How to Clean a Reusable K&N Air Filter

Much as you clean the lint trap on a dryer or the filter on your air conditioners at home, you'll want to develop the habit of cleaning your car's air filter. However, not everyone knows that cars have a reusable air filter or what its purpose is, especially since we associate air filters with things like air conditioning units.

Keep in mind that your car's air conditioner may have what's called a cabin air filter on it as well. The air filter we are referencing, however, filters the air the engine takes in. This filter is exceptionally important in maintaining your car's performance. It keeps foreign objects and debris, such as rocks, dirt and trash from getting into the engine.

If the air filter clogs and gets excessively dirty, it will not do as good a job at catching particles and keeping them from entering your engine, which can cause your engine to malfunction or perform poorly, ultimately leading to costly repairs. Therefore, it's important to regularly clean the air filter to maintain and improve your engine's performance. Paying a professional for cleaning can be relatively expensive, though. Cleaning the filter yourself is relatively easy to do and can save you as much as $50. Below, we've outlined everything you need to know about how to clean an air filter at home.

How Often Should You Clean Your Air Filter?

Before you start learning how to clean a car air filter, it’s important to understand how frequently you’ll need to clean it. Understanding your maintenance intervals will give you a basis on which you can start to build a routine. This way, you’ll keep your car running smoothly and not have to worry about potential buildup in the engine.

The exact interval at which you should clean your car’s reusable air filter will vary based on the kind of air filter you have, its location and your vehicle’s engine specifications. It’s best, therefore, to consult your owner’s manual to find out exactly how frequently the manufacturer suggests cleaning the filter. Several factors can influence the schedule for cleaning your filter. They include:

  • How frequently you use your vehicle
  • The climate you live in and what types of particles are in the air
  • If you have made any modifications to the vehicle after-market

Each of these factors may impact how frequently you’ll need to clean the air filter. On average, however, you’ll want to clean your air filter approximately every 50,000 miles, but you’ll want to check on it every 25,000 miles. This cleaning schedule will help ensure your car’s performance is not negatively impacted by debris in the engine.

What Are the Symptoms of a Dirty Air Filter?

You might notice multiple signs that indicate you need to check your car’s air filter. Naturally, if you are unable to determine the source of the problem you are encountering yourself, you should take your vehicle to a professional for an assessment. However, learning how to clean the air filter may help you resolve some common issues, such as:

  • Misfiring engine or check engine light
  • Reduced power or fuel economy
  • Strange engine sounds or smell of gas
  • Dark smoke from the exhaust pipe
  • Engine lagging, pulling, or tugging

These types of issues can be especially troubling, as they can seem serious. However, cleaning your air filter may solve the majority of these problems relatively quickly.

How to Clean Your Car’s K&N Air Filter

1. Locate the Filter

First, you’ll want to locate your car’s reusable air filter. Typically, it’s near the top or in front of your car’s engine and easy to access and remove. If you’re struggling to find the air filter, you can check your owner’s manual or do a online search for your make and model to locate the filter.

2. Remove the Filter

In most cases, your vehicle’s reusable air filter will be in either a plastic or metal housing to keep it secure while you’re driving. You’ll need to open this housing to remove the filter. Newer cars include designs that clip the filter in place, making it even easier to remove. Simply pull the filter out of its housing or clips and remove it.

3. Apply Cleaner

Spray K&N Air Filter Cleaner onto both sides of the filter and allow to soak 10 minutes to loosen the dirt. Spray the cleaner liberally, but don’t let it dry on the filter.

4. Rinse and Consider Repeating

Pour low-pressure water onto the clean side of the filter to rinse the all of the loosened dirt and what remains of the cleaner. You may need to repeat steps 3 and 4 to clean thoroughly.

5. Dry

Shake off excess water and then let the filter dry naturally. Ensure it has completely dried before proceeding to the next step.

6. Oil the Filter

Depending on which type of oil you bought, either squeeze or spray it evenly along the crown of each filter pleat. If you are using the spray oil, spray from 3″ away. Touch up any light spaces until there is a uniform red color.

7. Wait, then Reinstall

Wait 20 minutes to let the oil wick. After that, it’s time to reinstall your newly cleaned K&N air filter.

Contact Us

Now you know how to clean a car’s air filter. It’s a relatively simple process that is very important. If you need to replace your car’s air filter or have questions about purchasing a new filter, we encourage you to contact us at AutoZone. A member of our team will be more than happy to help you find the right filter and tools to keep your car in great condition.

If the job is too big for you, seek out one of our Preferred Shops to help you do the job.

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