacuum cleaner.
  • Set the new air filter and close the box properly. Close the hood, and the car is good to go.

Final thoughts

A dirty air filter can cause a misfire, but that does not happen with the modern engine. Reduced performance and milage are more common problems of having a dirty car filter. Car filters are cheap and easy to install, so you should not delay changing your car filters.