Chevrolet Full Size Cars 1979-1989

Air Cleaner


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Fig. Fig. 1 The air cleaner housing is the large metal container (usually round) located over the carburetor or throttle body

The air cleaner has a dual purpose. It not only filters the air going to the carburetor, but also acts as a flame arrester if the engine should backfire. The engine should never be run without the air cleaner installed unless an engine maintenance procedure specifically requires the temporary removal of the air cleaner. Operating a car without its air cleaner results in some throaty sounds from the carburetor giving the impression of increased power but will only cause trouble. Unfiltered air to the carburetor will eventually result in a dirty, inefficient carburetor and engine. A dirty carburetor increases the chances of carburetor backfire and, without the protection of an air cleaner, an underhood fire becomes a very real danger. The air cleaner assembly consists of the air cleaner housing, which is the large metal container (usually round) that fits over the carburetor or throttle body, the element (paper or polyurethane) contained within, and the flame arrester located in the base of the air cleaner.

If your car is equipped with the paper element, it should be inspected at its first 12,000 miles, rechecked every 6,000 miles thereafter and replaced after 30,000 mile intervals. If equipped with an oil wetted type (inline six cylinder engine), it should be replaced every 15,000 miles. Inspections and replacements should be more frequent if the car is operated in a dirty, dusty environment. When inspecting the element, look for dust leaks, holes or an overly dirty appearance. If the element is excessively dirty, it may cause a reduction in clean air intake. If air has trouble getting through a dirty element, the carburetor fuel mixture will become richer (more gas, less air), the idle will be rougher, and the exhaust smoke will be noticeably black. To check the effectiveness of your paper element, remove the air cleaner assembly and, if the idle increases, then the element is restricting air flow and should be replaced. If a polyurethane element is installed, clean or replace it every 12,000 miles. If you choose to clean it, do so with kerosene or another suitable solvent. Squeeze out all of the solvent, soak in engine oil, and then squeeze out the oil using a clean, dry cloth to remove the excess. The flame arrester, located at the base of the carburetor, should be cleaned in solvent (kerosene) once every 12,000 miles.


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