How to Clean Your Air Intake Filter

Lead Image
What You'll Need
Soap and water
A bucket
Soft cloth or paper towel

If the air intake filter in your car has not been cleaned, it is the same as not having your car equipped with an air filter at all. The dirt, grease, and grime build-up of a dirty air filter prevents proper air flow, which effects your car's performance and efficiency. Cleaning the air intake filter of your car is easily accomplished in just a few steps.

Step 1 - Finding the Air Filter

Use the owner's manual to show where the air filter is located. If the manual is not available, do a search of the model and year using the internet. Once the location is determined, open the hood and look for the air filter canister.

The canister may open one of two ways: clamps or a wing nut. Open the canister and pull out the air filter.

Step 2 - Cleaning the Air Filter

A comparison between a clean and dirty car air filter

There are two easy options for cleaning the filter: washing or vacuuming.


Place the air filter into a mixture of soap and water and swish it back and forth several times so the water penetrates the entire filter. Remove the air filter and shake out excess liquid, then place it on a towel, preferably in a sunny area, to completely dry.


Securely hold the air filter and run the nozzle of the vacuum over it entirely, especially where dirt may be hiding. Do a visual check and repeat the process, if necessary.

It's also important to wipe out the inside of the air filter canister using a soft dry cloth or paper towel to clean the entire opening. If you use water, be sure none is left inside the canister.

Step 3 - Replacing the Air Filter

Before replacing the air filter inside the canister, be sure it and the canister are completely dry. If so, insert the filter then reattach the clamps or wing nut.