How to clean car AC filter

How to clean car AC filter

How to clean car AC filter – step-by-step guide ➤ Why clean your filter? ✅

When it comes to car maintenance, many people only think of taking it to an auto shop. Well, that is not bad since you need experts show understand your car’s needs. But that does not mean that you should take everything to the repairer.

Sometimes DIY methods can save you a lot, both on time and cash. That is why we always recommended checking for things you can do yourself and handling them from home. You will discover it is amazingly easy.

Among the car issues you don’t have to pay for is cleaning car air filter. You don’t even need a special machine to help you out. Simple home appliances are enough to get the air filter free from dirt.

Why clean your filter?

The importance of a car air filter can never be overemphasized. It is the component that ensures clean air is getting into the engine for greater power. A vehicle’s engine depends on fuel and air to produce power. When you step on the accelerator, you are letting in more air into the engine. This air is combines with some fuel to create a gas that is highly combustible.

If dirty air gets into the engine, the mixture will have dirt as well and that will affect how the vehicle performs. One of the effects is the car consuming too much gas.

The main reason why people prefer hiring a professional for this job is to avoid errors. But if you decide to go ahead with it yourself, make sure the filter is compatible with the cleaning method. For instance, there are disposable filter that should not be cleaned. You will only need to replace them. The permanent ones on the other hand can be cleaned.

The quickest way to clean the filter is using a vacuum cleaner. This will take away most of the dirt. However, there is some heavy grime that may require proper washing. In that case, you will still need to check the manual on how to get it right.

How to clean car AC filter – step-by-step guide

Car air filter cleaning is pretty simple. You will only need the vacuum cleaner and everything else will flow. But before you start, check the air filter to see how much damage you are dealing with. You need to establish where or not simply vacuuming will finish the problem.

This is where anything may go wrong if you have never done it before. You have to be a bit careful. It may seem simple, but that should not get you comfortable, lest to error.

Here is how to do it:

Get the filter out

You cannot clean the filter directly from the engine attachment. Get the filter out and wash it thoroughly. It is contained in the filter housing on top of the engine. It is quite easy to locate this component because it is a round rectangular box on the engine. This is what gives the engine clean air.

1. Open the car hood.

2. Locate the filter as described above. Sometimes it is hard to locate it. Luckily, there are many sourced you can get help from. From instance, the internet has all information about anything. This is where you need to start from. And you should also have the physical manual with you. if these are not the options, ask your mechanic the  next time you take the car for servicing.

3. Open the canister. It is usually secure with wing nuts or clamps.

4. Pull out the filter. This part is pretty basic. You can pull it out safely ones you have opened the canister. That is perhaps the part you have to be more concerned about.

5. Get ready to clean.

Before you start the process, get an open space to clean from, depending on the level of dirt you are dealing with. It is very easy to make a mess if you don’t consider the space. To avoid getting your hands dirty, you can use latex gloves. For those filter with oil, this is one thing you cannot assume.

There are different methods of cleaning the filter. You choose the right one based on the cleaning needs. Here are the basic ways.


This is the easiest cleaning method for a dry filter.

1. Connect the hose attachment. A vacuum cleaner comes with different hose attachments. Find the one that more suitable for the current job. Since you are using air at this time, it must have the capability to blow as much as possible. If you can adjust the level of strength, it is still a great way.

2. Vacuum it. Do not be in hurry to vacuum the air cleaner. At least, take a minute or more vacuuming each side. Do this until each side of the filter is completely cleaned.

3. Counter check for missed spot. It can be very easy to miss on a few spots. That is one of the reasons vacuuming may take a while longer. You need to ensure these spots are handled; otherwise you will be back on the same process within a few days. Check the filter under bright light; it should reveal any spots left. Then clean it again.

Vacuuming is a faster and safer option. You can finish the process within a few minutes and you don’t need to go for special cleaning material. That makes it more applicable especially for those doing it for the first time.


Sometimes simply vacuuming does not solve the underlying problem. You need something more. That is where you need water and other staff to do a thorough job.

1. Fill a bucket with water and soap. Consider a solution that is recommended for cleaning the filter. Some of them have chemical that may end up damaging the component.

2. Place the filter in the bucket.  Swirl it around in the bucket. This is a gentle process that does not require too much energy. It only takes a minute to complete.

3. Shake off the excess liquid. Take the filter out of the water and shake off any remaining liquid.

4. Rinse it. Take the filter gently through running water and let it wash of any remaining fluid and dirt. Be gentle.

5. Dry it. Put the filter on a towel and give it time to dry.

Remember not to put back the filter when it is still wet. This can cause damage to the engine. Washing is better because it gives you a cleaner filter. But it is riskier and takes a lot of time.

Cleaning an oiled filter

Oiled filter are more demanding when it comes to cleaning. But you can still do it nonetheless.

1. Tap it to shake off the dirt

2. Get a cleaning solution specific for oiled filter and apply it to the outside. Apply it on the inside as well. The filter needs to be completely saturated before you continue.

3. Place it in a sink or basin and leave it for ten minutes. The cleanser should not dry on the filter.

4. Rinse it. Use cool water at low temperature.

5. Shake and let the clean air filter dry. Move it up and down under the steam of water. Give it about 15 minute to dry, or use a hair drier to speed up the drying process.

Re-oiling the filter

This may not be necessary, but if it is, you need to do it correctly. Wear some latex gloves to keep your hands clean.

1. Apply oil evenly on the filter

2. Court it with a thin even layer

3. Wipe off excess oil. Check the top cap and bottom lid on the filter to ensure no oil is left. Give it 20 minutes to absorb the oil.

Clean the canister

Now that the filter is clean, you don’t want it to go back into a dirty canister. Vacuum the dirt and dust from the canister. Use a hose attachment for this part. You can also use a piece of soft cloth or paper towel. Whatever means you choose, the housing should dry out completely before you get the filter back it. Get rid of debris from it. You don’t want you engine damaged.

Replace the filter

Now you have a clean car filter, it is time to replace it. Put it back in the housing and secure any locks that were placed when you removed it. Remember how you got it out and follow the process in reverse.


A car air filter requires cleaning or changing after every 12,000 to 15,000 miles. A dusty road may require you to do this more often. If you don’t solve this problem, it may affect gas mileage, ignition and spark plugs.


RELATED ARTICLES View all articles