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How To Clean A Cold Air Intake Filter? – Step By Step Expert Guide

How To Clean A Cold Air Intake Filter?

The air filter is an essential part of the CAI system that removes dust and dirt from the engine to protect it. The awareness of how to clean a cold air intake filter will make the engine last.

The cold air intake filter, like all other engine parts, must be cleaned regularly to maintain peak performance. When your air filter is clogged and excessively dirty, it’s not as good at capturing particles and causes several risks to the engine.

When this happens, your engine will start to misfire or run poorly, ultimately leading to expensive repairs. Therefore, it is important to clean the cold intake air filter regularly to maintain and improve the performance of your engine.

However, paying a professional to clean it can be relatively expensive. Cleaning the filter itself is relatively easy and can save you up to $50.

In this article, I’ll cover everything you need to know about cold air intake cleaner, as well as the mechanics of how it works.

What is A Cold Air Filter?

The air filter of the cold air intake stops and captures the dust particles, dirt, sand, and debris to enter the engine parts and minimizes engine damage. Air filters are situated or placed on the front of an engine.

The air entering the car mixes with the fuel in the combustion chambers, so it must be a clean air filter; If dirt or other deposits get into the engine and into the engine oil, cylinder walls, piston rings, and other parts can be damaged.

This damage could result in high repair bills. When cold air intakes are used, the air cleaner is pulled out of the engine compartment, allowing cooler air to enter the engine and be used for combustion.

Most cold air intake filters require periodic replacement depending on the specific application and level of air pollution. Sometimes, air filter cleaning is required.

8 Steps Guide On How To Clean an Air Intake Filter?

Dust and dirt accumulate in the engine, resulting in reduced performance and a negative impact on fuel efficiency.

Depending on the temperature, it is advisable to clean the washable filter four times a year or at the end of each season. Let’s see a step-by-step guide to cleaning the cold air intake filter:

1. Remove the Filter

Remove the Filter (cold air intake cleaner)

First, you should guess the place of the air filter. It’s under the hood. After locating it, use the screwdriver to loosen and remove the air cleaner mounting strap. And took the air filter from the cold air intake.

It would help if you used any object or towel-like thing on the air intake opening place to prevent dirt or containment from entering the motor after removing the filter.

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2. Decide Whether Cleaning is Required or Not

Decide Whether Cleaning is Required or Not

At this point, you must decide whether to clean or replace your filter. If your filter is paper or cloth and not overly dirty, you can clean it and reuse it. However, if the filter is excessively dirty or damaged, consider replacing it with a new one.

3. Remove Dirt and Debris From the Filter

Remove Dirt and Debris From the Filter

Gently shake the filter to remove any residue left on the surface. Wear eye protection and a respirator, if available, to avoid inhaling dust particles. Care must be taken during this process as the shaking may affect the vehicle’s filter.

4. Use Cleaning Solution

Use Cleaning Solution

The best way to clean it is with an air filter cleaner. Spray the cleaner liberally on both sides of the filter. And clean the air filter from both sides to give it a fresh look. Make sure each and every wrinkle has been thoroughly sprayed with cleaner.

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5. Wait 10 to 15 Minutes to Soak on the Filter

Wait 10 to 15 Minutes to Soak on the Filter

Then soak the filter in a bowl of soapy water for 10 to 15 minutes. Then use a rag or brush to remove any remaining dirt and debris.

Place the filter in the sink or on a towel while the cleaning solution works. This will prevent loose dirt from running off and dirtying your work surface.

6. Allow the Filter to Dry

Allow the Filter to Dry

Proper drying requires careful movement of the air filter. As a result of this action, excess water in the filter will flow out of the filter. Allow the filter to sit and dry for at least 24 hours.

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7. Do the Oiling of the Filter After 24 Hours

Do the Oiling of the Filter After 24 Hours

If your filter is oiled, you will need to apply a fresh coat of oil before you put it back in place. The oil should be distributed directly over each filter pleat. If you are using a squeeze bottle, run the tip along the top of the crease as you squeeze. 

Use a paper towel to wipe excess oil from the edges of the filter and distribute the oil in the pleats more evenly. And make sure the oil sits for 20 minutes.

8. Reinstall the Filter

Reinstall the Filter

Reinstalling the filter simply reverses the steps you used to remove it. First, put the filter back into the housing and then put the lid back on. Secure the cover with the screws you removed earlier and voila!

Why Air Filter Cleaning Is Important?

Your engine needs air to work. In other words, the air made it function properly. Air allows your engine to carry out the combustion process. If you allow your air filter to get too dirty, engine performance will decrease.

The engine can stop running completely if you let it get bad enough. A clean filter allows airflow that supports your vehicle’s emissions system. A clogged filter hampers this system and prevents it from doing its job.

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On the other hand, you should change or clean your car’s air filter regularly to prolong the life of your engine. Knowing when to clean your air filter is of the utmost importance.

Check your owner’s manual when purchasing a vehicle so you’ll be prepared to keep the air filter clean for the life of the vehicle.

Top Signs That Indicate Dirty Cold Air Filter

As more air enters the filter, it also brings more dust and dirt to it. When the filter starts to clog, it’s understandable that your engine will lose power and fuel efficiency. Watch for these signs:

A. Decreased Engine Performance

Each unit draws in contaminated air and engine filters prevent dirt, debris, and bugs from entering the engine. If the air filter is not changed regularly, the filter will become clogged.

An obstruction is preventing a sufficient amount of air from entering the engine. This causes the engine to run less efficiently than it should. So engine diminished performance is the top most sign of a dirty air filter.

B. Strange Engine Noises

After driving your vehicle for a while, you will learn what noises are normal for your engine. If you hear coughing or popping noises from the engine compartment, or if your vehicle vibrates excessively, this may be a sign that a dirty air filter is damaging a spark plug.

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C. Reduced Horsepower

If your car isn’t responding properly, or if you get a jerky jerk when you press the accelerator pedal, this could indicate that your engine isn’t getting the air it needs to run. So the cleaned air filter makes good airflow and enhances power by up to 10 to 12%.

D. Engine Misfire

A dirty air filter minimizes the airflow to the engine. This can lead to an increase in unburned fuel, which turns into soot residue.

Soot can accumulate on the tips of the spark plugs, preventing them from providing a proper spark. In return, the car may jerk, and idle, and the engine may misfire.

Top FAQs About Cold Air Intake Cleaner

Can you clean a cold air intake filter?

Yes, you can clean your air filter at home. It is important to leave it clean and tidy for the engine to function properly. Otherwise, a dirty air filter will minimize or disrupt the clean air entering the engine. 

Also, a dirty air intake filter hampers the performance of cold air intake. And result in engine failure or damage. 

What happens if you don t clean your cold air intake filter?

If you do not clean the air filter, it can cause several problems. All the incoming sand and debris from the dirt area cause an air filter clog and lessens the airflow to the engine and resulting in inefficient engine performance. It will minimize gas mileage and lower acceleration issues.

More than that, dirty air entering the engine can cause the air/fuel ratio to become unbalanced, leading to a misfire and poor engine operation.

What is the difference between a dry and oiled air intake?

The main difference between the two types of air intake has to do with the air filter. Simply put, oiled air intakes have an oil-coated air filter, while regular “dry” air intakes have a typical oil-free filter. 

A major benefit of an oiled air filter is its durability and longevity. They just last a lot longer than a dry air filter. With a dry air filter, it does not have to be oiled during regular checks and maintenance.

Can a dirty air filter damage the engine?

It is possible. If an air filter isn’t working as it should, it could allow dirt, dust particles, and other contaminants to enter your engine and cause damage.

This can wreak havoc on expensive internal engine components such as valves and valve seats, piston rings, and cylinder walls.

How often do you need to clean a cold air intake filter?

The air filter should be cleaned and checked every 20,000 km or when the vehicle is first purchased. The frequency with which dry filters should be cleaned is determined by the driving situation. 

You can do the cleaning of air intake easily without expert need. You just make sure that you follow the air filter user manual for cleaning.

How much does an intake air filter cost?

Air filters are not expensive. Many are around $15 to $25. If you decide to install it yourself, you can also save on labor costs. But is it difficult to change the air filter? Not precisely. 

This is probably one of the easiest car maintenance jobs you can do, and it usually doesn’t require any special tools.

Final Thought

As discussed above, cleaning a cold air intake filter is done in a few minutes in simple steps. It is important to keep your filter clean to keep your engine performing at its best. 

If you follow the steps below and clean the filter regularly, the filter will last much longer than expected. After reading the entire article you will have no doubts about how to clean the cold air intake filters.

Kevin Williams is an automotive enthusiast and expert writer with a passion for all things related to cars. With a wealth of knowledge in the world of vehicles, Kevin's mission is to provide informative articles that empower car enthusiasts to make informed decisions about their automotive interests. With extensive experience, Kevin has contributed numerous articles to Cars Cache, covering a wide spectrum of topics from vehicle reviews to maintenance tips and more.


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